J is for Jin Jun Mei


Jin Jun Mei…

Translates as “Golden Beautiful Eyebrow”.  It is a very famous, extremely rare and very costly Chinese black tea.  It is processed in the Wuyi Shan region in northern Fujian Province. It is one of the most beloved Chinese teas and is rapidly becoming one the most highly sought-after black teas in the world, even though it is a “new” black tea having been first produced in 2004.  Jin Jun Mei is one of the most challenging, expensive, and demanding black teas produced in China.

The smell and taste of teas from the eastern provinces of China, such as the Fujian province, are uniquely distinct, to this historic tea region of China. All six types of tea are processed in one place or another in this part of China. The territory of the remote, protected mountainsides of the Wuyi Mountains provides the depth of flavor in its dark oolongs and black teas that we love. I will let you in on a little secret… black teas are my favorite, especially Chinese black teas.

wuyishan mts.


Where its grown…

Jin Jun Mei grows in the Wuyishan National Nature Reserve which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, because of its cultural and scenic value. The tea was invented based on the traditional process of Lapsang Souchong. Using the most delicate part of the plant, this hand -picked tea requires 60,000~80,000 tea buds to produce 500g tea.

Extremely strict picking standards are in place for this tea. The buds must be plucked before Tomb-Sweeping Day (The Qingming or Ching Ming festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival. It falls on the first day of the fifth solar term  of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox either April 4th or 5th in a given year) from a rare and primitive species of wild tea which grows on mountains in the National Natural Reserve, with an attitude of 1,500 to 1,800 meters. With an altitude this high there is very little agricultural land available to grow tea, and this in large part explains why there is so little Jin Jun Mei to go around.

Unlike many other tea-producing areas in China, the tea trees in the reserve are not cultivated in the plantation style. They are allowed to grow naturally wild in spacious groves (making them more difficult to pick). They range in age from a few years old to more than 100 years old and are found at elevations around 1,000-1,600 feet and on mountain peaks almost 5,000 feet. Although not certified organic, this area is strictly protected by the government, so absolutely no chemicals or pesticides are used.

nature reserve



Being a “bud-only” pluck, like several premium white and green teas, Jin Jing Mei requires all high- quality buds (60,000-80,000 buds) to manufacture 500 grams, which is slightly more than 1 lb. It is a very labor- intensive pick, but an experienced tea picker can harvest about 2,000 buds a day.  So, to make about a pound of this tea, it requires the full day’s work of 20 pickers.  That is REALLY hard to believe! The artful hands of the tea master are then set to work for another labor-intensive part of the manufacturing process. The buds are then rolled briefly to facilitate oxidation, left to further oxidize for another 13- 15 hours.  They are then baked to dry and finish.

When we appreciate many other types of tea, we look for large and full leaves – however with Jin Jun Mei the smaller and thinner the dried tea leaves, the better. Combined with the Lapsang Souchong traditional processing techniques, it is a rare treasure. This is one reason why bud-only teas are more expensive than other teas.

Explanation of its name…

The name of Jin Jun Mei (金 – gold, 骏 – beautiful horse, 眉 – eyebrow) tells you something about the tea. Jin (gold), though it can be a character for color, in this case it represents its quality and rareness. This connotation comes from ancient times when gold was rare and precious. There are two stories that explain the meaning of the character ‘Jun’ (beautiful horse) in the name. One version says it is was named after a processing master. The other version explains this word as a good wish for the tea. The horse has a good connotation in Chinese, meaning success or things quickly moving in a good direction. Mei (eyebrow) depicts the shape of the tea – the tea buds.

Next… Jin Jun Mei in my cup

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