At $33 for a 357g cake, this seems almost too good to be true!
But it is a good, solid, clean tasting Pu-Erh that, as they say on the Mud and Leaves site, would make a fine “daily drinker”.
Like the Tianming Bang Dong, the flavors are on the forest floor/umami side of Pu-Erh. There is a small amount of bitterness, but not as strong as the Bang Dong. It has good length of flavor, as well. Cha qi, aka tea energy, is also lighter than the Bang Dong, but decidedly present.
I’m a little sad that I’ve already drunk my way through the sample I’ve enjoyed drinking it, but onwards and upwards!
*I received this tea as part of a sampler I won from Mud and Leaves after entering an instagram based contest.
Jinjunmei is a Black Tea from the Wuyi region of Fujian, specifically, a village named Tongmu.
Unlike traditional and smoked Lapsang teas, Jinjunmei is a relatively recent innovation.
“In 2006, another innovation took place in Tongmu. A Fujian official asked Jiang Yuanxun, the biggest manufacturer in Tongmu, to make some tea as a gift using bud tea and without the familiar smoking. The tea was made by Liange Junde, the tea master that worked for Mr Jiang at the time, and the tea Jin Jun Mei was born. In 2007, it went into production and rapidly became the most expensive black tea ever sold in China.”
Jinjunmei is essentially the type of early spring, carefully picked, all bud material that would normally be used for Silver Needle (or Baihao Yinzhen) White Tea. But, instead of being processed into White Tea, it is fully oxidized and then dried.
As I mentioned, Baihao Yinzhen, due to the labor necessary to carefully pick the individual spring tea buds, tends to be the most expensive of Chinese White Teas.
Making a Black Tea from this type of material is a true conspicuous luxury move.
The early flavors/scents are citrus-like. Secondary flavors evoke peach and pear. The aftertaste is subtle yet lengthy, returning to the citrus-like character, with a touch of mint-camphor overtone.
It is a lighter and subtler tea than the unsmoked Wild Lapsang, as you would expect from the material.
It is another great tea to try, whether it ends up being your favorite Black tea will be a matter of personal taste.
The process for making Black Tea probably originated in Wuyi area of Fujian. There are different myths about it.
Allegedly, most tea was processed as green tea up until a raiding party invaded a Wuyi Mountain village during the tea harvest. The villagers fled from the raiders. When they came back they discovered that their tea had turned black. It was ruined! They dried it anyway and found that some people enjoyed it, especially, the English, (who would later go on to found entire tea industries in India and Sri Langka based on imitating this tea).
The difference between Green Tea and Black Tea IS that the leaves are allowed to oxidize before they are finally dried.
There is a type of Black Tea from Fujian that is usually called “Lapsang Souchong” in the West. Most often it is a tea that is dried over pine wood.
However, “traditional” Lapsang Souchong is not smoked, and even the more traditional smoky kinds have a lighter smoke character than you might expect.
This is not a smoked tea!
The early flavors remind me a bit of sweet potato, the middle flavors are stone fruit, and the late flavors and aftertaste are a bit menthol/tarragon.
It is a delicious and complex Black tea which rewards multiple steeps.
The term “Gunpowder” when used in description of a Green Tea isn’t very useful.
The term “Gunpowder” was used as a brand name by a British company, well, more specifically, “Pinhead Gunpowder,” for a green tea they sold.
It is basically robust green tea formed into what is called “pearl” shape (the same shape used for some types of Oolong). It can come from any of a number of regions in China.
When I first tried to get into tea, I mostly tried drinking English Breakfast and similar black teas. None of them, as they say, really floated my boat. Too harsh.
It wasn’t until I discovered a bulk bin labelled Gunpowder Green Tea at a local Grocery Coop in Madison, WI, that I really found something I liked in tea.
I drank that for years, but eventually drifted back to drinking coffee to keep me properly stimulated while working late nights and early mornings as a line cook.
After we moved to CA, and I got out of the restaurant business, I found that coffee was maybe a bit too stimulating, so I started looking around for my old favorite, “Gunpowder Green Tea”.
I found some “Organic Gunpowder Green Tea” in a bulk bin at a local store, took it home, and gave it a try. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. It tasted literally like someone had poured an ashtray into the tea while it was being made. It was cloudy, it was harsh, it tasted like ashtray. It was, in short, one of the worst tasting beverages I had tried in my entire life! And I like Smoked Lapsang Souchong tea! I spit it out, threw out the remainder of the bag, and went back to experimenting with English Breakfast style teas.
Over the next few years, I tried a few more times to get back to Chinese Green tea in the species of Gunpowder, and every time I tried, I was confronted by that ashtray taste.
I was completely puzzled.
How had I not noticed this flavor before? Had my tastes changed? Had Gunpowder Tea changed in the intervening years?
I started to research and discovered other people had also noticed this flavor and would post puzzled questions on tea boards, like, “I’m new to Green Tea and just tried Gunpowder Green Tea. Is Green Tea supposed to taste like brewing tea from an ashtray?”
With answers like:
“No, it’s not supposed to taste that way, but many lower-grade gunpowder teas do. Some people actually prefer their gunpowder greens this way, so mainstream US distributors continue to sell shops this variety. Even some supposedly finer grades (pinhead gunpowder) is often found with this flavor profile. I think some consumers expect a smoky flavor from a tea with that name, even though historically gunpowder refers to the shape of the rolled leaf rather than the taste.”
So, I guess when I first tried Gunpowder tea, back in Madison, WI, I got lucky and found some that was of a higher grade or selected without the ashtray flavor.
So, my advice to you is to avoid anything sold as Gunpowder Tea. If you want to try Chinese Green Tea, please choose any other tea than Gunpowder.
“We have offered the “Silver Strands” 银丝 varietal green tea (a robust one leaf to one bud ratio) since 2005, but decided to also offer its first flush tippy “pure bud” counterpart. Picked in the earliest part of spring (in Late-February) before the spring rains arrive, this pure bud pluck features small hairy silver tips with no leaf.”
Darker green flavors, but with a minty aftertaste.
Expected this to be light, but those light flavors are pretty meaty/umami/mushroom in nature. Very little sweetness. Kept the water on the cool side, respecting the buds.
Aside from a bit of mint, not a lot of length, nor that strong for re-steeps.
A solid light tea, if you like them on the meaty side of green.
“This “Jade Snail” 玉螺 green tea is a tippy one leaf to one bud pick but because it’s such and early spring tea the leaf is typically quite small. The result is a balanced green tea with both robust and sweet attributes.”
Thick body, light flavor.
The early flavors and scents are on the greener side, reminiscent of asparagus, but it’s a savory tea whose lingering grain-ish sweetness expresses itself the finish, rather than the early flavors.
There’s a little mid-tongue bitterness, that I can sense more than actually taste.
Just enough to keep it interesting.
Somehow, there is a lingering after-taste evoking dried fruit.
For a tea that seems simple and lightly flavored at first taste, it is surprisingly complex as the steeps progress.
Not bad resteepability for a green tea and thought provoking length.
“”Bao Hong” tea is from Yi Liang county of Yunnan. It’s leaf is quite small and it carries a high level of aroma. The leaves are always picked when very small and fresh during a two hour window of time in the early morning of mid-February. The aroma is intense and fresh.”
In the method of picking and processing, this is quite similar to Long Jing Dragon Well tea. If you looked at a basket of the dry leaves, I wouldn’t be surprised if you mistook it for a high quality Long Jing Dragon Well tea. That is, until you brewed a cup.
While it looks a bit like Dragon Well tea from Long Jing, the flavor of the tea is very distinct from it.
Green teas tend to fall along light and dark flavor families, lighter green flavors like asparagus and tarragon vs darker, meatier flavors like collard greens and seaweed.
While still super fresh, it is a 2019 first flush tea after all, this is on the darker side of the green tea spectrum, at least for bud heavy, spring teas.
There’s something in the flavors that is super familiar to me, but that I can’t quite place. It’s not an off or bitter flavor, it’s just a bit unusual in a tea for me.
My coworker described the aftertaste as a bit like the soft drink “Sprite”. I haven’t had Sprite for years, but I feel like I remember it was heavier on the lime than the lemon. And I kind of get that, there’s a bit of the sort of dark lime-like flavor which lingers on the palate, lightened by a sparkle of darker spearmint.
If you’re tired of the usual green tea suspects, the Bao Hong Green Tea is an interesting one to try to wrap your mind around.
Huangshan Maofeng is another green tea almost always included in lists of “Big 10 Famous Chinese Teas” (十大中国名茶)”.
My notes are, “light grassy vegetal flavor evocative of green beans or asparagus with a camphor/pine aftertaste.”
This is a super elegant and light green tea, more vegetal than fruity, almost no bitterness or grip to speak of.
The English translation of the name is “Yellow Mountain Fur Peak”, due to the “small white hairs which cover the leaves and the shape of the processed leaves which is said to resemble the peak of a mountain”.
The recommended way to brew tippy green teas like this is to add a small amount (say 1g per 100ml water) to a tall, preferable tempered, water glass and cover with hot (185F/85C) water. Then wait and watch the dance as the liquid cools and the tea leaves drop to the bottom of the glass. Then, as your glass gets down half way, add more water until the liquid tastes more like water than tea. The only downside to this method is it is not as fast as brewing with a gaiwan, it enforces a leisurely contemplative pace to your tea drinking. Or maybe it is an upside? You also tend to end up eating a few tea leaves, which isn’t really a bad thing.
First off, the name of this tea is a little misleading, it is called “Anji Bai Cha” which means “White Tea of Anji”, but the production method is that of a Green Tea. It is called “White Tea”, because the tea buds and leaf sprouts are very light in color, pale yellow to white.
Second, because of the light color of the leaves, it is sometimes called “Golden Buds” which might lead you to think it is a “Yellow Tea”, but again, this is just referring to the color of the buds, not the production method.
Finally, the color of the tea soup, because of the light green of the leaves, is bright topaz yellow. Again, not because it is a Yellow Tea, but because of the light color of the chlorophyll in the leaves and buds. It is a green tea.
If you research Anji Bai Cha, another thing you will find quickly are health claims related to the teas’ relatively high amounts of Amino Acids.
“Bai Cha’s pale jade leaves are unique in their high amino acid content, which contributes to the sweetness and calming effect of their infusion. Some studies have estimated that the Bai Cha leaves contain approximately three to five times the amount of amino acid found in any other green tea.”
Another interesting point is that the two bushes which were found with the light buds characteristic of Anji Bai Cha, and from which all cuttings of Anji Bai Cha were taken, were only discovered in 1982! Anji Bai Cha, from Anji, is still a relatively lightly produced and thus somewhat prized and thus expensive tea.
The first time I tried the Yunnan Sourcing Anji Bai Cha, it freaked me out a bit. I may have been a bit on the high side of that temp. Brewed in a Gaiwan, I found the flavor of the Yunnan Sourcing Anji Bai Cha almost too intense. There is a creamy umami core to Anji Bai Cha that I somehow concentrated with my preparation, the flavor reminded me a bit of hard boiled egg, or Chinese 100 year old eggs. Brewed as I did, there was a bit of bitterness in the aftertaste.
The Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea anjibaicha golden buds was a much less intense flavor. While the umami/eggy core is still there, it was less intense and the flavor more balanced. There is a lasting sweet impression and length of flavor that is more apparent with this Anji Bai Cha than the other two. You usually don’t think so much about length of flavor with Green Teas, but this anjibaicha has a haunting and very pleasant after taste.
2g in 12oz insulated Glass Cup, water just starting to come to simmer, should be around 185F.
The “Ming Qian” in the name of this importer’s Anji Bai Cha, means that the tea was picked before the “Qing Ming” festival in early April. Basically, this just means it is from the first flush of tea buds, not the secondary buds later in the spring. For what it is worth, all three of these teas are first flush.
The most common way to drink bud heavy green teas like Anji Bai Cha or Dragon Well is to steep them in a clear glass, using about 1g of tea per 100ml of water.
This is a relaxing way to drink tea, you have to wait for the leaves to drop to the bottom of the glass, or at least start to drop. While you’re waiting for them to drop, you can watch the ballet of the leaves as they float down through the water. Once you start drinking, you just add a bit more hot water as you drink down your glass. You can keep adding hot water until your tea tastes more like hot water than tea.
I made the Seven Cups tea first this way, but also went back and tried all three teas this way.
All three Anji Bai Chas were good.
The Yunnan Sourcing Anji Bai Cha is the most intense in its flavor and was a bit tricky to brew in a gaiwan. It’s flavor was good when prepared in a glass.
The Seven Cups Anji Bai Cha was in the middle of the three, not as intense as the Yunnan Sourcing, but not as elegant as the Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea.
The Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea was the most elegant and had the best length of flavor. I found myself thinking about the flavor most of the day after drinking it, craving it a bit. But, it is also the most expensive of the three. (They also sell lower priced types that more or less map out to exactly the same prices as Yunnan Sourcing or Seven Cups.)
If you are interested in Anji Bai Cha, I might recommend trying a less expensive version, but be aware that it may be a bit trickier to get a good cup of tea out of it than with the smoother, higher grade.