What is Keemum Tea?

Keemum tea can be brewed and served from a teapot.

Keemum or Keemun tea is a Chinese black tea prized for its delicate aroma and complex flavor. Tea is sometimes called the champagne of teas, referring to its delicacy, refinement, and popularity. Specialty tea stores may stock keemum tea or blends that use this tea, and it is also available in some markets. Like other black teas, keemum tea must be stored in a cool, dry place and must be brewed with care to extract its unique flavor.

Keemum tea can be brewed as iced tea.

The tea is native to Anhui Province, where it was developed in 1875. Prior to the discovery of Keemom tea, Anhui Province only produced green tea. By allowing their teas to fully ferment into black tea, tea makers realized they had a unique product and began mass-producing their black tea, which quickly became a famous product. In China, Keemun is considered a famous tea in China, one of a small number of elite and highly prized teas.

When fermented, keemum tea has a delicate aroma and complex flavor.

When fermented, Keemum tea has a slightly floral and fruity aroma with hints of pine, and this carries over into the flavor. It can also have smoky undertones to the flavor, and the taste is often described as “orchid-like”, in a reference to the mild sweetness of high-quality Keemum. Some producers also add dried flowers to the tea to enhance the floral aroma and flavor. The tea takes on a rich golden color.

This delicate tea is preferred to accompany Chinese food, but is also pleasant as a standalone tea. Some consumers like to add milk, cream and/or sugar to Keemum tea, although these additions slightly obscure the flavor of the tea. It can also be brewed as an iced tea or used in tea blends like English breakfast to create a specific flavor. The best Keemum tea, by the way, comes from Qimen County in Anhui.

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To brew Keemun tea correctly, start by filling a teapot with boiled water to warm it up and place the loose tea leaves directly into the teapot. Add the water that has just boiled to the leaves, and after two to five minutes, strain the tea into a separate teapot to serve. Steeping the tea for longer than five minutes will make it bitter, while the precise brewing time will vary slightly depending on the tea. For a stronger tea, use more tea leaves rather than a longer steeping process.

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