Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jin Jun Mei & The Rose Program Chocolate

Unlike expresso with chocolate, tea and cocoa are not a common paring... or should it be?

Over the last weekend, I have had the pleasure to meet with a wonderful author who celebrates healthy and finer things in life.
Bringing up tea as my natural subject of choose, she rewarded me with a private commissioned chocolate bar made with 70% cocoa.

"I have travelled all over the world to find the best tasting dark chocolate made with the finest ingredients. The result is this handcrafted Belgian Chocolate produced with tremendous love and care in small batches in a remote beach village in South Africa... Enjoy!" ~ Rose.

Sounds familiar? It is the same vision as to my obsession with tea.

Although I am not an advocate of fine chocolate, this beautiful bar do carries a healthy oily sheen, rich and dark brown, it looks robust and piquant. But once in the mouth, the silky exterior starts to melt, releasing full, buttery, oily texture. Nutty and savory, with a kiss of citrus tangy at the roof of my mouth, followed by a breath of clean, fresh, salty ocean breeze. Waves of pure coco floral bouquet coated my palate, smooth but still maintaining the chewy true texture of its ingredient. I am pleasantly surprised by how subtle and balanced the profile is on the aftertaste of this 70% dark chocolate.

What's better than to pair it up with a Wuyi Red tea! The warm, refreshing brew melted the chewy nutty chocolate and washed it down smoothly, adding a dash of floral to the cocoa and in return, it balanced back with a hint of salt to the honey liquor.... Salt baked Kumamoto oyster came to mind with a dash of Oliva Novello on top. Heaven! How the chocolate helps the red tea to blossom into floral fragrance and the tea cuts back its mellow pungent espresso crema character. It is as equally interesting as Italian high roasted espresso paring with semi-sweet chocolate.

Many Chinese red tea I've sampled over the years have shared a distinctive characteristic: Hints of cocoa or baker's chocolate. From Yunnan Gold, Keemum red, Yixing Kung Fu to Lapsang Souchong, all are fine examples of traditional Chinese red tea. Until I found a 'new-old' breed of Wuyi Red Yancha: Jin (Gold, meaning of premium grade) Jun (location, summit name, using wild old bushes) Mei (shape, like an eyebrow).

Created in 2005 by Master Liang to resurrect a style of tea long lost from the region. The production of this rare tea is extremely labor intensive. Harvested from wild old tea bushes growing above 1200-1800m in the Wuyi protected national park, it takes around 60,000-90,000 buds to make a pound (depending on the grade and time of harvest), 1 bud one leaf style. That's why only 1000 kg are produced annually and it's the most expensive red tea (US $1300/pound and up) in the current market. Understandably, 90% of Jin Jun Mei on the market is fake. Many tea noobs will call it a Chinese Nouveau Riche tea, but until they have a deeper understanding of what good tea is, 'Breakfast at Tiffany' is always more a convenient truth.

I have been testing 4 grades of Jin Jun Mei since last year. Most of the grading depends on the harvesting date, the highest grade so far is from March 2010. The earlier the picking, the more golden hair from the tea buds you get and the more baby buds it needs to make up an invoice. This came to my understanding of finer things in life.... The more refined something is, the more attention and love it receives or needs. But to understand these subtle refinement, a individual must continue to educate and strengthen his/her palate and mind.


Brandon said...

Nice cups...
I am still not refined enough to understand the Wuyi red, though.

toki said...

Thanks Brandon. Lets understand it together soon. Perhaps you could help me with gourmet chocolate?
Cheers ~ T

Matt said...


Just love to eat dark chocolate with tea. Gourmet is too lavish, and expensive... but once in a while. Usually local Demon Island Chocolate or a reasonable store bought terroir chocolate is a nice treat, and not as tough on the pocket book.

It is interesting you paired the dark chocolate with Wuyi red tea. You chose the path of harmonizing the nutty-chocolate notes in the tea. Sometimes one does this with cliff tea or Korean yellow tea. But usually one goes the path of complimenting.

That is complimenting energies. This is especially so when dark chocolate is consumed with a fine matcha. The engergies of the matcha are cool but the energy of dark chocolate is warm, the bitter tastes in both harmonize and bring out wonderful notes in the matcha.

That Jin Ju Mai sounds amazing. Anticipating your thoughts on these teas.


Ozark said...

Toki -
Your comments on the tea reminded me to ask - do you remember when Dian Hong had a distinct 'fresh-cracked black pepper' aroma? Last I found that was pre-pu'er craze days - probably in the mid-90's.
Best -

Justin said...

yuup teas are looking great but i didnt think chocolate with tea is good combination
Iced Tea Brewers

toki said...

Matcha and dark chocolate Matt, thats delightful! Seems very summery to me, or perhaps a "ying" version my "yang" paring : ) More tasting notes to come, stay tuned my friend.

Ozark-Yunnan Red from the early 90s were wonderful for Kung-fuing. For some reason, the Chinese Kung-fu red back then were more 'Honest'. These days, its just getting fancier and fancier. The cracked fresh pepper seems to be replaced by crashed dried flower petals.... the evolution of tea?

Cheers ~ T

Brandon said...

After a few more cups, I think I understand what this tea is about. Very nice.

Hope Mrs. H is feeling better.

toki said...

Thanks Brandon. Thank You : ) ~ T

Kort said...

Well, I just placed an order, so hopefully I too will soon have a better understanding of what this wonderful sounding tea is all about. :)

learning to pull radishes said...

Just as some of the best teas come from old-growth, naturally-tended plants, the leaves harvested by experienced hands and processed by traditional handmade methods, so it is with the most amazing chocolate I've ever tasted -- Claudio Corallo chocolate ( This is not the candy-bar-like chocolate we've come to associate with the word. No, this is true artisan reverence for the cacao plant, coaxing it to it's most refined expression. Yes, it's pricey, but I'm happy to pay for something this exquisite :) Just like I'm happy to pay for very special teas :)

Wonderful blog. Love your views toward the spiritual side of tea and all things worthy :)

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