By Anne DesBrisay
It means ‘beautiful eyebrow’ when translated from Japanese and I’m on my fourth cup from a third steep. The first steep was brewed yesterday afternoon. I left the spent tea leaves in the pot on the kitchen counter and three times now, have poured boiled (cooled to 80° C water — not just-boiled water: there’s a difference don’t ya know…) over the leafy brown mash. I allowed the brew to steep two minutes (as per directions) and then poured out another coppery cup.
There’s not a titch of bitterness and the flavour — smooth, toasted, a bit honey-sweet, and all-comfort in the finish — just keeps on giving.
Kimiko Uriu assured me this tea would — that I could, in fact, get seven steeps out of the leaves, but I suppose I didn’t believe her. You might say I raised my eyebrow at the idea. But she was quite right, and I have found my perfect afternoon tea: gentle and forgiving.
Kimiko is a Certified Tea Specialist, teacher, taster, blender, owner of Kimicha Teas and founder of the Ottawa Tea Festival. I’m drinking her award-winning Jin Jun Mei, a pure black lapsang Souchong tea made from the young, early Spring buds (only buds) harvested on the stony slopes of Wuyi Mountain in China.
Kimiko entered her Jin Jun Mei in the 2011 North American Tea Championship. It went tea-to-tea with some mighty big companies’ entries and emerged with the gold medal as the best Black Tea in the competition. Pretty impressive showing from a small, young Ottawa company.
Kimiko has worked in every part of the tea-making process in Japan: the farm, the factory, the blending room, tea sales, and distribution. She’s a tea educator, a skilled tea maker, a Japanese tea ceremony connoisseur, and a tea-loving mother of a delightfully busy toddler. She is also responsible for breaking my 4 pm double espresso habit and for giving me a crash course in the art and skill of brewing a good cup of tea.
Just like a good cup of coffee much depends on the quality of the leaves/beans and the skill of who’s making it. The temperature of the water matters; the ratio of tea leaves to water matters, as does the length of time the tea is left to infuse.
I figure, as I top up my fourth cup of Jin Jun Mei from the same two rounded teaspoons of leaves, that it’s also wildly more economical than that double espresso for which fresh beans must be ground.
In fact, the third steep of this tea was the finest — richer, rounder, more interesting. Though I did pair that one with a vanilla scone (The Scone Witch) smothered with raspberry-orange jam (michaelsdolce) which likely added to the pleasure and possibly skewed the science. No matter. This stuff has changed my life.
I bought the Jin Jun Mei, along with a number of other Kimicha teas, directly from Kimiko when we met in her home. But her exquisite teas are also available through Kimicha.com and some are sold at Farm Boy, under the Farm Boy label. (And hat’s off to Farm Boy for its efforts to support local businesses, and the quality of its home brand of products, including this treat.)
Cost: Kimicha teas range from $6 for 15g (mint tea) to $60 for 80g (Matcha Organic). The Jin Jun Mei is $25 for 30g.
Available through Kimicha Tea and at Farm Boy