Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Quasi Sophisticated Moment

It certainly helps that I broke out my beautiful, platinum-banded wedding china that I've only just unpacked for the first time in 11 years of marriage. But it only seemed appropriate that for my first foray into Keemun, it should be served in a most elegant cup.

I've always viewed Keemun as a high-falutin' tea. It's the tea that Theodosia's right hand man and master tea blender, Drayton Conneley, seems to always be sipping as he ponders whatever murder has just occurred in the TeaShop Mystery Series by Laura Childs. It's the tea that I only hear ultra-tea nerds talking about. It's just always seemed so above me and my ability to appreciate. Which is why I was rather surprised when Bill Waddington of TeaSource recommended Keemun Mao Feng.

And so, after a bit of reading up on the subject, I was delighted to learn that Keemun was first produced in 1875 by a man named Yu Qianchen. (Keep in mind, tea has been around since the 10th century B.C., so Keemun is basically a newborn on the tea scene). Yu has an interesting back story all on his own, but where his tea adventure begins is where he took off for China's Fujian province to learn about black tea production, came home to his own Anhui province and effectively changed the entire region's green tea production into black tea production with a businessman's eye for meeting European demand. Despite his unjust failure as a civil servant, Yu got the last laugh as his black tea, Keemun, exploded in popularity in England and is now a primary component in most English Breakfast Tea blends. I love a fairy-tale ending.

The reddish brown tone of the steeped tea is visually warm and inviting. The aroma has something of a plum wine hint to it. And the first sip... Always my favorite. There's a brightness to it, with almost a fruity-sweet, tangy finish. At the same time, I sense a whisper of smoke, though very, very faint and in the far-off background.

Keemun, I have misjudged you. Here you were, accessible all the time, ready to hang out at the drop of a hat. And I? I mistook the high praise of you for your own snobbishness. Shame on me. I'm so glad to learn I was wrong. You're as down-to-earth as they come.