Regular readers of this blog – prepare yourself for a bout of déjà vu.
This tea fell into my clutches because – i) I placed an order over at House of Tea, and ii) they kindly included a free sample for my perusal, to wit, these very leaves.
Jin Jun Mei (“Golden Horse Eyebrow“) is a famous and highly thought of black (or “hong” – red tea to use the Chinese terminology) tea from the legendary Wu Yi Shan area, made from small young shoots. Given the small, delicate nature of the material, it has to be hand plucked, and then hand rolled. After oxidisation the tea is then roasted, which gives the tea its malty, chocolatey tones. Comparisons are often made between Jin Jun Mei and that other famous Wu Yi black tea, Lapsang Souchong.
As I understand it, if both teas are the real deal they should come from the same varietal – Xingcun Xiaozhong, and should also have the same geographical origin, namely the Tongmu area of Wuyi Shan, as these particular leaves indeed do. The main difference between the two teas is that this one is made of buds, as opposed to larger leaves, leading some to describe this as a more refined version of Lapsang Souchong.
The 3 grams were a perfect fit for my 200 ml ceramic pot, and as I tend to do nowadays with smaller samples I played it dead straight by the enclosed brewing recommendations…
|Weight of dry leaf:||3 grams|
|Steeping vessel:||200 ml ceramic teapot|
|No. & duration:||a 1st. infusion @ 1½ mins., then @ 2 and 3 mins. for a total of 3 infusions|
The expected black tea chocolate maltiness was there, but was also blended with a kind of fruity sweetness, that reminded me of oranges. The combined effect was reminiscent of that legendary confectionery creation the Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Having said that, I also picked up fleeting traces of an almost vegetal sweetness, like sweet garden peas fresh from the pod.
As I was pouring the second infusion I had a demonstration as to exactly how fine and slender these leaves are – a couple of them managed to slip through the holes in the pot’s internal filter at the base of the spout, and ended up in the tea strainer. That’s never happened before. Impressed as I was by this feat of escapology I still nevertheless returned them to the pot to complete their mission.
Even after the third round the liquor showed no sign of bitterness at all. The only real change I noticed over the course of the session was that the depth of colour, body, and intensity of flavour faded a little over the course of the three steepings. Three rounds seemed to be the natural limit of these leaves when steeped Western style and at that particular water / leaf ratio.
The onset of Autumn, just as it does every year, has me thinking more and more about darker roasted Oolongs and black teas, and this tea, with its lighter, fruitier nature could be an interesting variation on that particular theme.
I’m also curious as to just how well it would respond to a little Gong Fu TLC.
As always the big question when discussing a sample is whether or not you would take the next step and buy a larger amount.
In this case I can honestly say that I certainly would. This style of tea’s fame and reputation precede it, always a problem when you’re trying to arrive at a fair and objective appraisal, but I think that these leaves give plenty of evidence to back up those claims. In my opinion that fruity, orange accent on the malty, chocolate base brings something a bit special to the table.
So yes, once the tea buying coffers are replenished I’ll give some serious thought to getting some in.
Good stuff. Definitely worth a closer look.