What Should It Taste Like: Keemun

by Jason on December 5, 2013

in black, Chinese, Member Content

Keemun Flavor Wheel

Part of a series: What Should It Taste Like?

Years ago, Keemun was the go-to black tea in the West. It was used in some blends of English Breakfast. It won awards on its own merit back in the early 1900’s. All from a tea that is relatively young for Chinese teas and created by a failed government official.

Keemun black tea is generally known for:

  • Light, satiny texture
  • Tastes/aromas I associate with the combined root and herb smells of a Chinese apothecary. At least several of the grades/sources often available in the U.S. Vicony Teas attributes a bay leaf/thyme aroma to the zhu ye zhong varietal’s myrcene component. Several versions offer chocolate or cocoa powder tastes.
  • An aftertaste that can have winey, syrupy sweetness similar to a port, or molasses.

A few tea references have also sought to capture the keemun flavor profile:

The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea used “chocolate,” “cocoa,” and “roses.”

The Tea Drinkers Handbook,  described it as “powdery,” “woody,” “malty,”

The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook noted characteristics like  “winey,” “chocolate,” “roses” and “baked apricot.”

Just as important as the flavor and aroma characteristics are notes about intensity of flavors and textures, and duration of aftertaste.

The diagrams may help you visualize keemun characteristics along various spectra. Note that I use the spectra universally across teas, so these show general place in relation to most other teas, whether they be green, wulong, etc.

Keemun Flavor Wheel2


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