This spectacular Keemun black tea is manufactured from leaf harvested in the Qimen tea-growing area. The leaf used is from a modern cultivar that has only been in production since the middle/end of the last century (our lifetime). As tea historians well know, the Qimen region and its gardens were originally recognized for and became famous because of their fabulous green teas. As with many tea-growing regions in China, over time black, white, and oolong teas have become both popular and economically important, so they have been added to the repertoire of teas in those areas in which they can be successfully manufactured. Once in a blue moon a region in China becomes foundational for a manufacture of tea that is different than the historical green tea of the place. Qimen (which is a county) is one such place. Black teas have been the important tea manufacture there for a long time (well before Mao’s reign) and there has been much experimentation tried with the cultivars used there, and subsequent improvement in the finished tea. Keemun Spiral Buds black tea is one great example of this phenomenon, and we are fortunate to have it.
Our 2019 Keemun Spiral Buds black tea is a fairly early-season, small-leaf pluck of just the bud and either one or two leaves (so it is technically a mix of mao jian and mao feng). It is elegant and small in size, as is Keemun Hao Ya A, and equally concentrated in flavor, though quite different in style.
Redolent of the chocolate and cacao flavors that several premium eastern/coastal China Wu Yi black teas possess, this is an unusual flavor profile that has been incorporated into the normal Keemun ‘winey-ness’. So the result is a complex tea flavor of grape skins, chocolate, honey, a little biscuit, and malt. It is very smooth and not astringent.
Unlike most teas from Qimen, this tea also ages well, so if you can manage to keep some stored carefully for several years you will be pleasantly surprised. This aspect of the manufacture shows the strong influence of the further-eastern China element of the leaf, rather than the classic Keemun profile. Personally we hope to be able to put some of this aside for the future. The last batch of a similar leaf-style that we had was from 2015, which sold through in late 2017, and we did not source any of this style of black tea from Qimen in 2018, because we weren’t all that impressed with the 2018 harvest and all the tea from 2015-2017 was already sold on the domestic market (a very recent change in demand). So this year we are snatching up as much of the 2019 harvest as we can, as it has much of the character and finesse of the 2015, and we think that it will only get better for the next several years. For those of you who were lucky enough to have (and now remember) the 2015, it was considerably more tippy, so this current manufacture should age better.
The aroma allows a sneak preview of these flavor characteristics, but it is really drinking the tea that shows its amazing flavor! Best drunk neat, this delicious tea will also be very tasty with the addition of a little dairy /or sweetener.
Try steeping it short and then re-steeping the leaf a second, longer time.
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