Keemun Black Tea, Ever Was The Top Black Tea In The World

HomeTea KnowledgeKeemun Black Tea, Ever Was The Top Black Tea In The World

Last Updated on 11/04/2020 by Desmond

Even though Lapsang Souchong is back in vogue in recent years, but before that, the most famous black tea from China is Keemun Black Tea. It ever got various international awards, and it was the favorite of the British Queen, even regarded as “The Queen in Black Tea.” Keemun also has a full aroma, and many blended teas took it as the basic.

Keemun is praised as the queen in black tea
Keemun is praised as the queen in black tea

What Is Keemun Black Tea


Keemun black tea comes from Qimen, Anhui province, China, even with a short history, but it’s famous. It is said Keemun was birth during about Qing Dynasty(1875). Before that, Anhui only produces green tea; the well-known one is Huangshan Maofeng tea.

The world was in a tea-drinking trend at that time, but the sales of Chinese green tea was not good, the export sales only take 10%. Relatively, black tea was selling hot and got a higher price than green tea. On this occasion, to produce black tea instead of green seems to be more economical.

So, a local named Hu Yuanlong made financing and organized a tea factory and began producing black tea in the Ningzhou Black Tea ways. In the second year, another man named Yu Ganchen also began produces black tea. But his processing way was imitating the Minnan Black Tea, which from his hometown Fujian.

The local tea plants in Anhui produce high-quality black tea. Keemun black tea is one of the world’s three high-aroma teas; another two is Darjeeling and the Uva tea from Sri Lanka

Keemun tea was selling hot all over Europe after it was published. Every time the new teas began for sale, people were snapping up. Turkish poet Nazim· Hikmet even praised Keemun in a poem, “I found the aroma of spring, in the Chinese Keemun.”

Keemun black tea is famous for its full aroma
Keemun black tea is famous for its full aroma

But if you ask how Keemun get to the top and became internationally famous, it should owe to the various awards it won. 

The decisive one was in the Panama World’s Fair 1951, Keemun black tea won the gold award, which made it catch the eyes of people all over the world. In 1987, Keemun won the gold award again in the 26th World Quality Food Competition in Brussels. 

Keemun is the only Chinese black tea that won international gold awards twice. What is worth knowing, in all previous Top 10 Famous Chinese teas appraise and elect, Keemun is the only one finalisted as a black tea.

But the pity is, the yield of Keemun black tea was dramatically reduced later because of the war. All the local tea plantations were almost abandoned in 1948; the product only reached 6% of that of 1939. Simultaneously, the new rose up black tea producing countries, India and Sri Lanka, also have greatly affected the Keemun tea export.

After the founding of New China, with the economic zoning helps from the gov and the Soviet Union’s technical assistance, the yield of Keemun black tea recovery. It was awarded as the national gift tea in 1961, then serving Margaret Thatcher in 1982 when she visited Chian. And as a present for visiting the Soviet Union in 1991. Although Keemun keeps won awards a lot in the following time, it can not reach the top it ever been.

Tea Tree Varieties

Qimen is located in the branch area of Mount Huang, warm and rainy, and soil fertile; it was suitable for the tea trees growing. There is growing a unique type of tea tree, Qimen Zhu Leave variety, a medium leaf bush. Even though it can also produce green tea, its quality is much less than black tea.


Keemun black tea can’t be loved by people so much without its various unique characteristics.

Appearance. The whole-leaf Keemun black tea is strip shape; a tight body makes it looks got a weight. The leaves are black, but not dry-dark; it’s glossy. High-quality Keemun may get some golden fuzz(Hao), which looks very conspicuous.

Infusion color. If you make Keemun tea properly, the infusion will show a beautiful amber and crimson color, bright and transparent. Some high-quality products may form a golden ring inside the cup’s wall because of the rich thearubigins content.

Aroma. The most significant feature of Keemun black tea is its full aroma; people called it “Keemun aroma.” Chinese describe this smell as fruit and orchid fragrance. Japanese research found that this aroma mainly comes from the geraniol that Keemun tea contains; the content is much higher than other black teas. And the smell of geraniol is more close to the rose aroma.

Taste. Keemun tea tastes a little astringency just like other black teas, but it will not with bitter. And it will give a fresh and mellow feeling because of the full aroma.

How Keemun Black Tea Been Processing

Keemun black tea mainly processing through three parts, picking, primary processing, and further processing. 

There are 4 steps in the primary and more than 10 in further processing. Every step is very complicated and elegant; people describe it as “Gongfu.” So Keemun black tea is also called Keemun Gongfu, one representative of Chinese Gongfu black tea.


The picking of Keemun tea only doing in spring and summer, and the best time is from April 5th to 15th. This time is the period of Chinese Qingming, and Guyu solar terms, which is best for tea leaves picking. The famous Yuqian Longjing tea was also picked during this period.

In the past, the standard of Keemun tea picking is one bud and first leaf, or one bud and the second, third leaf. In recent years, due to the good sales of Keemun fragrant spiral and Maofeng, the picking standard changed into the tender the better. Especially in the spring season, tea masters typically pick the one bud and first leaf, even only the buds.

Primary Processing

Primary processing is including withering, rolling, fermentation, and drying. Fermentation is the most essential step, which decides the quality of the final products. After roasting drying, the fresh leaves sent out a charming aroma, bodies were rolling into strip shape, and turn into dark-red color from green.

On a traditional industrial model, the tea’s primary processing is typically done by tea farmers themselves. The leaves after primary processing are called raw tea. And the tea factory will purchase the raw tea back for further processing.

Further Processing

It will be more complicated on the Keemun further processing; there are over 10 steps. Tea masters will do the screening, cutting, sieving, re-roasting, blending, and packing to the raw tea. Some steps may be repeated, especially screening. All these jobs are very complex and need to pay extreme care. People describe these jobs as “Gongfu,” that’s how the Gongfu Black Tea comes.

Keemun Black Tea Varieties

With the development of the times, tea masters also keep exploring and want to find a way to make better Keemun black tea. 

According to some different processing methods, Keemun tea is classified into two broad headings; traditional Keemun Gongfu black tea and new process Keemun black tea. And the new process Keemun is also classified into the fragrant spiral, Maofeng, and golden needle.

Traditional Keemun Gongfu

The traditional Keemun Gongfu means the tea has been processing in the ways we’ve mentioned, all by manual work. Although some steps will be done by machines now, to produce Keemun Gongfu still a challenging job. So at present, only a few tea factories insist on producing Keemun Gongfu, and the others prefer the new process ones.

Traditional Keemun Gongfu
Traditional Keemun Gongfu

Keemun Fragrant Spiral

Keemun fragrant spiral tea was invented in 1996. It combines the processing methods of Huangshan Songluo tea, been second fermented and special rolling during processing. So Keemun fragrant spiral tea much looks like Huangshan Songluo, with a curvy body and a light potpourri.

Keemun Fragrant Spiral
Keemun Fragrant Spiral

Keemun Maofeng

Huangshan Maofeng tea and Keemun Maofeng are not the same even though they come from the same place. Keemun Maofeng also references the processing methods of Huangshan Maofeng; you can comprehend it as the Keemun raw tea. Because it has not been fermented enough, so Keemun Maofeng tastes more fresh, even some herbaceous flavor. Besides, most Keemun Maofeng also made from the tender buds.

Keemun Maofeng
Keemun Maofeng

Keemun Golden Needle

The Keemun golden needle is close to the Keemun fragrant spiral; they got a different appearance because of the different rolling methods. Compare with fragrant spiral, Keemun golden needle’s leaves got a straighter body.

Keemun Golden Needle
Keemun Golden Needle

How To Brew Keemun Black Tea

Except for the full aroma, Keemun black tea also famous for its excellent infusion color; people use the word “treasure glow” to describe it. To appreciate the infusion color better, making the tea with glass teawares seems to be a good choice.

  1. Pre-heat the teaware;
  2. Put the tea leaves into a teapot; the ratio of tea to water is 1:50;
  3. Adding hot water, then pour it out quickly. That is for pre-heat the tea leaves;
  4. Adding 95℃ hot water, steep for about 2-3 mins;
  5. Serving;

TIPs: Keemun black tea also suitable for matching milk. But different from other black tea like Darjeeling, Keemun’s infusion is lighter and more transparent. After adding milk, it won’t turn into coffee color but cute pink(it also depends on your tea infusion concentration and how much milk you add.)

The infusion of Keemun tea is beautiful and described as treasure glow
The infusion of Keemun tea is beautiful and described as treasure glow

Keemun Tea Storage Way

Keemun belongs to the completed-fermented tea, it got a relatively short expiration date, but much longer than green tea, typically is 3-5 years. Generally speaking, Keemun black tea is not like the Pu’erh or white tea, which will get better flavor by a long time aging; it will make Keemun lost its aroma.

So how to store it properly? That is simple. Ordinary Keemun black tea products, no matter whole-leaf tea or broken tea, they all use a sealing bag packing or small independent vacuum package. So what we need to do is just find a tea storage container, which non-smell and with a good airtightness and put the tea product into it.

Related Reading: How To Choose A Proper Tea Storage Container.

The place for storing tea must be dark, dry, and low temperature. What needs to pay attention, it’s not recommended for storing tea in a refrigerator. Because it may be affected by the smell of other food or getting damp. For black tea, it is best to finish consuming as soon as possible.

Just a tea lover. Like to try different types of tea. Do not matter if the brewing is perfect, only enjoy the various charming taste.
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