Keemun Tea (Qimen Hongcha in Mandarin) is the most famous black tea from China. It is grown in a mountainous area covered with forests and characterized by low temperatures, high humidity and frequent fog. The lack of sunlight increases the chlorophyll content in the leaves, leading to a fruity, sweet and mellow taste and a distinct floral fragrance. When brewed, the tea takes on a clear, brilliant red color.
Where to buy
This tea can be found in any specialty tea shop or through an online vendor. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Keemun Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can just follow the instructions given on the box.
The best brewing temperature is 90-95ºC (194-205ºF), which is just below the boiling point. You can just boil the water using a simple stove-top kettle and then let it cool for 20 seconds.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a dispenser that can boil water and keep it warm or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
Keemun black tea can be brewed in a variety of vessels. For these instructions, I will use a traditional Chinese clay teapot known as an yixing.
- Fill both the teapot and the cup about halfway with hot water to pre-heat them. Tilt them a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate them so the insides get wet all the way around. Then pour the water out.
- Put 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves into the teapot. If using a different vessel, use 1-2 teaspoons for every 8 oz. (236 ml) of water.
- Fill the teapot with 90-95ºC (194-205ºF) water.
- Place the lid on the teapot and let the tea steep for 3 minutes.
- Pour the tea into the teacups and enjoy your tea!
- You can get 3-5 infusions out of most varieties. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
The video below shows an alternative brewing method, called the gongfu style, which uses more tea leaves and a much shorter steeping time. Using this method, you can get 6-8 infusions out of your leaves. A tea press (like this one) is used in the video, but the gongfu method is traditionally employed with an yixing or a gaiwan.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. They don’t have a huge selection of quality Keemun, but this one is pretty good and fairly inexpensive.
My personal recommendation is the Keemun Hao Ya from Teavivre. Hao Ya is the highest grade and this one is both excellent and still affordable. Teavivre also has a standard Keemun, which is one grade lower than a Hao Ya and thus also slightly less expensive.
For an even higher quality tea, check out Teavivre’s Keemun Mao Feng. This special qimen variety is considered one of the world’s four best black teas.