Sweet sweat of the earth is this tea. I know it could be stretching things a bit too far - sweet and sweat and taste of a tea. But indulge me here a bit please. I always am challenged when it comes to writing taste descriptions. This one came out of the guts - literally and otherwise - and would not go away. Sweet sweat: a marriage of primitive and sophisticated, to my mind.
It takes a bit to get used to Keemun’s earthy character, but once you do this black tea - or red tea, as the Chinese would say - makes for an enjoyable cup. The aroma is heavy, not strong, of damp wood and smoke. There is nothing floral or delicate like Darjeeling here. There is a tinge of burnt sweetness, bit like caramel, in the infusion, while the liquor sparkles burgundy.
It was at this point the primitive sophistication emerged on the palate.
It was storming outside as I drank this tea. It kept me calm. I looked upon the lightning and the rain, heard the rapture of thunder and felt one with it all. I was in the shambala of Keemun. Thanks to the vendor who sent me the sample!
Keemun comes from Qimen county in Anhui province. (Keemun is the anglicized version of Qimen). It is relatively a newer tea. As the story goes, it was formulated in 1875 by a civil servant who sought a new vocation after losing his job. He followed his father’s advice in learning a skill rather than depending on the “precarious officialdom” for a living. Before Keemun started to be manufactured, Anhui province only made green tea.
Keemun is made from the local cultivar 槠叶种 (Zhu-ye-zhong). It is this particular bush, and the terroir that give Keemun its distinctive flavor. Notably, many of the more expensive English Breakfast tea blends include Keemun as the primary tea.
The leaves are small and wiry. Very clean. I am happy to see a liberal splash of golden tips in the sample. There are many categories of Keemun - a total of 10. The one I was sampling was Hao Ya B. There is a higher grade Hao Ya A, and the lower are special grade and grade 1-7.
The other kind of Keemun is Keemun Mao Feng, whose leaf appearance is made to resemble green tea from Mao Feng (a mountain in Anhui province known for its green tea). The leaf is longer and more whole than in Keemun Hoa Ya, and the taste more mellow.
Next time I got to get some Mao Feng and Hao Ya A in me!
*This tea is not available for purchase at our store presently.