We all start to feel that tingle in the air as Qing Ming draws near and the time for those first teas of Spring is not far behind. But the chills, blizzards, winds, and other weather woes of Winter are still a force to be reckoned with. So we’re focusing on Keemun black teas before those fresh Spring teas arrive.
Keemun – The Black Rose of the Tea World!
From the first time I tried Keemun tea, I have re-examined my whole attitude toward black tea. It’s not just that cheap dust in a bag used to make the iced tea, sweet tea, etc. And it’s not that stuff served in teabags in restaurants. Very different. This black tea tickles my tastebuds in a wonderful way that makes a nice change from my usual morning round of ripe pu-erh. It has a lighter smoky quality in the flavor than Lapsang Souchong and a more rich, smooth flavor that wakes me up in a way that coffee cannot.
Some tea experts describe the flavor of Keemun black tea this way:
- “A winey, fruity tea with depth and complexity.”
- “…having a faint orchid or rose scent, there is also a distinctive cocoa flavor.”
- “…a rich liquor with an orchid fragrance.”
However, my tastebuds have a mind of their own, as yours probably do, and so my experience tends to be more like this:
This is a full-bodied, fragrant Chinese black tea that satisfies in every way. The liquid is dark amber in color and the taste is smooth enough to be drunk with ease. With a bit of milk and just a touch of sweetener, this tea not only smoothes out even more but exudes a smoky character (subtle, not overblown like Lapsang Souchong).
Just goes to show that we all have our own sensory perceptions. And as the French say, “Vive la différence!”
Keemun, a variant of the name ‘Qimen’ (one of the counties in Anhui province where this tea is produced), is considered by many to be one of the finest black teas and one of the 10 classic teas from China. This is a fairly general statement, since there are different levels of Keemuns:
- A good all around Keemun, usually called something like “Keemun Morning.”
- A high grade Keemun called “Hao Ya” that has a richer and more distinct flavor that was sweet with light hints of smokiness. We carry this one.
- A higher grade called “Mao Feng” or “hair point.” See our article on it here.
Keemun is made from the “tippy” leaves (the young, tender leaves from the branch tips) of a cultivar of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and thus has its own unique flavor and perfume. It also contains an essential oil (myrcenal) that brings a sweetness to the taste and a floral aroma some have described as being “like a dying black rose” or “toast hot from the oven.” A friend who grows roses swears this tea and the blooms of her Black Pearl cultivar (a true black rose) have the same aroma.
Of course, Keemun also lends these flavors and aromas to many blends, such as Scottish Breakfast where it keeps the Assam in the blend from being too bitter and tempers the malty character while still producing a strong cup that takes milk well. Just as the black rose is a delicate and rare sensory experience, so a good Keemun black tea is a wondrous thing to enjoy. We carry several quality versions in stock year round and hope you’ll give them a try.