Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, Jin Jun Mei Waishan

Also known as Golden Junmee, Jin Jun Mei, the newest member of Lapsang Souchong, was created in 2005. Jin Jun Mei is made of only tea buds. Delicately twisted leaves with a high concentration of golden tips distinguishes this tea from other black teas. The quality of the tea really shines through in this absolutely gorgeous black tea.

The fifth of six samples provided by Vicony Teas Company. They are a Chinese wholesaler. Vicony Teas have so far proven to be top notch. Let’s see if that trend continues.

The samples came well protected and double boxed. Inside, each tea was in their own clear plastic bag. The only information on the sample bag was Vicony’s article number. This one is labeled LAM23. This is a new addition to the lapsang family. It is a black tea made entirely of buds.

The dry leaf is very cool looking. It is quite fine. The color ranges from very dark brown (almost black) to the lightest tan. The colors are wrapped around each other and it reminds me of my wife’s crochet thread. It kind of glows under the light. The scent is sort of cocoa but its fruity, almost like a pineapple.

I prefer not to look up the steeping directions when they are not typed on the label. I do this because I assume others won’t look it up either. Most people have a standard method for preparing each type tea. This one is a black so I used a large scoop, lightly boiling water, and a two minute steep. Normally I would go three but this might be a very smoky tea and I am choosing to stay on the cautious side. (I follow the directions later in the review)

After the first steep the leaf still appears fairly tightly twisted. The brew is caramel in the press and darker in my mug. There is a strong aroma of cocoa and malt.

The sip is very malty. It evokes images first of cocoa and hay, then root beer (of course with out the sassafras). You can definitely catch a Yunnan Dian Hong similarity. I expected this to be heavily smoky but that is not the case. There is a very light smoke underneath the tea flavor that enhances the experience with out drawing attention to itself. This has a natural sweetness to it, like honey, though it will stand up to sweeteners being added. There is no bitterness, even with long steeps. Milk is not required to tame it but I think it would stand up to a light splash. The aftertaste is sweet and cooling.

The second mug was steeped for only one minute. Western brewing technique of black tea tends towards leaving the pot until it walks off on its own. Short steeps sound wrong to us, but this tea delivers a very flavorful cup at one minute (as it turns out even 1 minute is considered a long steep). When very hot, it has a nutty taste. As it cools, it becomes malty. The smoke is much more noticeable, but remains well behaved, adding to the sip. The malt, honey, and the smoke combine to give this a bit of a bread taste. A very nice cup.

I steeped the third and final cup at three minutes. There was still plenty of flavor and strength in the cup.

Day 2, I could smell the light smoked honey all day yesterday. I did not spill any on me, and I washed my hands multiple times. I have no explanation. Even late in the evening, sitting at home watching TV, I could smell it. I must have this tea again!

This time I went by the instructions. Same amount of leaf and boiling water. The difference, I only used the recommended 10 second steep time! 10 seconds? Yep, and it is really good this way. You smell the smoke rather than taste it, though it is light. You taste malt and honey. There has been another flavor note present the whole time that I can’t identify. It is sort of sweet potato but not exactly. Finally, this feels thick and silky as you sip.

So what is the difference between long western steeps and short Chinese steeps? Flavor-wise not a lot. The long steeps did feel heavier and caused a mild amount of stomach discomfort. I am guessing that would be the tannins in the tea. The short steeps did not leave me with the same uncomfortable feeling. According to Vicony, you should be able to steep up to 6 cups by slightly increasing the steep time with each successive cup. That is a lot of tea for one spoon of leaf. I steeped four cups before my kidneys begged for mercy. The tea was still going strong.

This is an excellent Chinese black tea with a strong enough flavor that your coffee drinking friends should be able to appreciate it. Your tea drinking friends will appreciate the lack of bitterness with a pleasant lingering sweet malt aftertaste.

Visit Vicony Teas Company web site.

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