Review: Tao Tea Leaf Keemun Gongfu

Black Tea, Keemun Tea, Tao Tea Leaf Add comments
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"It can go toe-to-toe with a Yunnan Gold, and I'd be hard-pressed to declare a victor."
Geoff’s Teaview: 10/10
Other Teaviews: Shaiha gave it 5.5/10, Chelsy gave it 5.8/10, Vanessa gave it 8.3/10, Sophie gave it 9.1/10, Jamie gave it 8/10, Katie gave it 7.6/10
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As the Tao Tea Leaf profile indicates, this Keemun hails from Qimen County, Anhui Province, China. A former civil servant, Yu Quianchen, traveled to Fujian Province - home of Golden Monkey - to learn black tea production. What he created in 1875 became one of China's most famous black teas and the primary ingredient in the English Breakfast blend. There are four varieties - five if you count Hao Ya A and B as two separate types. To date, I've only had two; this would make three.

Keemun Gongfu was described on other sources as having thin, tight, hand-rolled leaves that were never broken. In essence, making it the Chinese equivalent to an FOP-grade black tea. From what little I could tell, they were right. The leaves were small, twisty and intact. Their aroma was oddly sweet in a fruity sorta way.

Brewing instructions took up a whole paragraph on the site. Glass cup recommendations stated to use 1 teaspoon in 205F-212F water, steeped for one to one-and-a-half minutes the first and second time. Successive steeps were two-to-five minutes, and the tea could be infused up to four times. I decided to adhere to this and see for myself if it did last that long. Here were my impressions:

First steep at one minute: The liquor brewed gold with ribbons of red - a very light cup. The aroma was slightly smoky and malt-sweet, Assam-like. The taste was alarmingly floral but full-bodied with a sweet finish. Everything on first impression that a Keemun should be.

Second steep at one-and-a-half minutes: The infusion was still more on the gold side but with a bolder amber presence. The steam aroma was less on smoky, more on sweet with a mild cocoa note. Taste-wise, astringency was starting to kick in a little bit - dry on the foretaste. The middle was creamy, slightly chocolaty, and there was still a sweet finish.

Third steep at two minutes: Full-on amber infusion this time with a strong chocolate nose on the mouthpiece. The flavor was a bit more honey-like and nectary, more in line with a Yunnan black this time. The sweet finish in the first two steeps was gone. No bitterness or astringency, though, unlike what I thought with the initial smell. That was a plus.

Final splashdown at three minutes: The liquor was amber just like the last one. No change there. The nose, however, was even stronger on the cocoa comparison than earlier. The flavor profile completely changed. My god, it was woody, chestnutty, almondy, and had a slight bitter kick that complimented the aforementioned. Very beguiling for so bright a cup.

Keemun black teas and I have had a very difficult relationship. I've encountered some I've liked, and some that were downright wretched. Thankfully, the last few have proven that there were virtues that I was missing. This particular one, though, finally did it; it was a perfect Keemun. I am now a fan. It can go toe-to-toe with a Yunnan Gold, and I'd be hard-pressed to declare a victor.

— To purchase Tao Tea Leaf Keemun Gongfu, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

Teaviews Member: Geoff Geoff
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