Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer Content

The Allure of Keemun Tea

Posted on 06/02/2023

The lush tea fields of China’s An Hui province flourish, surrounded by craggy mountains that seem to stretch skyward into the clouds. When the wind blows, the damp mountain air carries the aroma of sweet spring rain and vegetation. The surrounding scenery is the greenest green, the ideal climate for tea leaves to thrive. It is not hard to see how this place is the home of Keemun tea, widely regarded as one of the finest black teas in the world.

Keemun tea comes from Qi Men county of An Hui province, “Keemun” being an old western spelling of “Qi Men.” It is one of the oldest black teas originating in China, conceived in the 19th century when the tea producers of An Hui decided to try their hand at perfecting the black tea method of processing that was gaining popularity in the nearby province of Fujian. Qi Men was previously known for its production of high-quality green tea, but its black tea was celebrated as something new, distinguished and truly unique. The exports of Keemun tea flourished, and it soon became well known across the globe.

Keemun tea is crafted from a small leaf cultivar of the Camellia sinensis plant. This cultivar produces short, uniformly shaped leaves. The ideal plucking for a fine Keemun depends on the growing season and the state of the leaves, but it typically calls for one tender bud of new growth and two to four mature leaves. The leaves must be roughly the same size as each other with strong color and luster. The most prized, highest grade Keemun traditionally begins with leaves that are expertly hand selected to ensure the overall quality of the tea. However, technological advancements have led to more and more tea being safely and carefully harvested by machine and then hand sorted.

After the tea is harvested, the leaves are allowed to sit and wither in massive troughs. The temperature of the leaves must be meticulously controlled until they have withered to the desired degree. If they cool too much, the troughs are heated by controlled blasts of warm air. Once the leaves appear darker and smell sweet and fragrant, they are ready for the next stage.

The withered leaves are pressed and rolled twice to shape them. The first pass breaks down the leaf’s internal structure, and the second pass releases the chemical compounds. This distinctive process develops Keemun’s signature flavor profile and ensures that when the tea is steeped, the maximum amount of aromatics and flavor will emerge. At the final stage of oxidation, the newly shaped tea leaves are again left to wither until they are darker and even more fragrant, then roasted, cooled and dried.

Different grades of Keemun are created when the tea is sifted and sorted by the shape and size of the finished leaf. Equally sized leaf pieces facilitate consistent steeping, producing an equally flavorsome cup each time. The dedication and attention to detail involved in this process is just one of the many things that makes Keemun tea so special.

When a hot, fresh pot of Keemun is poured, the fragrant steam rising from the cup is often sweet with hints of spice. Heralded as the "Burgundy" of teas, Keemun is rich and flavorful. Whether earthy or fruity, the tea is pleasantly full-bodied and enjoyable without the addition of milk or sugar. Among the higher grades of Keemun, a delicate smoky nuance adds to the overall flavor and appeal of the cup.


Interested in cupping the rich and aromatic “Burgundy” of teas? Here are a few of our staff recommendations:


TP12: Premium China Keemun

Our Premium China Keemun offers a chance to try this famous tea at a very reasonable price. It has been a customer favorite for decades, boasting a sweet profile and smooth mouth feel with signature Oolong notes and an earthy twang.

ZK33: China Keemun Hong Cha

Our Keemun Hong Cha is rich and silky with notes of fruit and smoke that only a complex, premium tea can deliver. It is the perfect compromise for an affordable cup of a truly remarkable, selectively processed tea.

ZK80: Hao-Ya 'B' Superfine Keemun

You can tell when you look at the dark, lustrous leaves of the Hao-Ya ‘B’ that this is a top notch tea. The care that went into producing it is evident in the cup, with intense earthy and smoky flavors enhanced by sweet undertones and a luscious thick mouth feel.

ZK96: Special Purchase Hao-Ya 'A' Select

The pinnacle of our current Keemun offerings, the Special Purchase Hao-Ya ‘A’ is a specialty lot of Keemun tea decorated with beautiful golden tips. If you are looking for something truly exceptional, look no further. This refined cup delivers a decadent sipping experience.  

Your browser ({brow_name}) is out of date. Update your browser for a faster and more secure experience. Learn More