Organic Premium Keemun Maofeng Black Tea from M&K’s Tea Company

KeemunMaofengTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  M&K’s Tea Company on Etsy

Tea Description:

Like an ancient Chinese secret, this tea is an ancient Chinese secret. More or less. Different from black teas of India or Sri Lanka, Qimen (or the anglicized Keemun), features a hint of orchid fragrance and lingering fruity notes. Balanced and complex, Chinese Qimen tea is an ancient Chinese secret you should discover.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm!  This is a really good Keemun!

As promised in the above description, it does have a really good balance of characteristics.  I taste notes of flower and fruit as well as a subtle smoky note in the distance.  It’s really quite enjoyable the way the flavors come together in my cup.

The dry leaf is beautiful!  I don’t think that the above picture really does these beautiful, long, slender, wiry, glossy black leaves justice.  I can see by the appearance of the dry leaf that these are of superior quality.

To brew them, I grabbed my Kati Tumbler, although I argued with myself for some time as to why I wouldn’t use my gaiwan to brew these.  Ultimately, it was a decision that came down to the skin on my fingertips:  When I steep teas at such a high temperature as is best for a black tea such as this, my gaiwan gets really hot to the touch – even though I have the little “fingertip handles” on my easy gaiwan, those get really hot when I steep with boiling water and I wasn’t in the mood for scorched fingers.

So, I grabbed my Kati Tumbler and by the looks of the sampler, there were just enough leaves in the sampler for my 12 ounce tumbler.  I poured the leaves into the basket and added 12 ounces of boiling water and let the tea steep for 3 minutes.

And this is a marvelous cup of tea!

The sip starts out with notes of sweet and savory.  The sweetness is fruity and slightly honey-esque.  The savory is slightly smoky.  By mid-sip, the smokiness emerges a little more.  The fruity notes remind me of a combination of plum with a hint of grape.

I find myself trying to determine if it’s grape that I taste, or raisin?  It’s almost like it’s somewhere in between.  Like eating a grape that’s only been partially dried to the raisin stage.  It offers that sweet side of grape, but also a savory, almost black currant, wine-like flavor of grape.  It’s really quite enjoyable.

The plum with the smoky note is quite intriguing – a smoked plum!  Yum!

Just after mid-sip, I pick up on floral notes:  orchid!  The orchid becomes more distinct as I continue to sip.  Now that I’m more than halfway through my cup, I am really tasting the distinct notes of orchid.  There are still hints of smoke that linger into the aftertaste, and I like the way the floral notes mingle with those wisps of smoke.

I keep going back to the “smoky” notes and I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that this is a strong, smoky tea.  This isn’t like a Lapsang.  The smoke is subtle throughout.  But it’s the way the hints of smoke dance in and out of the sip that I am marveling over.  I like this level of smoke – light notes of smoke that seem to charm their way into each sip.

This tea has a really satisfyingly round flavor.  Balanced, yes.  The fruit balances nicely with the floral notes and the smoky notes mingle throughout the sip, keeping the palate interested.  A really nice Keemun, and I love that it’s organic!

Black Keemun Mao Feng from Tea Horse

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Tea Horse

Tea Description:

A high grade black tea from Qimen, China, known as one of the world’s best.

Taster’s Review:

I tried to find this tea on the Tea Horse website, but, was unsuccessful.  Which is a shame, because this is a Keemun that you should REALLY try!

It is delightful!  And it’s just what I needed this afternoon!

Today has been a trying day for me, and I want something that will invigorate me so that I can feel motivated again, and also something that will give me that inner comfort I seek after enduring the trials of my day.

This tea is doing all that for me, and more!  It is rich and smooth.  Earthy with hints of smoke in the distance – but far fewer smoky tones that I often experience with a Keemun! – and a sweet, caramel-y undertone.  It’s one of those black teas that provides some strength and substance to start you on your day, but is also so delicious and comforting that its one you’ll want to curl up with while sitting in front of the fireplace, reading a good book.

An excellent Keemun.

Hong Xiang Luo Keemun from Wan Ling Tea House

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Wan Ling Tea House

Tea Description:

Hong Xiang Luo Keemun tea otherwise known as QiMen Red Tea. This 2011 China black tea is a superb example of a quality black tea. Combining great aroma, fine hairy, elegant leaf, which produces a deep, impressively bright and clear liquor. Refreshing, whilst being robust and balancing a complex blend of delicate flavours. A refined tea that offers a true taste of premium black teas.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When it comes to Keemun, I typically brace myself for a bold, robust cup that will get me energized and ready to go.  This isn’t that Keemun.

This is a gentler, more refined Keemun.  It doesn’t have that “heft” that some Keemun teas possess, but I think that is what I’m really liking about this one.  This one is quite different from most others.

It has an exquisite complexity to it.  Sweet, but not overly so.  Fantastic set of spice tones in the background – this is what I noticed first.  It reminded me almost of a Yunnan, but without the malty tones.  A delicious, rich peppery tone that really took me by surprise.

It is remarkably smooth and well-rounded.  It has light smoked tones in the distance that seem to move closer as I continue to make my way toward the bottom of the cup.

It is a strong tea, but not so much a “bold” one, if that makes sense.   This isn’t the tea I’d reach for first thing in the morning when I need to shake the “sleepy” but it IS the tea I’d reach for when I want a delicious, contemplative cup … something to ponder over and simply relax … and enjoy.   Very nice… and very good.

Premium Keemun Hao Ya Black Tea from Teavivre

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Product Description:

Absolutely exceptional, premium Keemun Hao Ya black tea

  • Handmade Gongfu process tea from Qimen county, Anhui province
  • Dark black, glossy thin buds topped with golden tips
  • Makes a bold copper coloured tea
  • A bold but smooth, fruity taste with a lingering, mellow aftertaste
  • Moderate caffeine (less than 20% of a cup of coffee)
  • 1-2 teaspoons for 8oz of water.  Brew at 194 ºF (90 ºC) for 2 to 3 minutes

Rated as the best of Chinese black teas, Keemun is an absolute delight to drink. TeaVivre’s Premium Keemun  represents the highest quality of this tea generally available to the public, and has a taste, aroma and appearance that completely justifies its reputation as one of the best black teas in the world.  Handmade in Keemun’s birthplace of Qimen, this tea is simply stunning.

Taster’s Review:

I strongly agree with the above description of this tea.  It truly is a stunning tea.  From the moment I opened the pouch, I could smell the smoky tones of this tea, but I liked that it wasn’t an overwhelming smoky note.

And while I’m touching on the subject of the packaging (or rather, the opening of the packaging), I’d like to take a moment to discuss this packaging and just how impressed I am with it.  The outer pouch is one of those resealable,  “stand-up” Mylar-type packages that is completely opaque which protects the tea properly by not allowing any light to reach the tea leaves.  It is air-tight and will keep air and moisture out and away from the tea.  Inside the Mylar pouch is another pouch (not resealable, this is just a thin, foil-like pouch).

While this type of packaging may not be considered the most environmentally sound packaging available, as someone who has been involved with tea for many years, I can say that this is one of the most respectful packaging that I’ve encountered.  Respectful to the tea, that is.  And that really MEANS something to me.  I have encountered some tea companies who are all about the money and while, yes, a profit IS important to any tea company, the product should be at least just as important.  Teavivre has proven to me that they care and respect the teas they represent … and this is evident, not just by their packaging, but also by the exquisite tea itself.

The smokiness is stronger in the scent than in the flavor, although the smoky tones are certainly present in the flavor.  Beneath that smoky top-layer, I can taste many wonderful layers, creating an intense complexity that surprised me.  Sure, other Keemun teas that I’ve tried have been complex, but, this one is unique in just how exceptionally bold it is, while still maintaining the complexity I’d expect from a top quality Keemun.

That is to say that this tea is a hearty one, making it a perfect choice to enjoy with breakfast.  It has a wonderful, smoky kind of caramel-y sweetness that is delightful, and beneath that sweetness I can taste a fruity tone that is reminiscent of a sweet, dry wine.  But this tea has far less astringency than a typical dry wine … or even a typical black tea, for that matter.  Instead, it is incredibly smooth despite its somewhat rustic smokiness.  There is a certain sophistication to this cup, making me think more of a brandy than a wine (although, I’m not all that comfortable making that comparison, as I’m far less familiar – not at all familiar! – with alcoholic beverages).

This is absolutely one of the best Keemun teas I’ve yet to try.