Sunday, October 27, 2013

A visual comparison of two fully oxidised red teas - curated tea #2 Keemun Black tea (Silver tips)

Red teas evoke impressions of fruits, flowers and honey..
Keemun black tea has a relatively short history and was first produced in 1875. Prior to that, only green teas were made in Anhui Province. At the moment, I am trying out samples of Liu An Melon Seed tea, Huang Shan Maofeng, popular An Ji green teas.

Having sampled this black tea the night before, the overall impression was a tea rather similar to the Dian Hong Cha available in my shop. There were certainly some distinctive differences, so what better way to objectively let the these teas speak for themselves than a side by side comparison?

Left: Keemun black tea, Right: Dian Hong
Now, which tea is screaming for your attention? You will notice that the Keemun black tea has a higher ratio of golden orange tips, relatively speaking. It is also much furrier when I peeked into the tea bag.The dry smells are pleasant, but the Keemun black tea has a more distinct fragrance that is easily picked up by the nose. Honey, with a slightly pine-woody twist. Dian Hong on the other hand has a more subdued scent that only gives away its characteristics of freshness, subtlety and strength. Admittedly, I know this tea very well by now, more so than Keemun. 

Tea infusions - clarity check
I steeped both teas for 7 minutes. By examining both infusions, the Dian Hong tea to the right clearly outshines its close competitor in this case thanks to it higher clarity. In terms of appearance, we are inclined to view the Keemun black tea more favourably.

Keemun black tea
The degree of fermentation in both teas is roughly the same. Similar to the Dian Hong Cha, I could feel the characteristic sour note on the inside of my cheeks quickly fading away alongside a transient bitterness. The similarities end here. Not long after, bitterness evolves into a sweet yet slightly furry, tannin-like aftertaste that is not unpleasant or choking. However, it does explain for the lower price point of this tea compared to the Dian Hong cha that I offer.

The aroma of Keemun tea is defined by fruitiness, with hints of pine, according to some and confirmed here, as well as lightly skipping floral notes that do 'touch-and-gos'. Now you smell it, now you don't!

Where the Dian Hong consists of young buds and leaves, this Keemun black tea is almost exclusively young buds. You will be hard pressed to locate a leaf, if any. I have now listed this tea as Keemun Hao Ya, aka silver tips in my shop thanks to this feature of aesthetics. Because this tea is made only this year, I am planning to keep it in its original thick foil bag for the next few months to see how it will improve or mellow. Until then!

Keemun Hao Ya (Silver tips)

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