Keemun is produced in the Qimen County of Huangshan City, in Anhui (Anhwei) province. ("Keemun" has been the English spelling for "Qimen" since the colonial era.)
Keemun has a relatively short history. It was first produced in 1875 by a failed civil servant, Yu Quianchen, after he traveled to Fujian province to learn the secrets of black tea production. Prior to that, only green tea was made in Anhui. The result exceeded his expectations, and the excellent Keemun tea quickly gained popularity in England, and became the most prominent ingredient of the English Breakfast tea blend.
Tasting and brewing
The aroma of Keemun is fruity, with hints of pine, dried plum and floweriness (but not at all as floral as Darjeeling tea) which creates the very distinctive and balanced taste. It also displays a hint of orchid fragrance and the so-called "China tea sweetness." The tea can have a more bitter taste and the smokiness can be more defined depending on the variety and how it was processed.
In China, Keemun is typically drunk without milk or sugar.
- Keemun Gongfu or Congou (祁門功夫) - Made with careful skill ("gongfu") to produce thin, tight strips without breaking the leaves.
- Keemun Mao Feng (祁門毛峰) - A variety, where Mao Feng means Fur Peak, which is made of only slightly twisted leaf buds and is sometimes noted for a smoother and different flavor. Many people prefer to brew a smaller quantity of this tea for a longer time than usual, up to 7 minutes, to bring out more interesting tones in the tea.
- Keemun Xin Ya (祁門新芽) - The early bud variety, said to have less bitterness.
- Keemun Hao Ya (祁門毫芽) - A variety known for its fine buds, sometimes showing prominent amounts of silver tips, and generally the highest grade. Hao Ya is sometimes graded into A and B, where A is the better grade.
- Hubei Keemun (湖北祁門) - Not a true Keemun, a variety that comes from the Hubei Province west of Anhui, said to have similar qualities to the Anhui Keemun.