Our 2021 Keemun captures everything that I love about this elusive tea. It carefully balances seemingly opposing characteristics in a fragile but delicious harmony. Biscuity and warm yet spicy and herbal. Savoury and intense yet floral and sweet. Soft and juicy yet biting and mineral.
How can one tea provide this balance? Well, oftentimes it fails and this is why I struggle every year to find a Keemun. But, one taste of this Keemun and we had to bag it for ourselves.
Produced in Anhui province since 1875, this tea has become synonymous with quality Chinese black tea. It was apparently one of the key base teas for the original English Breakfast blend before Indian tea was used by the blenders.
This is the finest grade of Keemun. It is made from 'Xiao' (small) pickings of 60-year-old trees grown in Qimen and hand-rolled before drying over hot, charcoal-heated woks.
The Zu Ye Zhong cultivar used to create Keemun supposedly contains an aldehyde called Myrcenal which is a derivative of the terpene Myrcene. Myrcene is a wonderful terpene with flavour and effects. It is found in large quantities in plants such as cannabis, hops and mangoes. It has a calming effect and can regulate the permeability of cell membranes to molecules that stimulate the endocannabinoid system.
The flavour of Myrcene is fruity and earthy with a clove-like sweetness. It is hard to find references for the flavour profile of Myrcenal, however, this tea has a very earthy, ripe fruit flavour. This is complemented by high levels of another terpene called Geraniol which gives a slightly zesty floral aroma.
A really balanced and moreish Black tea worthy of its reputation and history.
In order to get the perfect balance of flavour and texture with this Keemun, I recommend trying to 'arc-brew'. This means using boiling hot water but placing youyr pot or gaiwan in ice water so that it cools the water quickly as it brews. This brings out the cocoa bitters and fuller texture of the tea while holding on to the floral and fruity notes.