Jin Jun Mei is a still relatively young black tea just like Lapsang Souchong coming from Wuyishan, a mountain range located in the north of the Chinese province of Fujian. ‘Zheng Shan’ means ‘Original Mountain’, and only tea coming from a defined area within Wuyishan may rightfully be refered to as ‚Zhengshan‘ tea. For detailed information about Wuyishan, the teas coming from there, and the individual cultivation zones within Wuyishan, please visit our dedicated Siam Tea Blog article,
Wuyishan – a special ‘terroir’ for tea
The unsually high mineral content of soils has earned the Oolong teas the former volcanic Wuyishan is best known for besides its (Lapsang) black teas the designation as as ‘rock teas’. Tea from the Wuyi core area (‘Zheng Shan’) had been greatly valued at the imperial court as a ‘tribute tea’ since the time of the Tang dynasty and – where reaching the market at all – used to be traded at highest prices in those times. The nutrient-rich soils of Wuyishan are responsible for a particularly high content of vitamins and minerals, while at the same time coining the characteristic and highly individual taste and aroma profile of Wuyi ‘Zhengshan’ teas.
The special terroir – both the soil and the climate produced by the steep cliffs safeguarding Wushishaa n’s core area from the onset of outside wind and wheather – today is protected through ‘UNESCO World Heritage’ status. The protection relates to the fields nature, landscape and culture, whereas the UNESCO has defined several zones with different levels of protection and individual weighting of the above-mentioned fields. The zone with the greatest scope of protection is the actual Wuyi core area, the so-called ‘Zheng Shan’ areal.
Jin Jun Mei – as young as the current millennium
The village of Tong Mu, located in Wuyishan’s zhengshan areal, has been known for its most special black teas coined by the Wuyi terroir. Especially Lapsang Souchong has gained worldwide fame through mentionings in reputed classic novels as well as through its special type of processing that is unique within the world of black teas. The idea to bestow higher picking standards (pure buds, 1+1 or 1+2) of tea picked from the Bohea variety prevalent aroung Tong Mu village and the mountain with the same name, from which also Lapsang Souchong ist produced, with a name – and thereby an identity – of their own, is just as young as the current millennium. In order to understand, why such distinction became necessary in the first place, we’ll have to take a somewhat bigger and throw some light on the historical background and development of Lapsang Souchong at first.
Lapsang Souchong – origin, legend and background
The discovery of Lapsang Souchong tea, in the West today one of the most commonly known terms of Chinese tea culture, according to legend is owed to mere coincidence: at the times of the Qing dynasty, China’s last imperial dynasty lasting from 1644-1912, the inhabitants of the village Tongmu, located at famous Wuyi mountain in the Chinese province of Fujian, were once forced by some odd circumstances to dry their tea leaves much quicker than usual. To achieve this, they decided to heat the tea leaves over the hearth fire of burning pine wood. The resulting strong smoke aroma and flavor proved to greatly camouflage the the less desirable taste features of the used, basically low quality (third or fourth grade) tea leafes of the local Wuyi Bohea subvariety. Moreover, the smoke aroma and flavor made this tea something special, i.e. a specialty, which quickly established a a popular variant among Westerners, while Lapsang Souchong was long considered a “poor-man’s-tea” among the Chinese themselves. So initially, too produce the actual original Lapsang Souchong, preferably minor quality tea leaves (a possible meaning of “Souchong” is 4th and 5th leaf) were smoke-dried over fires of fresh-cut pine wood.
Development of Lapsang tea since 1979
The scene underwent drastic change, when Tongmu village in 1979 was declared a Word Heritage Area by the UNESCO: the value of the cropland withing the borders of the UNESCO protection zone multiplied within no time, making the cultivation of lower quality tea unprofitable and effecting a shift towards the cultivation of higher quality tea in general. Part of the set of restrictions coming with the World Heritage Site status was a strict ban on any pesticide use within the UNESCO protection zone, meaning another contribution to higher selectivity of crop and processing quality, but naturally also a desirable organic warranty seen from the perspective of aware consumers and environmentalists.
The production of Lapsang tea in the village of Tongmu and the surrounding mountains has mainly developed into two directions since: once Lapsang “Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong”, both sticking to the classic processing scheme and at the same time upgrading it by using higher quality tea and leaf grades as well as a more restrained smoking process, and since the 1990’s the development of a new branch, Lapsang Jin Jun Mei, for which only the young spring buds of the Bohea tea plant are picked and then smoked gently in the further processing, in order to enrich the superior taste and aroma qualities of this tea by a decent note rather than overlaying it. You will find a detailed comparison of both development branches of Lapsang tea in our pertinent Siam Tea Blog article Lapsang Souchong, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, Lapsang Jin Jun Mei – all the same?.
Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei ‘1+1’
Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei, a well-qualified member of our ‘Biodiversi-TEA‘ line, is the product of a small settlement in Zhengshan area, counting no more than about 50 inhabitants, who organized in an agricultural cooperative, where labor and gains are shared equally between the members. Part of the areals farmed by the cooperative is a widely untouched bamboo forest located at 1100-1500m altitude on Tong Mu mountain, where more than 100 years old bushes of the Bohea tea variety grow dispersed among the bamboo trees and other shrubs and weeds in a biodiverse environment. Their leaves are traditionally processed to black teas such as Lapsang Souchong by the cooperative, with the best picking standards now mostly reserved for the production of Jin Jun Mei.
Picking and processing
Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei is picked with a ‘1+1’ picking standard, meaning that only the young bud with its pertaining youngest leaf are (hand-) picked in the traditional way. Also, most of the processing inthis cooperative is still done just like centuries ago: withering of the freshly plucked tea leaves – mechanical rolling for breaking up the leaf surfaces and initiate the oxidation process – oxidizing to the desired degree of oxidation – roasting in a wok pan over charcoal fire for fixation, in this case with very little smoke development due to the use of well-dried pine wood.
Taste and appearance
The dry leaves have an evenly dark color, contrasted by the golden color of individual tips. Fragrance and taste are reminiscent of that of the sweet Longan fruit native to China and hardly show any loss even with long storage periods. Rather, the fragrance even intisifies with time, while the broad, but never obtrusive roast aroma will lose edge with time, making the overall taste of Wild Jin Jun Mei appear ever softer, given proper dry storage. Due to the wild character of Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei, this tea contains far higher concetrations of both vitamins and amino acids than conventionally cultivated tea. Both is contributing to this tea’s characteristic, full-bodied taste that friends of mild and sweet Dian Hong teas or stronger Keemun or Assam teas will similarly embrace.
‘Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei 1+1’ vs. ‘Lapsang Jin Jun Mei Golden Eyebrows’
While we usually choose only representative of a type of tea for our assortment, we have decided to offer Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei along our Lapsang Jin Jun Mei Golden Eyebrows, because
- both teas might not be available throughout the year due to their relative rareness,
- both teas show significant differences in character due to the essential difference between wild tea (Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei) and ‘conventionally’ cultivated tea (Lapsang Jin Jun Mei Golden Eyebrows) grundsätzliche Unterschiede im Charakter aufweisen, und
- both teas show very individual – though similarly amicable – taste profiles also due to their different picking standard (1+1 vs. pure buds).
While our Lapsang Jin Jun Mei Golden Eyebrows is dominated by a fruity-sweet not combined with strong roast aromas, there’s a mild and malty sweetness prevailing in the Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei, accentuated by a broad, but nevertheless unobtrusive roast note that fits perfectly harmonious into the tea’s overall taste profile.
The best approach to the preparation of Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei 1+1 is by using the most common standard for preparing quality Chinese black teas: pour 200-350ml water of a temperature of 90+°C over 3-5g dry tea leaves and let infuse 2-3 minutes according to personal preference. Depending on infusion time and dosaging, Wild Zheng Shan Jin Jun Mei has the potential for 2-3 delicious infusions (second infuison: 3-4 minutes, third infusion: 5 minutes).