In our last blog, we talked about black tea “Jin Jun Mei/金骏眉” and the first two common misunderstandings. (see last blog for more) Today, let’s continue this topic and discuss two other misunderstandings of Jin Jun Mei.
Misunderstanding No. 3: Jin Jun Mei should only have a sweet potato taste & aroma?
Since Jin Jun Mei is such a premium black tea product and has a relatively small production output, the market is often overran by counterfeit tea products made by tea producers outside village of Tongmu.
At least here in the U.S., we’ve seen fake Jin Jun Mei products produced in south Asia, southwest China and Africa.
(One thing worths mentioning is that these “fake Jin Jun Mei products” are not necessarily bad black tea products. In fact, some of them might be fairly good. However, “Jin Jun Mei” is a product that carries a territorial mark which is exclusive to its place of origin, aka village of Tongmu. It’s inappropriate for tea producers in other regions to use the same name. This is very similar to the concept of Champagne. Only the sparkling white wine produced in Champagne, France can be called “champagne”. Otherwise they’re just called “sparkling”.)
This unfortunate situation prompts tea lovers to find “shortcuts” to determine the authenticity of a Jin Jun Mei black tea product. Alas, these “shortcuts” often oversimplify many features of Jin Jun Mei products.
For instance, many tea lovers believe an authentic Jin Jun Mei should only have a sweet potato taste and aroma.
In the official national standard (see last blog for details), a Jin Jun Mei should have a “long-lasting combination of floral, fruity, honey, and sweet potato tastes and aromas”. Jin Jun Mei, as a matter of fact, has more than just tastes and aromas of “sweet potatoes” .
Also, the sweet potato tastes & aromas are never dominant in a good Jin Jun Mei. A properly fermented Jin Jun Mei has very delicate, rich, sweet, and balanced tastes and aromas. If we just blindly look for a Jin Jun Mei with a strong resemblance of “sweet potatoes”, we can only find inferior quality teas with lots of off-flavors.
Misunderstanding No. 4: Jin Jun Mei is better when aged?
Finally, we need to address the mystery of “aged black tea product”.
Many tea lovers are familiar with the concept of “tea aging”. Many white tea and pu’er tea products are considered better when they’re aged. However, black tea is not a tea category that can be aged. Therefore, Jin Jun Mei, as a black tea product, cannot be aged at all.
Black tea is fully fermented. Many active substances in black tea leaves have already been transformed at the end of the tea-making process. Thus, there’s no room left for black tea to continue transforming by going through the aging process. No matter how carefully we manage the aging process, black tea products do not show any positive transformation.
On the contrary, if we force a black tea to age or even just to put it into storage for a long time, its tastes and aromas are very likely going to deteriorate.
(Of course, even the biggest tea enthusiast can’t finish all teas at once. Storing Jin Jun Mei products require a dry, clean, odorless, cool and shaded environment to avoid tea leaves getting damp.)
Jin Jun Mei/金骏眉 is a sophisticated black tea. The definition of a good “Jin Jun Mei” is never simple. By avoiding these 4 common misunderstanding, we can better avoid missing a good Jin Jun Mei just because we don’t fully understand it.
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