Keemun Mao Feng
Darkly sweet, like a deeply ripe blood orange. An aroma of very dark chocolate with a touch of cinnamon. There’s a subtle dryness and roughness at the end that is typical of some Qi Men teas.
Qi Men (aka: “Keemun”) tea (祁門红茶) is a black tea (“red tea” in China) made in Anhui province in Eastern China. It is a style that has been relatively famous in the West for quite a while and is often blended with other, stronger leaves to produce concoctions like the English Breakfast tea. As with any harvest, though, there’s a spectrum of quality that can be had and most of the leaves exported for teabags are literally the bottom of the barrel. A Mao Feng (毛峰) pick is considered a pretty high grade and should have entirely full leaves, gently twisted into spirals.
This tea I purchased from an artisan tea and coffee shop in Brighton in the UK. While the staff didn’t know a tremendous amount of tea information, I appreciated that their tea was well sourced and well served.
At the shop they used a kind of plastic mug with a drain on the bottom for serving, so the leaves went right in with the water and then the infusion was strained out of the bottom into a ceramic mug when ready. I’m not a big fan of plastic for anything tea-related, but this method did have several advantages which I think many methods of tea infusing lack.
Firstly, the leaves were not separate from the water during steeping. Probably the most common way to infuse tea of any sort in the West is to use some sort of separation tool, such as a teabag, tea ball, or strainer. While there is quite a bit of experimentation ongoing with these methods in the form of different fabrics and materials, shape and size, ultimately there is always part of the water which is not coming into direct contact with the leaves. In my experience this never produces quite the same effect as having loose tea leaves swirling around in your pot or mug.
The second advantage of these draining mugs was that after the infusion time was up, it’s easy to quickly drain the whole thing into your cup. This means that no tea remains steeping in water while you drink your first cup, which would otherwise almost invariably produce a bitter second pour. The speed was also important since a slow-pouring teapot can make timing your infusion much more challenging than it needs to be.
Due to the plastic, I find it hard to recommend these devices in general, but you could do a lot worse, and the above points are definitely worth keeping in mind for your own infusion experiments.
Overall I’m very happy with this tea and pleased that there are more shops taking unflavored tea seriously. Thank you, Naked Tea!
There’s also a great english tea company called The Essence of Tea, who go to China every year to source. I’d highly recommend them, lovely people and very knowledgeable too!
Thanks for the suggestion, Stephanie! I am always happy to hear about more artisan tea companies.