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Keemun Teas

Keemun Tea Field

Scroll down to see our Keemun teas currently available.

Keemun is what we in the West call a black tea (and others call a congou tea or red tea) from Qimen county in Anhui province, China. The quality of this tea made it a favorite of tea drinkers in Western countries, so much so that this relatively recent tea type is now listed as one of the 10 famous teas of China.

While historical evidence shows tea drinking in China goes back 5,000 or more years, Keemun tea has only been around since 1875 – just an toddler in the tea world. The man credited with this lovely tea is Yu Quianchen. He had a civil service job, which was considered a high honor, but through some fault or action he lost that job. He then felt disgraced, but the world is eternally grateful because of what he did next. To save the honor of himself and his family, he first went to the Fujian Province to learn how to make black tea. He returned to his home province of Anhui, where only green teas were produced at that time, and brought that method of production with him, calling the tea “Qimen.” Fortunately, there was a ready-made market outside of China for black tea. The British demand for black tea being high; sow was demand in Europe and the United States. The British quickly started buying up this tea, changing the spelling of the name to “Keemun,” and using it as a base for their English breakfast blend (today it is used in a variety of blends, including Scottish breakfast teas).

Keemun is made from the “tippy” leaves (the young, tender leaves from the branch tips) of a cultivar of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and thus has its own unique flavor and perfume. It also contains an essential oil (myrcenal) that brings a sweetness to the taste and a floral aroma. These days, vendors like us carry the tea in several unblended quality versions.

  • Keemun Hao Ya (祁門毫芽) – Fine buds with silver tips. Two grades: Hao Ya A (better) and Hao Ya B (lower).
  • Keemun Congou (or Gongfu) (祁門功夫) – Unbroken leaves in thin, tight strips. The flavors are nuanced and layered.
  • Keemun Mao Feng (Fur Peak) (祁門毛峰) – Better quality, slightly twisted buds. Infuse a few leaves up to 7 minutes to bring out more interesting tones in the tea. Possible to get 3 infusions from the same leaves.
  • Keemun Xin Ya (祁門新芽) – Early buds; less prone to bitterness than the others.

General infusion guidelines (you may have to try different steep times and tea leaf quantities to get it just right for you):

  • A teapot is recommended, but you could use a gaiwan (and fewer tea leaves)
  • Water heated to a roiling boil.
  • One heaping teaspoonful of dry tea leaves per 8-ounce cup of water.
  • Infuse 3 to 5 minutes*

* Shorter time = more flavorful without bitterness or astringency, too weak for milk. Longer time = stronger, stands up to milk.

Learn more about tea on our site here, on our blog, and in our articles here.

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