Ever since I tried Keemun tea, I have, as the expression goes, been keen on it! This black tea tickles my tastebuds in a wonderful way that makes a nice change from my usual morning cuppa Assam.

Mmmmmmmmmm... Keemun Panda!

Mmmmmmmmmm... Keemun Panda!

Some tea experts describe the flavor 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 (it’s from the Anhui province). 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.
  • A higher grade called “Mao Feng” or “hair point.”

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.” I still have a dried rose bloom from one of the bushes in our yard and would swear this tea and that bloom have the same aroma.

Of course, Keemun also lends these flavors and aromas to many blends, my fave being Scottish Breakfast (my review). It keeps Assam from being too bitter and tempers the malty character while still producing a strong cup that takes milk well, if you are so inclined. Give it a try sometime!

See also:
China’s Black Teas: Keemun
A Journey to the Tea Countries of China
The Tea Provinces of China, Part I
The Tea Provinces of China, Part II
Review — Lychee Congou China Black Tea from The English Tea Store

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