I recently offered a tea tasting where participants compared different Keemun teas. We compared grades (gongfu/congou, mao feng, hao ya) with each other, as well as different vendors’ products of the same grade with each other.
In preparing for the class, I tried to fill out the Keemun article on the Tea Geek wiki. As I researched, I kept coming up with additional questions that I wanted to know. In the end, I got enough information for an informative class, and at the same time was appalled at how little good information there is about Keemun in English.
Here are some of the things I could NOT find information about, in question format. If you happen to have a line on good answers or information sources on any of these, I’d love you to post a comment or send me email.
1) Keemun Black Tea (Qimen Hongcha or Qihong) is supposedly made only from a particular varietal–kind of like Tie Guan Yin. Is this true, and what’s the name/classification/genetic identifier/ etc. for the varietal/cultivar/clonal?
2) Many tea vendors say that Keemun is one of the only sources of a substance called myrcenal that imparts some of the rosey/toasty flavor unique to Keemun. Yet I can’t find other references to it other than by people who are using this “fact” to sell tea. Is there such a substance, what is it, and is it indeed unique to Keemun (and oil of bay, as mentioned in James Norwood Pratt’s New Tea Lover’s Treasury)? Any other chemical or biological points of interest?
3) Are there technical classifications that can be easily described and differentiated to explain Hao Ya A, Hao Ya B, Mao Feng, Xin Ya, and Congou? Are there other grades? Is there really a Keemun grade that is rolled like Gunpowder? (I’ve seen claims that there is, but never seen a picture or real-life example.)
4) Any good descriptions on the production methods? Statistics on amounts of genuine Keemun? Statistics about counterfeit Keemun production?
5) Geography–I can find Huangshan City and the Yellow Mountains to the north in Google Earth, but so far haven’t had much luck with other geographical information specific to Keemun tea. Is there much to know other than that the area is gorgeous? 🙂
6) History–what reliable information is there about She Ganchen / Yu Quianchen / Hu Yuanlung or whoever started production of red tea in Anhui? Can the oft-repeated date of 1875 be verified? Can the mysterious inventor of keemun be actually tracked down to being a failed civil servant or other particular biographical information?