JIN JUN MEI - ZHENG SHAN XIAO ZHONG - LAPSANG SOUCHONG
This is a tiny blog post to make up our and your minds about these three black teas @ our She Fang Boutique Tea store: Jin Jun Mei N.100, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong N.109 and Lapsang Souchong N.108. They are sometimes all classified as Lapsang Souchongs. They come from the same location and perhaps even the same tea cultivar but differ in leaf plucking quality and manufacturing process.
Jin Jun Mei translates as “Golden Horse Eyebrow” was invented on 21 June 2005 and quickly became a top selling tea in China with prices reaching $6000-$16000 per 1kg.
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong translates as “Smaller leaf tea from Original mountains“ and it is the authentic/genuine lightly smoked Lapsang.
Lapsang Souchong translates as “Coarse tea leaves from Upright mountains” which Chinese consider to be a poor man's tea and are not quite so keen on it so it's mostly sold for export.
All three teas comes from China, Fujian province, Tong Mu village which is scattered around the Wuyi Rocky Mountainous area (800-1500m a.s.l) where also famous rock wulongs are made.
This is the birthplace of Lapsang, produced by the specified tea tree called Xiao-zhong.
Tongmu was declared a World Heritage area by UNESCO in 1979 and a strict ban on pesticides was declared. This made the tea producing area turn towards creating higher quality grade teas rather than cultivate lower quality.
The classical Lapsang Souchong ever more often does not even come from Tongmu anymore, but instead from surrounding areas, from where the tea is merely brought for smoking to Tongmu.
All three teas can come in both smoke or un-smoked versions. Jin Jun Mei will be the lightest of them. Zheng Shan will be light “cold smoked” and Lapsang is heavily “tarry smoked”.
- Pluck -
JJM: Exclusively made from tiny spring buds. It is exquisitely hand pick and pre-rain tea. Grown in a wild bamboo forest, 1100-1500m altitude, where more than 100 year old bushes grow between shrubs and biodiverse environment. It comes from specified tea cultivar Xiao Cai Cha. 500G of this tea contains about 48 000 single tea buds!!!
ZSXZ: Fine leaf pluck in early April-May (pre-rain) of bud and leaf. Made with fresh spring tea leaves from the tea gardens located in the vicinity of the smoking sheds.
LS: Made from mature leaves - fourth and fifth leaf. Usually picked in other locations and then smoked in Tong Mu.
- Withering -
After plucking, the leaves are withered over pine wood fires. At the Wuyi mountainous area, sunshine is weak especially during spring. Thus, the withering has to be carried out with additional heat from burning pine firewood.
- Rolling -
To prepare the tea leaves for oxidation.
- Oxidizing -
After the rolling process, tea leaves are placed into wooden barrels and covered with cloth for enzymatic oxidation to take place. When the weather gets cooler, the barrels will be placed nearby the cook-stove to keep tea leaves warm.
- Smoking -
JJM: Withering – rolling – oxidizing – roasting in wok pan over charcoal fire using well-dried pine wood.
ZSXZ: The leaf is given a light smoking during the manufacture of the tea. Or confusingly, it can be manufactured as a black tea and be non-smoked. The leaf is essentially given a ‘cold smoking’ during processing, which gives this tea a lightly-smoked character while maintaining flavour and finesse. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is produced in limited quantity each spring. The pine wood used for smoking this tea is well-dried rather than fresh.
LS: 8 hours long heavy smoking...The tendentiously strong smoking is done on a fire made from fresh cut pine wood, this gives the classical Lapsang Souchong its typical taste. Lapsang Souchong is a heavily smoked (tarry) tea produced for export and is rarely drunk by Chinese tea drinkers. Lapsang souchong is made from already ‘made’ black tea (that is sent to the smoking sheds from other places in China) which is given a hot smoking to impart the thick tarry taste.
A little history:
The World First Black Tea
LS has had a long history behind it. With more than 400 years of history, it was said that LS is the world’s first black tea. LS was produced as early as during the Qing Dynasty. Dated back to 1604, the Dutch imported LS to the West. It was regarded as a precious medical product and sold at pharmacies. At that time, there was no other black tea in the market. Thus, it was believed that LS is the earliest black tea invented, and Tongmu Village was the cradle of the black tea in the world. The Dutch dominated the European trade in LS until 1669, when the English first imported it on a commercial scale. By the time the English East India Company began trading in tea, the drink was well established at the English courts, where it was no longer valued primarily for its medicinal benefits, but was drunk socially, as an invigorating beverage.
According to historical records, in the year 1662, Princess Catherine from Portugal who when she was married to Prince Charles had brought along her favourite LS tea to England. Her passion for tea had played the important role to promote the LS in England. LS was treated as a luxury drink in England, France, Dutch and The Netherlands. In England itself, LS was recognized as the representative of Chinese Tea, and it used to be serve England’s Royal Family thus it was known as the Royal Black Tea in England.