When it comes to black tea, we have to talk about “Jin Jun Mei/金骏眉”, the highest grade black tea. Jin Jun Mei, or 金骏眉 in Chinese (some translations also calls it “Golden Eyebrows”), sits on the throne of all black teas because its incredible production standard and marvelous tea-making skills.
According to China’s national standard on Jin Jun Mei (GH/T 1118-2015), the definition of an authentic Jin Jun Mei is “the black tea produced with single buds from high mountain tea plants within the 565km² Wuyi national natural preservation, processed by withering, rolling, fermenting and drying”. The standard further specify Jin Jun Mei as a black tea product featuring “golden color tea soup, sweet, and aromatic”.
Although the standard provided us a clear definition of where and how an authentic Jin Jun Mei is produced, it doesn’t really tell us all characters of a good Jin Jun Mei black tea. As a result, there’re many misunderstanding of Jin Jun Mei. Today, let’s unveil these mysteries and discuss 4 most common misunderstandings.
Misunderstanding No. 1: Jin Jun Mei’s color: more golden, the better?
If you know some Chinese, you might know that the first character of Jin Jun Mei - “金/Jin” can mean the color “golden”. However, Jin Jun Mei leaves are not exactly “golden”
Village of Tongmu, the birthplace of Jin Jun Mei, has an high elevation. All major tea-producing mountains within the village are above 1200M/3937ft. In Tongmu, it’s cloudy in most days. In this unique climate, new buds are extremely delicate and tender. When you hand pluck these little buds, you’d notice that new buds have a layer of tiny “golden hairs” on them.
However, these golden hairs don’t make Jin Jun Mei leaves golden at all. Fresh leaves still need to go through various stages of tea-making before they can be called “tea leaves”. After the tea-making, the color would look quite different.
According to the national standard, the color of Jin Jun Mei leaves should be “a combination of golden, yellow, and black with a natural and sleek appearance”. Most Jin Jun Mei leaves are primarily black with golden tips.
Misunderstanding No. 2: Jin Jun Mei can’t be infused with boiling water?
Because Jin Jun Mei leaves are delicate and tender, many tea lovers believe that boiling water is too hot and might burn the leaves.
This theory, of course, is unfounded. In fact, premium tea leaves do not fear hot water at all. If you take the same tea and make it with boiling water and warm water, you’d notice that there’s a significant decrease in the amount of aromas in tea made with warm water.
This is because all fragrance substances have “boiling temperatures”. Premium teas such as Jin Jun Mei have a longer growth time and a better growing environment. Therefore, premium teas can accumulate more fragrance substances.
Among these substances, many of them have a high boiling temperature that require water at the boiling temperature (100℃/212℉) to release. If infused with water at a lower temperature, the high-boiling-temperature fragrance substances wouldn’t have the chance to produce tastes and aromas.
Sadly, this is the most common mistake tea drinkers make. Making tea with only warm water not only doesn’t deliver what could have been a great tea experience, but also completely destroys all potentials of a good tea.
(We’ll continue this topic in our next blog…)
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