Updated: Feb 20, 2020
On Day 3 of this challenge, I talked about a yellow tea from Anhui province (Huo Shan Huan Ya) where I also explained the processing stages for yellow tea. Junshan Yinzhen is another story as it tastes less like a good green tea which suggests that its ‘yellow sealing’ (men-huang) process was made for a longer period. However, it is also important to note that elevation and soil matters. For yellow tea, the ability of tea master is ultra-essential given that there are not many remaining.
I bought this tea from the Chinese market and it was affordable. This suggests that the tea itself, although sold as Junshan Yinzhen, may not be coming from the tiny island in Dong Ting Lake in Hunan province or it may the that the leaves were plucked after the Qingming Festival (early April). In China, tea drinkers pay extraordinary amounts for rare teas (e.g. Dahongpao), therefore, the ‘authentic’ Junshan Yinzhen is astronomically expensive due to its rarity alongside its labour-intensive production process. At least a chunk of it is kept for VIPs (diplomats etc.) which has been a tradition since the Tang Dynasty when this tea was produced only about half a kg a year and all of it was offered as an Imperial Tribute tea. Apparently, Jungshan Yinzhen was also Chairman Mao’s favourite which makes sense given that they both come from the same province.
These days Junshan Yinzhen production increased to 1000 kg per year. Also, currently, there are many other kinds of Junshan Yinzhen produced nearby Dong Ting lake also sold as ‘Junshan Yinzhen’ and available for a more affordable price. What makes the Junshan island special is its low altitude, protection from the sun (thanks to the fog generated from the Dong Ting lake), and the flower plants found around the tea plantations.
I am not sure where the tea I drank came from despite the labelling and seller’s words who says it is from Junshan Island. However, I did enjoy this tea and I do think it was categorically different from green tea. If you drink this tea with the expectation of big punchy flavours, you might be disappointed. Junshan Yinzhen offers a taste that is as subtle as a superb tea can give you. If you go for gongfu cha method to steep this tea, you will taste the subtle and elegant floral and mineral undertones more profoundly. And the sweetness the pure buds will leave on your taste buds is beyond pleasant. Enjoy your cuppa!
Origin: Dongting Lake, Junshan, Yueyang, Hunan Province
Harvest time: Early Spring 2019 (pre-rain)
Leave colour: Green and yellowish buds with visible fuzz
Liquor colour: Light orange
Tea aroma: Floral with mineral undertones
Tea taste: Sweet and mellow
Steeping/brewing:You can use around 85°C water temperature and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to16 months (to improve shelf-life store the sealed tea leaves in a dry, ventilated place with low temperatures and away from odour)