Premium Keemun Hao Ya from Teavivre . . . .

Tea heads are often asked if they have a “desert island list” of (usually) ten teas that they would want to have with them if they were stranded on a desert island. The thought of just ten teas makes them shudder, but after shaking off the horror they generally get to work thinking about what would be on that list. How to choose when there are so many we love?

I can tell you right now that “a good Keemun” would be the first thing on that list for me.

Keemun is a highly variable tea type. The word itself is a variation on Qimen, which is the name of the area in which it is grown. As with most teas, there are many grades available. Interestingly, many people have a great love for particular grades and not necessarily the highest and most expensive ones.

Teavivre sells many grades of Keemun tea and they all have their fans. Some of the very highest grades are fragrant and redolent with aromas of wine and chocolate. They can be fruity and even a bit floral. These tend to be lighter and more delicate, with less smoke. Most Keemun teas recommend steeping at lower temperatures and shorter times than other black teas.

While I love the top tier Keemun teas for afternoon tea or evening treat, I want a good Hao Ya with my breakfast, especially if there is maple syrup or something sweet on the table. This one is a premium Hao Ya – fancier than a Hao Ya B or an unnamed English Breakfast, it has the strong aroma and layers of flavor I love.

A good Keemun is raspy, by which I mean that it drags across my tongue with presence, leaving a dry, cocoa-y taste. I don’t mean drying like the astringency of a high grown Ceylon. I wouldn’t really define it as briskness, either. It is deeper and darker, far more enjoyable and impressive to me. There is a hint of smoke, a bit of cocoa, even a little malt in this Premium Grade tea, with the barest floral undertones.

It resteeps well, and I can get my large breakfast cup filled with just one teaspoon of leaf steeped twice, and since it only steeps for a short time, my food doesn’t get cold while I make my tea.

There are a lot of good Keemuns at Teavivre. For me, this is one of the best. If you are in America and this review has made you impatient to get some, go to their website, choose “Teas in the US Warehouse” and choose the zip bag. It will get to you much, much quicker! You can always order the tin later…and you will probably want to. Just be sure you order your refill in plenty of time so you don’t run out!

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Rated as the best of Chinese black teas, Keemun is an absolute delight to drink. TeaVivre’s premium Keemun Hao Ya represents the highest quality of this tea generally available to the public, and has a taste, aroma, and appearance that more than justify its reputation as one of the best black teas in the world. Handmade in Keemun’s birthplace of Qimen, this tea is truly astounding.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Queen Catherine/Haney and Sons

Everyone who loves tea should probably take a good look at Queen Catherine of Braganza, sometimes referred to as the “Patron Saint of Tea.” Tea was known in England by the time she arrived to marry King Charles II, but she popularized the drink that was already quite a fixture among Portuguese nobility. Her life story is one of great character and strength in the face of both great privilege and tremendous heartache and sorrow.

In 1988, Harney and Sons was commissioned by the Portuguese government to create a tea blend in her honor, and they did a bang on job of it. Keemun, Panyang, and Yunnan black teas were blended into the tea that has become a shelf staple in my house.

In my early tea drinking days, all black tea got milk and sugar. As my palate and tastes changed and I stopped adding anything to my tea, Queen Catherine stayed, because it was just as good (better) plain than it had been with additions.

It is lightly smokey from the Keemun and has a light fruity aspect as well. I enjoy it at breakfast and in the afternoon equally, and because of its versatility it can be served to guests regardless of whether they take milk and sugar. Drinkable on its own, it is also delightful with sweets or with a meal. Because of how dear it is to me, I am always a little nervous when I introduce new tea lovers to it, but it has never failed to win hearts.

(People new to this blend often cry out, “This is TEA!” on first sips.)

Queen Catherine is my tea for days when I need to be told, “There, there,” but also, “You can do it, dear, I know you can, so get out there and be strong!”

This tea will always hold a place in my heart. It was by my side during some hard days and has also accompanied many happy ones. Fortunately, it is a wonderfully affordable tea as well as a great tasting one.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  Harney & Sons

We created Queen Catherine, a Harney & Sons signature blend of three Chinese black teas (Keemun, Panyang and Yunnan), in honor of Queen Catherine of Braganza, who introduced her love of tea to the British. We are privileged to have this tea featured in the Museum of Tea in Hangzhou, China. Harney & Sons is the only Western tea company who has received this honor.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Keemun Chinese Black Tea from The Tea Spot

I love the discovery of new tea flavors, finding their nuances, comparing and contrasting from a baseline. I started educating myself on tea with subscription boxes, and still have a soft spot for them. Looks like Tea Spot will be my next choice. They offer a monthly subscription box for $16 for about an ounce worth of 5-6 teas and also a quarterly loose leaf club at $45 for 3+ teas of one chosen style, in larger portions obviously. This selection seems to be from the former.

The dry Keemun smells very gentle, a bit like the coriander in my cupboard. There are uniformly tight, straight, leaves, appearing medium on the spectrum of browns. I see some broken bits in wet leaves and a tamarind color brew. It smells subtly sweet, and reminds me of cherries – cheerful but with a slightly tart finish.  1 heaping tsp per 8 oz from the brewing instructions, does not make a strong tea, which some people prefer. I’m not the type to drink this flavor straight, because tannins and I are frenemies.  I think it is It may leave a slight orange taste in my mouth but, this tea is still excellent at its job of caffeinating me!

Just like the Beastie Boys, I like my Sugar with [Keemun] and cream, too sweet to be sour, too nice to be mean.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy: The Tea Spot

A splendor of toasty flavor and aroma! The most refined and perhaps the most well-known of Chinese black teas, this Keemun is handpicked in Anhui Province. This tea has an indescribable flavor, with the most delicate hints of smoky pine, orchid, crushed apple and a rich, sweet body.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Richmond Park Blend from Upton Tea

RichmondTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black Tea

Where to Buy: Upton Tea

Tea Description:

A mellow, whole-leaf blend of Keemun, Ceylon, and Darjeeling. An exceptional tea that is smooth enough for drinking plain, and sturdy enough to take milk or lemon. From our London blender.


Steeping Suggestions:
Leaf Quantity: 2¼ g/cup
Water Temp: 212º (boiling)
Steep Time: 4-5 min.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

According to the production description Richmond Park Blend from Upton Tea is ‘mellow’.  I disagree.  That’s not a word I would use to describe this tea at all.  However, the product description for Richmond Park Blend from Upton Tea does go on to say that it is sturdy enough for the addition of milk or lemon.  Eventho I don’t add anything to my cup of tea I will agree that it’s a more sturdy tea overall.

At first sip I wasn’t sure if this tea was on a level playing field when it came to the other black teas offered from Upton Tea.  This was a tea that I’m glad I didn’t judge at first sip.  It ended up growing on me.  It took me a little time to understand Richmond Park Blend from Upton Tea.  Once this tea and I ‘became friends’ I ended up enjoying it a lot more.

Keemun, Ceylon, and Darjeeling are blended together for this offering.  The flavor layers are ever changing throughout the sip.  It’s heavy, then malty, then sweet-woodsy, then smoky, then earthy.  This does live up to multiple infusions but be careful not to over infuse!

This is a complex blend that I encourage you to try but be patient with because it’s ever changing and taking the time to get to know will pay off in the end!


Keemun Tea from Red Blossom Tea Company

b-100-1Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black Tea

Where to Buy: Red Blossom Tea Company

Tea Description:

Developed by a Chinese mandarin in 1875 to satiate the increasing demand for tea in Europe, Keemun quickly became the primary tea export of late 19th century imperial China. Today, it is a key component in traditional English Breakfast blends, but usually used in smaller quantities because of its cost relative to lower grade Indian Assams.

Our Keemun comes from Anhui Province, China. The leaves were harvested from a tea garden in the county of Qimen. Once harvested the leaves are cut to increase the rate of oxidation, a process that creates the rich mahogany color of the tea.

This is a good everyday breakfast tea. Its dark mahogany color, honeyed aroma and floral character makes a lighter brew than Indian blends, but the heartiness of this tea means it could hold up well to high temperature English style brewing.

We selected our Keemun for its heavier, deeper character. As a breakfast tea, it can be brewed to upwards of five minutes and can (if you like) be served with a bit of milk and sugar. We prefer a more straightforward approach, steeped in either a gaiwan or a small tea pot.

To do so, use 3.5 grams of tea leaves, brewed at 200 degrees Give the tea an initial 1 second rinse, then proceed to steep for 1 minute 30 seconds. Steep the second infusion for 1 minute 20 seconds. For subsequent brews, increase steep time in 30 second increments.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Keemun Tea from Red Blossom Tea Company is the tea of the moment here at Sororitea Sisters.  I’ve had this tea on and off in my collection for a few years now and don’t know why I haven’t reviewed it until now.  Perhaps it’s because I’m finally finishing off what I have in my current stash and don’t know when I will come across it again.  Perhaps it’s just the right time for a review of a mighty fine Keemun here on our site.  Either way…here it goes!

When I say Keemun Tea from Red Blossom Tea Company is a good, solid ‘middle of the road’ tea I’m saying that with the utmost respect!  This is a dandy of a tea, indeed!  It’s of great quality and the flavor very pleasing to the tongue, tummy, and soul!  Maybe the phrase ‘middle of the road’ better describes the strength of the Keemun as a black tea base as it isn’t overpowering nor is it weak.  It’s ‘just right’.   Notes of flowers and honey really make this flavor shine!

Keemun Tea from Red Blossom Tea Company is a great staple to have in your personal tea collection and/or stash if you enjoy various black teas.  If you come across this one – give it a try!