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What is Keemum Tea?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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Keemum or Keemun tea is a Chinese black tea which is prized for its delicate aroma and complex flavor. The tea is sometimes called the champagne of teas, referencing its delicacy, refinement, and popularity. Specialty tea stores may stock keemum tea or blends which use this tea, and it is also available in some markets. Like other black teas, keemum tea should be stored in a cool dry place, and it should be brewed with care to extract its unique flavor.

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

When brewed, Keemum tea has a slightly floral, fruity aroma with hints of pine, and this carries over into the flavor. It may also have tinges of smoke in the flavor, and the taste is often described as “orchidlike,” in a reference to the mild sweetness of high quality Keemum. Some producers also add dried flowers to their tea to enhance the floral scent and taste. The tea brews to a rich gold color.

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This delicate tea is favored for pairing with Chinese food, but it is also enjoyable as a standalone tea. Some consumers like to add milk, cream, and or sugar to their Keemum tea, although these additions will slightly obscure the flavor of the tea. It can also be prepared as an iced tea, or used in tea blends such as English Breakfast to create a specific flavor. The best Keemum tea, incidentally, comes from Qimen county in Anhui.

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

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