Keemun black tea is one of China's Ten Most Famous Teas, and is a beautiful tea indeed. It is also known as Keemun Gongfu or Qimen Gongfu depending on dialect. Keemun black teas are known for their aromatic fragrance, mellow flavor and beautiful aesthetic value as well as the brilliant red liquor the brewed tea leaves produce. Also highly regarded as a top quality black tea around the globe, and especially in the British market Keemun is considered a delicacy, and classified as a “tea hero” as well as being touted for being delicious and having the aroma of a China spring rain.
It is produced in Qimen county in the Anhui Province of China, hence why it is sometimes called Qimen tea. "Keemun" has been the English spelling for "Qimen" since the colonial era. Keemun black has a relatively short history having been first produced in the year 1875 after a man named Yu Ganchen traveled to the Fujian Province of China so that he could become privy to the secrets of quality black tea production because prior to that time, the Anhui Province had only produced green teas. What he learned of the production of black tea enabled him to produce the world's first Keemun black tea, which was exquisite and gained popularity very quickly, first in China, then in England, where it has since become one of the primary teas included in English Breakfast tea blends.
Brewing this appropriately is essential to not only creating a delicious and ideal cup of tea, but to prevent you from brewing the tea incorrectly which can create a bitter and undrinkable brew. To properly brew Keemun, add 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves to 8 ounces of purified or spring water. You can add more or less leaves to achieve the flavor you enjoy the best. Brew the it in water that is 194 ºF (90 ºC) for 2 to 5 minutes. If you are brewing Keemun Haoya black tea, which is created with only tea buds, you may need to lower your brewing temperature slightly for the ideal cup. Be sure not to brew it in water that is too hot or it will scorch the leaves and make the liquor bitter.
Properly brewed this tea will brew up a clear brilliant red color in your cup, and have a light slightly floral, slightly smoky exotic aroma. The flavor of a brewed Keemun is uniquely delectable and is very mellow, smooth with many subtle flavor nuances throughout the cup. You can re-brew Keemun leaves several times to extract the full flavor from the leaves.
There are many different ways you can store your Keemun black tea to preserve flavor, aroma and quality. One popular method is to use plastic storage bags, such as Ziploc bags which are air-tight, to seal the tea inside of, then place the sealed plastic bags into a tea caddy or tea tin. However the main goal of storing your Keemun tea correctly is to prevent exposure to air, heat, light, moisture and odor. You should choose a container that cannot absorb the flavors of the tea, that is opaque so that the light cannot penetrate the container, and you want to keep your tea storage containers away from any exposure to heat, moisture or in any place where it could absorb other strong odors. Some people choose to store their teas in sealed containers in the refrigerator. It is also a good idea to label your tea with the date you put it in storage for future reference and quality.
As Keemun tea is a black tea, which is a fully fermented tea, it unfortunately does not contain as many antioxidants as green or white teas. However black teas such as Keemun have many other benefits due to the caffeine and other chemical components of black tea, such as being energizing, enhancing your memory and helping to eliminate fatigue. Keemun tea as well as many other black teas can be very beneficial to the human body, please read our article on The Health Benefits of Tea for more information.
The production process to create Keemun black tea is actually quite an elaborate and involved. The leaves must be picked in the Spring and the Summer of each year, and when plucked, only the top bud with the top two or three leaves are collected as the raw material to create the Keemun tea. Once the tea leaves and buds have been plucked by the tea pickers, it is hand separated and selected to choose only the leaves that will create a premium Keemun tea. This process is referred to as “refinement” of Keemun tea. Once the tea has been refined to only the most premium leaves and buds, the leaves go through an elaborate fermentation process as well which changes the color of the leaves from green to a deep dark brown or brownish-black color. After fermentation, the leaves are sent to be packaged, labeled and shipped.
It is one of China's best known teas, and is truly the exquisite tea that it has a reputation for. Strong, mellow and rich, Keemun black tea is a true delight.
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