One of the best perks of my job? Drinking tea!
So today I tried a tea that was new to me, a sample of Jin Jun Mei kindly provided by Life in Teacup.
And wow, this is a gorgeous tea! The fluffy leaves, with their long minute hairs, look like delicate golden and charcoal twisted ropes—absolutely a beautiful tea!
Jin Jun Mei (or Jin Junmei) hails from the Wuyi Mountain region, in China’s Fujian Province. It’s a black tea (or red tea in China, referring to the color of the liquid rather than the color of the leaves), and its name apparently—and fittingly—means “golden beautiful eyebrow.”
Because Jin Jun Mei is classified as a black tea, tea drinkers who haven’t been exposed to a wide range of teas may have certain expectations, with “black” often analogous to “breakfast tea” or something like a Ceylon.
But black teas are all over the place as far as flavor. Besides the specific variety of tea plant, everything about the environment and the processing impacts the end results and some black teas, as far as taste, lean almost into oolong territory.
Each tea also has its unique aroma due to the essential oils and esters it contains. These characteristics are part of the very leaves, so teas can be analyzed chemically. One study (Fang and Chen) determined that:
- Jin Jun Mei and Quimen black teas had high amounts of geraniol (a terpene alcohol described as sweet, floral, and citrusy)
- Yunnan and Yingde black teas had high levels of linalool (a terpene alcohol described as floral and spicy)
- India and Ceylon black teas had relatively high levels of methyl salicylate (organic ester; wintergreen oil)
Thus, although Jin Jun Mei and Yunnan are both Chinese black teas, and although both contain gorgeous golden leaf tips, they are distinct from each other, containing different prominent essential oils.
Another interesting note is that Jin Jun Mei is a Lapsang Souchong, that tea we usually equate with smokiness. Like aromas, flavors are also due to plant variety, environment, and processing, so when tea leaves are dried over pine smoke, you get that smoky Lapsang Souchong because the tea leaves themselves absorb elements of the pine smoke.
I followed Life in Teacup’s suggestion for brewing, using around 3 grams of tea to 80 ml of boiling water, beginning with approximately 10-second infusions, using a china cup for brewing.
The first infusion yielded a yellow-brown cup with a pleasant, malty or biscuity aroma. The tea was smooth with a nice mouthfeel, lingering on the back of the palate.
Flavor really kicked in with the second infusion, with its bright coppery-brown color characteristic of black teas. Its aroma was pleasant, savory, soup-like, with almost a celery component.
There was some satisfying starchiness that reminded me of genmaicha and there was that pleasant note of celery. This tea is full-bodied and this infusion had a slight bit of astringency. This is not a bold breakfast tea, nor is it a simple tea. Rather, I’d describe it as a gentle tea, albeit one with a complexity of flavors, all making nice with each other.
The third infusion brought out more of a duskier brown-copper color, and its aroma had a slightly sharper note.
The infusion continues that satisfying malty and savory oh-so-pleasant flavor. It reminds me of my homemade dumplings that have absorbed the aromas of a beef stew as they cooked, that celery/parsley vegetal note.
Further infusions had a slight edge to that same savory celery note, but without bitterness. I found this a satisfying and extremely pleasant tea!
So, will you experience Jin Jun Mei in the same manner?
Maybe, maybe not. You may well pick up different flavors altogether! You may find those floral and citrusy notes of geraniol whereas I picked up only its sweetness.
I’ve found that water greatly impacts flavor, and I can never ever replicate the superior results I get when I brew tea at TeaHaus, where the water has run through a reverse-osmosis system.
Therefore, your experience of tea will be uniquely your own, and the beauty of tea is that you can manipulate the brewing parameters to obtain the results you prefer. There’s never a “right” or “wrong” way to enjoy tea!
And it’s wonderfully fun to try something that you haven’t had before.
Source: Fang, W. and P. Chen, “Comparative study on characteristic aroma components of black teas from different regions,” CNKI.com.