Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Keemuns: Tribute Tea & TeaGschwendner

"China Historical Anhui Keemun" #2154 is a sample that I purchased from TeaGschwendner It is one of their "Edmon's Collection" of teas. While steeping, the aroma suggests that it might be a more 'earth-bound' type Keemun. By this I mean that I am getting a rather dominant note of clean earth without the accompanying notes of honey/spice/orchid floral. It's not as smoky as some Keemun can be. Smoky notes in Keemun can be so aggressive that they smother the other flavor characteristics and take center stage. A bad Keemun for me equals smoke/earth and not much else going on. Particularly bad if the earth is not 'clean' but carries a raspy metallic 'ping' that is part taste, part sensation and perhaps related to the astringency factor.

This Keemun eases up on the earth once leaf is removed, and the earth moves a bit further off-stage. A mild sweetness shuffles forward. The cup itself is quite mild, not overly astringent or harsh, but yes, this Keemun wants to put earth rather forward just as the aroma suggests. That said, it's a 'good earth' taste, not muddy or metallic, and it's enjoyable enough at the proportion in which it presents itself. There is not much, if any, cocoa in taste. I do catch some cocoa in the aroma. If there is some cocoa in the cup, I find it in the very brief aftertaste, nestled closely to the earth. Is there a bit of malt going on here too maybe? I notice this more as the tea cools, as though the impression of earth shapeshifts a bit toward malty.

Given how very earthy it was when steeping, I wondered if it was going to be one of the harsh earthy-metallic Keemun teas. It's not. In spite of being earth-forward, it does maintain a rather mild profile.Vendor suggests a shorter steep than I used, but even at my longer steeping time the cup remains mellow. As it cools, the sweeter light honey notes do pull forward in the aroma with a touch more spice-floral and cocoa.

Even though this Keemun presents earth as a dominant characteristic, it still manages to stay rather refined, something many 'earth-bound' Keemuns do not do. In the cup, it shows less complexity of flavor than I've had in some Keemun teas. But for what it does do, the balance isn't bad really. Some part of me wants to say that it drinks a bit thin.

I am comparing the "Historical Anhui Keemun" cup to cup to the Superior Keemun from Tribute Tea (, the latter of which I shall refer to as TT Keemun: The TT Keemun's aroma is less 'earth-bound' and has more spice, floral, and honey up front. The TT Keemun aroma is toastier and just more 'there' as I have made both teas today. Similarly, TT Keemun has less earth in taste. There is maybe a little malt going on as well, and it carries some of the honeyed notes into the finish and a hint of the floral. Both teas have cooled now to lukewarm, and the aroma of the "Historical Anhui Keemun" is not as pronounced as the TT Keemun. The latter has actually developed even more honey-toasty range that seems to have spread out as well as deepened. I find the TT Keemun a 'livelier' cup both as to taste and aroma, and the balance just suits me better.

No comments: