What Are Congou Teas?

Keemun Hao Ya B

A type of tea rarely heard of here in the Western hemisphere is called “congou tea.” Few know what it is although they may be drinking it right now. So, here is a quick description.

The Simple Answer

Black tea from China.

The Less Simple Answer

A term generally used to describe all Chinese black teas (known as red tea in China) regardless of where in China they are grown and made. “Congou” is probably derived from “kungfu” or “gongfu,” meaning “skill and patience.” Very appropriate, since this type of tea requires a great deal of disciplined production skill to achieve one of its main characteristics: unbroken leaves. Keemun congous are often the ones used in the classic English breakfast blends, frequently served with milk and sugar.

Fujian Congous

  • Ching Wo Tea (Zheng He Congou Tea) — One of the big three congou black teas produced in Fujian province. Often referred to as “claret” because of its full-bodied, winey flavor. Like Keemun Congous, this tea has a deep, full body and makes an excellent breakfast and afternoon tea. Two cultivars are used to make this congou, with the leaves from each often being carefully blended together. The Da Baicha cultivar leaves are plucked when they are small and covered with downy hairs, like a white tea, and the other cultivar (name unknown) also has small leaves but with an aroma similar to Keemun Congou. The steeped liquid is usually a deep yellow in color with a rich aroma.
  • Bai Lin Congou (Tangerine Black) — One of the big three congou black teas produced in Fujian province. A rare, hand-crafted black tea that’s been around for over 150 years. In the 1850s, tea merchants gathered in the Bailin area to collect roughly manufactured black teas and refine them into what became the Bai Lin Congou. The dry leaves are varied in color from brown to golden, and the liquid has a pleasing golden-orange.
  • Tan Yang Congou (Panyang Congou) — The most common of the big three congou black teas produced in Fujian province. The Tanyang Cai Cha cultivar was developed in the early Ming Dynasty and first used to make black tea in 1851, which was further developed and exported to Western Europe where it became quite popular. The leaves produce a clear liquid with a bright red color, a thick, smooth texture, and a mellow yet rich aroma without a hard edge.

North China Congous

From the provinces of Anhui, Hunan, and Kiangsu. They are the typical English breakfast style teas, the most famous ones being Keemuns. They are hand-made in the orthodox processing manner; both the hand processing and small production area in Keemun County results in a low output. The flavors are so nuanced and layered that you will want to drink them straight without milk and/or sweetener.

  • Keemun Gongfu or Congou — Made with careful skill (“gongfu”) to produce thin, tight strips without breaking the leaves.
  • Keemun Mao Feng — A variety, where Mao Feng means Fur Peak, which is made of only slightly twisted leaf buds and is sometimes noted for a smoother and different flavor. Many people prefer to brew a smaller quantity of this tea for a longer time than usual, up to 7 minutes, to bring out more interesting tones in the tea.
  • Keemun Xin Ya — The early bud variety, said to have less bitterness.
  • Keemun Hao Ya — A variety known for its fine buds, sometimes showing prominent amounts of silver tips, and generally the highest grade. Hao Ya is sometimes graded into A and B, where A is the better grade. http://www.jas-etea.com/keemun-hao-ya-b-whole-leaf-style-also-called-gold-pekoe-25-grams/
  • Hubei Keemun — Not a true Keemun, a variety that comes from the Hubei Province west of Anhui , said to have similar qualities to the Anhui Keemun.
  • Yunnan Black Tea — A large-leaf Yunnan Congou black tea with a perfect leaf appearance and golden tips. • Lichee Congou (Guangdong Province) — A black tea flavored with lichee.
  • Rose Congou (Guangdong Province) — A black tea flavored with rose petals.

Whether you like these teas straight or with milk and sweetener, they are a truly special taste experience.

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
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