By Miles Cramer and Augustus Rushing
Jin Jun Mei is a red tea from Wuyishan in the Fujian Province of China.
Deep in the Wuyi Mountains is a small village called Tongmu. This is the birthplace of Lapsang Souchong, the first red tea (what we call black tea in the west). Now, the people of Tongmu Village make a highly prized red tea called Jin Jun Mei.
As the story goes, the people of Tongmu Village were harvesting their tea when a group of soldiers came into their village. The Tongmu people hid in the mountains while the soldiers camped in their village for several days. Normally on a harvest day, the villagers would stay up all night to finish producing their green tea. The soldiers delayed this by several days. They even used the tea leaves as bedding, leaving their sweat and odors on the drying leaves. When the soldiers left, the villagers found their tea leaves rolled, stinky, oxidized, and seemingly ruined. To save their tea, they dried the leaves over fire of pine. The tea turned out dark and tasty.
This delay in processing marks the birth of oxidized tea or red tea. The people of Tongmu then replicated the rolling, oxidation, and smoking process. This tea is known as Lapsang Souchong and became the main product of Tongmu Village.
With the rise of trade to the west, Lapsang Souchong became very popular in the west. Quality fell through the following centuries from steps to grow volume. With high demand, it became advantageous for the people of Wuyi to buy cheap leaves from neighboring provinces and pine smoke the leaves to create Lapsang Souchong. Producers began lowering their picking standards, using larger more mature leaves.
In recent decades, demand for higher quality tea from China grew. In 2007, the people of Tongmu started producing a red tea without the pine smoke and using only the buds of the tea plant. They called this new tea Jin Jun Mei. In only 12 years, this tea has become the most expensive red tea in China.
With the popularity of Jin Jun Mei, tea masters all throughout Wuyishan have begun producing Jin Jun Mei. The Jin Jun Mei we are offering is grown in the Feng Shui Guang region of Wuyishan at an elevation of 3300 feet. They are using the Fujian Cai Cha cultivar. The picking grade is one bud and one leaf.
The flavor is sweet and with notes of chocolate and a perfume of rose. We recommend brewing Jin Jun Mei in a gaiwan, doing multiple short infusions. This will yield a light golden infusion with spectacular aromatics.
We sourced this tea after a recent trip to the magical mountains of Wuyishan. We (Gus and Miles) were both on separate tea trips in China during the spring of 2019. Our paths crossed for two days in Wuyishan. This area of China is famous for its roasted oolongs known as Yancha or Rock Tea from the towering cliffs that the tea is grown at the base of. In our many tasting sessions with local shops and producers, an interesting red tea kept being presented in the mix of roasted oolongs. Jin Jun Mei stood out as a unique, boutique flavor. We fell in love with Yancha and of course bought lots of oolong to bring home. Gus bought a small bag of Jin Jun Mei and we revisited this tea when we got home. Its remarkable flavor compelled us to source some to sell in the teahouse. Gus had made a great contact with a producer who had a shop in the town at the base of the mountains of Wuyi. He followed up through WeChat and arranged the order of tea we present to you today!