Review: Tao Tea Leaf Keemun Gongfu

Black Tea, Keemun Tea, Tao Tea Leaf Add comments
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"If not quite the epitome of Keemuns, these leaves are definitely a very good example of how generous yet subtle this type of tea can be. "
Sophie’s Teaview: 9.1/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 10/10, Shaiha gave it 5.5/10, Chelsy gave it 5.8/10, Vanessa gave it 8.3/10, Jamie gave it 8/10, Katie gave it 7.6/10
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There is something about Chinese red, or to us Westerners, black teas that makes me intensely happy. It's a wonder I think of drinking anything else. This premium Keemun comes to us from Qimen, in the Chinese province of Anhui,. A relative new comer in the world of Chinese teas, the first Keemun was created in 1875, during the Qing Dynasty. The small, mostly broken, black leaves are touted as being “fruity, lightly roasted and brisk” in flavour. Their aroma is sweet and vaguely fruity, with some cinnamon thrown in.

Refreshingly for us reviewers, Tao Tea Leaf provides extensive instructions for steeping this tea gongfu-style. I don't have a gaiwan, so I used a small lidded cup with a built-infuser instead. Following the directions provided, I used 3 grams of tea (about a heaping teaspoonful) in water heated to approximately 98 degrees Celsius. They state that the leaves can be infused up to 4 times in a cup and up to 7 if using a gaiwan or a small teapot.

My first minute-long infusion led to a pretty coppery-brown cup, richly scented with malt and lots of cocoa undertones. The taste is well along these lines and does not disappoint. Surprisingly, a hint of something savoury kicks things off. This quickly fades away to reveal long-lasting, robust dark chocolate, malt, cinnamon and tobacco flavours. There is a bit of dryness to the finish, but nothing problematic. The body is a little bit thin, compared to what I would prefer ideally. However this is a generous and decadent brew, offering a good balance between tannic and sweet tones.

I infused my second steep for 1 minute and a half. The profile is sweeter this time around, combining sweet potato, caramel, malt and cocoa flavours. As the tea cools, rougher, wood and tobacco notes emerge. There is still some astringency to the finish, but again it's held in check by the other dimensions of the profile. The body is creamier this time around, giving the tea a very round and full-bodied mouth-feel.

For my third brew, I steeped the leaves for 2 minutes. Again the liquor feels sweeter and more dense in texture than the previous. I'm now reminded of the flavour of sweet potatoes covered in caramelized marshmallows. There is also a faint shiitake mushroom undertone. The rougher elements of the tea seem to be fading, making for a smoother, less tannic cup.

I infused the tea for 3 minutes for my fourth and final steep. The tea is now starting to thin out quite a bit, compared to the previous brews. It's still sweet and almost cinnamony, at this point. It's a testament to the quality of these leaves that after a fourth brew, the balance of the flavours is still quite pleasant and impressively stout.

I also tried this tea brewed in the more lax, Western fashion. The results were similar to a combination of the first two steeps. I sense that this tea could easily become overly bitter if steeped too long. It's sturdy enough to take milk and sugar, for those who prefer such additions. However, it's so delicious on it's own, you might want to give it a whirl au naturel first. If not quite the epitome of Keemuns, these leaves are definitely a very good example of how generous yet subtle this type of tea can be.

— 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.

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