We have had many spectacular teas from the tea-producing region of eastern/central China that is located all-around the porcelain center of Jingdezhen. Most have been either glorious and extremely expensive, very-early-season green teas; or they have been mid-season, clean and brisk spring green teas. Some of you may remember this tea: Ming Mei, the tea that was Mary Lou’s all-time favorite green tea.
We sourced Ming Mei for many years back in the ‘aughts’ and into the early 2010’s. This area was one of the first places that we visited on our maiden trip to China in 2000, and we have re-visited it to source many of its delicious teas and functional teawares. Most recently we have been able to source and offer a spectacular black tea from this region: Tea Trekker’s Fuliang Black
Ming Mei is still one of Tea Trekker’s all-time most popular green teas, and we are very happy to have it back for 2020 after a welcome return last year!
This delicious, richly-flavored, mid-season green tea is from one of China’s first certified organic tea-growing gardens (located in Jiangxi), a tea that is now highly-sought-after on the domestic Chinese tea market and that was, for a time in the “twenty-teens”, priced out of the export market.
Jiangxi Province in general and the FuLiang area of it in specific, is a stunning region of steep mountains and bamboo forests, with many settlements that date back to summer residences of both wealthy and powerful Chinese and later, westerners, who were all escaping the heat of the summer in the major cities that have been so densely populated for centuries. There are varied and interesting examples of architecture of many of the people who have had either permanent or seasonal residences and businesses in the region. Many of these are particularly noticeable on Lu Shan, from which we still source another fine and famous Spring Green tea during the P.Q.M. Spring Green Tea season, the Lu Shan Yun Wu spring green tea.
The area known as “Fuliang” is located in north-eastern Jiangxi Province, nestled in just to the west and south of the ‘holy trinity’ of tea provinces: Anhui, Zhejiang, and Fujian Provinces. Now known as Jingdezhen, this region is well-known for its porcelain and ceramics production (including many teawares), but it is not as well known for its tea, even though this is a very important area in Chinese tea history. How could it not be with so much notable tea production all around it – to the east as mentioned, and to the west and south are the also-important, varied tea-producing provinces of Hubei, Hunan, and Guangdong.
Ming Mei, with the classic taste of ‘green’, eastern China spring tea, is from the ‘Golden Triangle’ region of eastern China where some of the finest Chinese green teas have been plucked and processed by hand for centuries: the point at which Jiangxi, Anhui and Zhejiang Provinces come together. These vast tea growing areas provide most of China’s ‘famous‘ green teas, the gardens sharing their tea mountains with an abundance of heavily-forested, lush terrain.
The term ‘clouds & mist’ refers to blankets of nourishing mists that develop in the forests and valleys each day and provide a lush, moist environment for the forest, birds and tea gardens. This region is blessed with ample water from the Yangtze River and Lake Poyang. Rich hydration results in sweet, tender buds and leaves that are filled with abundant plant nutrient and sweetness. The deep, jade-green/gray color of Ming Mei suggests this rich, unspoiled environment. The thin, well-curled leaves speak to hand-processing skills that are second to none. This is an extremely well-made tea.
Ming Mei green tea shares one notable aspect with the other green teas of this famous tea-growing area: it has a stunning aroma – full of vibrancy and hinting at the burst of growth that occurs in the spring in a major tea-growing region such as this. If one has never tried an eastern Chinese spring green tea before, Ming Mei would be one of our best recommendations of a tea to start with. All you need to do is to follow its traditional, simple steeping instructions, and you will be a convert for life. Once you are familiar with the traditional steeping result, you can then experiment to evolve your steeping to how you prefer it best, because this tea is good short-steeped, long-steeped, steeped multiple times, cool water, hot water… and every way possible!
During the Tang dynasty ( 618-907 ) the tea sage Lu Yu wrote of the delicious nature of the tea from this important region. Today, because of the natural beauty of Lu Shan and teas such as Ming Mei, a part of the mountain has become a high-level resort area. Both Chiang Kai-chiek and Mao Zhedong had summer cottages here, far away from the demands of life in government.
Tea has been cultivated in this region for nearly 1500 years and there are very exacting quality control regulations in place for tea farmers. We were told that nearly 40% of the fresh leaf grown in the area is deemed to be not good enough to become the several ‘famous’ teas manufactured there. Instead, that leaf is used to make other, local types of green tea that are only found in the domestic, regional market.
Pre-Qing Ming teas are the first teas plucked each new spring season. Depending on the location (orientation) and altitude in each specific tea-producing region, leaf plucking for tea may begin as early as the middle week of March and continue until April 5th ( Qing Ming). Pre-Qing Ming teas command the highest prices because the demand for these teas outpaces the supply each year.