To follow up on the theme of Keemun, I did a Keemun tasting at the Perennial Tea Room here in Seattle. I collected eight different samples from five different tea shops (Perennial Tea Room had three represented, Teahouse Kuan Yin supplied two, and I had one each from the Market Spice store, Barnes & Watson Fine Teas, and Floating Leaves Tea).
The teas were divided into three categories: Congou (or unknown grade), Mao Feng, and Hao Ya A. The attendees, including myself, some of the PTR staff, and PTR customers who had signed up, tasted the samples within each category side by side.
Keemun comes from a very small area (Qimen county, Anhui Province…about 870 square miles, with a total county population about a third that of the city of Seattle). Despite this, several people said they found it interesting that the flavors were so varied. Some seemed floral–especially rose–while others were deep and smoky. And this variation could be found within the same grade, not even comparing one grade to another. Just one more reminder not only to experiment with your brewing methods, but also try the “same” tea from different vendors. Just because it says “Keemun” doesn’t mean you’ll get the same flavor from one company to the next.
Something I found interesting was how there wasn’t a lot of consensus about the “best” in any category. Often times at a tea tasting, one or two samples will rise to the top as being better than the others. This time it seemed more to be about people’s individual preferences. Some people liked the rose-like Keemuns, others liked the smoky ones, while another group liked the “plain black tea” samples. Some preferred the simple-but-bolder flavors, while others went for the lighter-but-more-complex.
Here are my own quick tasting notes:
Congou or Unknown Grade
A: (MS) Pretty good Keemun–not fantastic, but enjoyable.
B: (PTR) Ranked lowest of this grade for me. Kind of mineral/metallic tasting.
C: (TKY) Second favorite. Better flavor than A or B, but less interesting than D.
D: (B&W) My favorite–more smoky like a Hao Ya.
I apparently got caught up in the experience of tasting because I don’t have any notes on either of the Mao Feng teas.
Hao Ya A
G: (PTR) The basic flavor was more chocolatey, but less complex than sample H. My partner Loren chose this one as his top choice of all the options.
H: (TKY) I liked better because the mouthfeel was smoother and had a bit more complexity (though admittedly that flavor was less like chocolate and more light a light smoke).