Wild Tongmu Jin Jun Mei is picked one bud at a time, entirely by hand, and entirely by native residents living within the reserve. The tea plants are wildly propagated by seed, and are left untended. This natural selection creates genetic variation and diversity between each standalone tea bush. Each bush grows between one and three meters high, and grows out of cracks in the volcanic rock of the Tongmu mountains.
These buds are hand picked from the Li Family’s piece of land on the mountain slopes above their ancestral home, inside the Fujian Wuyishan National Nature Reserve. The buds are hand finished by the Li Family and sun-roasted to fully oxidize as a traditional black tea. This Wild Tongmu Jin Jun Mei represents the earliest harvest possible in the Tongmu region, undertaken by Li Xiangxi, her brothers, her cousins, and her parents.
First Harvest Wild Tongmu Jin Jun Mei is currently one of the most sought after teas in the world. It is valuable because it is admired so greatly by connoisseurs in China for its singular and unique texture and aftertaste.
Tongmu is a tiny region that has been designated for special protection and recognition. Non-residents are not allowed into the preserve without special approval and sponsorship from a resident. The annual yield of the entire region is nowhere near enough to satisfy the demand.
The region of Tongmu is unique within the Wuyishan region for its volcanic rock formations, and extremely thick vegetation coverage and biodiversity. Nestled along either bank upstream of the Jiuqu (Nine Bends) Brook, the mountains create a unique microclimate, perfect for many species of birds and a healthy ecosystem. Mountain spring water springs out of the ground and runs down every slope, and the rocky land and cold weather make for slow-growing but singularly incredible tea.
To produce just one kilogram of early harvest Tongmu Wild Jin Jun Mei, five kilograms of fresh leaves are needed. One kilogram of fresh leaf takes twelve to fourteen thousand individual buds, each picked entirely by hand.
A single tea bush will only produce 50 to 100 grams of buds, meaning that it is necessary to hike high into the mountains to forage even a small amount of this tea. Every bush is wildly propagated, which means that different individual bushes all bud at different times. This makes it necessary to hike the mountains of Tongmu every day of early spring to make sure you’re picking the buds when they are still tiny and delicate and perfect for Jin Jun Mei. The steep mountains and rocky terrain make this harvesting dangerous work for everyone in the Li Family.
The incredible amount of labor required, the steep domestic demand and tiny supply make this one of the most valuable teas coming out of China, with demand for genuinely wild Jin Jun Mei growing every year.
Wild Tongmu Jin Jun Mei is an experience unlike any other black.
This tea is completely unique.
Li Xiangxi normally only picks this tea by commission because it is so intensive to produce. We were lucky enough to be in Tongmu just days before picking and were able to commission one half kilo.
Li Xiangxi wanted to share this tea because it is the clearest, most perfect expression of the flavor of her family’s mountain plot in Tongmu. It is a textural experience that evokes the mountain spring water, the dramatic rocks, the bamboo forests.
At $38 for a single serving, this tea comes in at the same price as a bottle of mid-range wine, and delivers a much more thrilling textural, aftertaste-focused experience, steeps out more liquid, serves more people, and lasts longer. We poured over thirty steepings with our five gram packet when we tried this tea for the first time, and the tea only seemed to get stronger and fuller each steeping instead of lighter.
The aroma of the tea in a Jingdezhen porcelain gaiwan was full of lychee and grape high notes with a cozy yeasty rising bread undertone that hints at the texture to come.
The first sips are shockingly thick, thicker than any other tea we have tasted.
The full body complements the mossy flavor of old tree Wuyi teas that comes through before shifting to a sweet buttercream cake aftertaste. As the tea continues steeping, the mouthfeel moves from thick and hefty to a refined sticky rice quality, complimented by orchid florals in the aftertaste.
In very late steepings the crisp sweetness of Wuyi minerality dominates with honey and light melon notes and a sensation on the tongue that begins to approach the electrical quality of yun.
This tea is truly rare.
We were only able to obtain one half kilogram this year.
We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to try this tea. We also want to offer single servings to bring this opportunity within reach for more people given the cost per gram. A larger package would be prohibitive for many people interested in the tasting opportunity.
Finally, Li Xiangxi personally packaged this tea and weighed each bag to ensure the correct quantity of leaf in a single brew. Single serving packets take the guess work out and ensure the best taste experience.
This tea took an incredible amount of care to pick and finish.
For an experience that truly reveals how special this quiet and subtle tea can be, a degree of care is needed in brewing.
Jingdezhen is highly vitrified and shows the truest aroma. As a second choice, Longchuan porcelain and Dehua porcelain both work well. The goal is to use a porcelain vessel that holds 5fl oz of water or less, as highly vitrified and fine as possible.
We use Chippewa Spring water here in the midwest, but there are other sweet, full bodied spring waters available around the country. In a pinch, waters like Fiji and Evian can work well.
Strainers will destroy the texture of this tea by filtering out the bud material.
Bring your water to a full boil. Pour a small amount into your gaiwan to heat the porcelain. Pour over your cups and pitcher to get everything to a good temperature.
Once your tools are warmed, add the entire 5g packet to your gaiwan.
Pour boiling water into your pitcher and cool for about 15-20 seconds. This extremely buddy tea will yield the most beautiful texture when brewed with cooler water.
Pour in a circle along the edge of your gaiwan to introduce the water to the buds gently. Immediately pour out. Practice holding your gaiwan to strain all leaves with the lid and try not to pour any into your pitcher.
Discard the first steeping as a rinse. Then you can begin brewing this tea.
Keep your water at boiling and cool each infusion for 15-20 seconds to have precise control. Steep your tea for about 5-8 seconds in early infusions. After 15-20 infusions, you can raise your water temperature by cooling for only 6 seconds and slowly increase steep times, up to about a 45 second infusion.
Take your time. Enjoy at least thirty steepings.