Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Qimen Hongcha

I am cheating, and using a pinyin spelling for today's Q topic!  Qimen hongcha literally means "Qimen red tea" and is the Chinese name for Keemun tea, a type of black tea from China.  What we refer to as black teas because of the color of the oxidized tea leaves, the Chinese refer to as red teas because of the color of the tea liquid.

I've enjoyed drinking tea for some time now, but this past Christmas, my brother and sister-in-law gave me a gift of a tea pot, three sampler sets of tea (black, green, and white), and a book about tea.  My brother told me that he expected me to become a tea connoisseur.  So I've been trying -- with a tiny bit of success.  My favorite tea so far (I have tried probably upwards of a dozen different varieties, mostly green and black, but also a couple of white teas and one rare yellow tea) is the aforementioned Keemun black tea.  Keemun tea comes from the county of Qimen in the province of Anhui (Keemun is the old colonial English name for Qimen) in China.  Keemun tea comes in a number of varieties, generally related to the age and condition of the buds.  Most recently I have been enjoying a Keemun Hao Ya (one of the highest grades, I think) from Premium Steap, a great tea shop near Rittenhouse Square.  Keemun teas are one of China's Ten Great Teas, a vaguely defined list of the most distinguished types of teas from the country, and are a part of Russian Caravan and some English Breakfast black tea blends.  

I really enjoy Keemun tea because of the wonderful aroma of the dry tea, the coppery color of the infusion, the slightly smoky nose, and the bitter chocolate notes (yes, chocolate).  Since it has gotten warmer, I drink it less frequently, but during this year's rather cold Philadelphia winter, I routinely enjoyed a cup a day.  If you like black teas, I highly recommend Keemun.  Make sure you get something high grade (anyone at a decent tea shop can help you with that), it really makes a difference.

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