What is Keemun tea? Find Out Its Origin, Tastes, Types And More

Did you know you might have been sipping on one of the finest Chinese black teas without realising it? Yes, I’m talking about Keemun tea.


But what makes Keemun so special? Its distinct appeal has earned it a spot in the Top 10 famous Chinese teas, standing proudly as the only black tea on that list.

Today, I invite you to join me as we delve into the rich world of Keemun tea, a world filled with history, variety, and many health benefits.

What is Keemun Tea?

Keemun tea (Qimen) is a fascinating brew from China and is considered one of the most prestigious types of Black tea globally. Like all other real teas, this tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis. The leaves are harvested in spring and summer, then withered, rolled, oxidised, burned and sorted.

Keemun tea
Keemun tea

Emerging from the lush, verdant landscapes of Qimen County in Anhui province, Keemun has been delighting tea lovers for centuries. 

The birthplace of this tea is renowned for its misty mountains and nutrient-rich soil, offering the ideal conditions for tea cultivation. And it’s not just any tea but Keemun, which has put this picturesque location on the world tea map.

History of Keemun Black Tea?

Ah, the history of Keemun Black tea is as intriguing as its flavor. The Webster’s Dictionary of the United States takes us to Qimen County in China’s Anhui Province.

what is Keemun tea

Our story begins in 1875, during the Guangxu era of the Qing dynasty. That’s when Qimen started producing this delightful tea, which has been doing so for over a century. But Keemun’s roots go even deeper, tracing back to the Tang Dynasty. 

The sage of tea himself, Lu Yu, noted in his ‘Tea Classics’ that “Huzhou is the first, Changzhou is the second, and Shezhou is the next”. Qimen was part of Shezhou, setting the stage for what would eventually become the heartland of Keemun tea.

Around 1875, a native of Qimen named Hu Yuanlong, inspired by Black tea production methods from other provinces, decided to bring this innovation home. He began processing black tea in Qimen, which soon found its way to Beiping, present-day Beijing, thanks to the efforts of Tongshengxiang Tea House. The tea was an instant hit, finding success and appreciation in the market.

That same year, Hu Yuanlong was preparing to establish the Rishun Tea Factory in Peiguishanfang. He chose to use locally produced tea and invited the master from Ningzhou, Shu Jili, to experiment with black tea production based on the experience of Ninghong.

This marked a significant milestone in the history of Keemun black tea, setting the foundation for the growth and popularity of this special brew.

The Art of Producing Keemun Tea

Withering -> Kneading -> Fermentation -> Drying

Producing Keemun Tea

Keemun tea production is a delicate and meticulous craft that begins in the fields of Qimen County during the spring and summer months. Harvesters select the freshest buds and the tea plant’s top two to three leaves, ensuring only the youngest leaves are used for Keemun tea production.

Once harvested, the leaves are sorted and withered on large bamboo mats under direct sunlight. This initial process prepares them for the subsequent stages that gradually coax out the unique Keenum flavours.

Following the withering, the leaves are tightly rolled into compact balls. This rolling enhances the tea’s flavor and gives it an aesthetically pleasing form, readying it for the crucial oxidation phase.

The leaves are then subjected to complete oxidation, a transformational process that deepens their flavors and imbues them with a deep brown or black hue, a signature characteristic of Keemun tea.

The final step is firing the leaves over open fires or in large woks. This stage imparts a slight smoky essence to the tea and locks in its multifaceted flavor profile. Once fired, the Keemun leaves are packaged and ready for sale, primed to deliver an exquisite tea experience to enthusiasts worldwide.

This intricate production process reveals the time-honoured craftsmanship that makes Keemun tea a global favourite.

What does Keemun taste like?

Keemun Black

The best keemun tea tastes gentle and light, offering layers of smoky, malty, and slightly nutty flavours. The flavor profile reveals layers of smoky and malty notes akin to traditional black teas, with an added hint of nuttiness that sets Keemun apart. This nuanced tea also introduces the unexpected undertones of unsweetened cocoa, a nod to the meticulous fermentation process it undergoes.

Finally, a whisper of a floral aroma wafts through, reminiscent of the tea gardens’ blooming flowers where the tea leaves are harvested. This captivating medley of tastes and aromas makes Keemun a remarkable black tea, offering a sip of Chinese tea tradition in every cup.

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Common Keemun tea Types

Keemun isn’t a one-note melody. This tea variety sings different tunes, each with unique flavor and character. Let’s explore some popular Keemun tea types that delight tea enthusiasts worldwide.

Tea Variety Description Flavor Profile
Keemun Hao Ya A Highly prized Keemun tea with tightly curled leaves from Qimen County, Anhui Province.
Smoky and sweet undertones.
Keemun Hao Ya B Another grade of Keemun Hao Ya tea.
Smoky and sweet undertones.
Keemun Mao Feng Features slender, wiry leaves similar to Mao Feng green tea.
Merges black tea essence with floral fragrance.
Keemun Congou Emphasizes ‘gongfu’ preparation with rich, full-bodied flavor.
Reflects time-honored production methods.
Keemun Xin Ya Made from tender young leaves, offering a smoother, less astringent taste.
Softer and milder Keemun variant.
Hubei Keemun Produced in Hubei Province, shares traits with Keemun teas from Anhui.
Similar flavor profile to Anhui Keemun.

Keemun Hao Ya

Keemun Hao Ya
Keemun Hao Ya

My exploration begins with Keemun Hao Ya, a highly prized variant of Keemun tea. It comes in two grades – A and B. Hao Ya tea leaves, sourced from Qimen County in Anhui Province, are known for their tightly curled shape and quality, reflecting meticulous harvesting and processing. 

The taste is a dynamic play of smoky and sweet undertones, a defining characteristic of this premium black tea variant that resonates with tea enthusiasts across the globe.

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Keemun Mao Feng

Next is Keemun Mao Feng, a type of Keemun that stands out with its slender, wiry leaves reminiscent of Mao Feng green tea.

Keemun Mao Feng

This tea offers a unique taste journey, merging the concentrated essence of black tea with an unexpected floral fragrance. It’s an exciting choice for tea lovers seeking a brew that marries tradition and innovation.

Keemun Congou

My then discovered Keemun Congou, a Keemun variety that emphasises ‘gongfu’ or skill in its preparation. Its name ‘Congou’ translates to ‘made with care,’ it manifests in the rich, full-bodied flavour of the tea. 

This variety showcases the elaborate and time-honoured tea production methods that go into every cup, offering a deep, satisfying brew to those who appreciate a well-crafted tea.

Keemun Xin Ya

Finally, we meet Keemun Xin Ya, a softer and milder Keemun variant. The ‘Xin Ya’ translates to ‘new bud,’ an apt descriptor for a tea made from the season’s tender young leaves. 

Its lower tannin content makes for a smooth, less astringent taste, making Xin Ya a perfect choice for those preferring a gentle introduction to the world of Keemun teas.

These Keemun tea types contribute to the rich, multifaceted world of Chinese tea culture, shaped by regional biodiversity, skilled craftsmanship, and centuries-old traditions. 

Whether you’re a seasoned tea connoisseur or a beginner exploring the tea landscape, Keemun tea offers a brew that’s just right for your taste.

Hubei Keemun

In exploring Keemun teas, let’s acknowledge an honourable mention – Hubei Keemun. Though not technically a ‘true’ Keemun due to its production in Hubei Province rather than Anhui, this tea echoes the familiar Keemun traits. 

It parallels how only wines from Burgundy, France can be called ‘Burgundy,’ and Parmesan cheese must originate from Italy’s Parma region. 

Hubei Keemun shares similar flavour profiles with its Anhui counterpart and even Indian Darjeeling, illustrating the diversity and interconnectedness within Chinese teas. It’s a delightful detour for tea lovers exploring the Keemun family.

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What are the main Keemun Tea Benefits?

Keemun Tea, rich in antioxidants, helps protect cells, fight inflammation, and enhance immunity. It’s also beneficial for heart health and digestion, reducing stress levels.

Keemun Tea Benefits

Keemun black tea shares the same health benefits as other black teas, although the potency of these benefits can vary between different types.

This variation results from numerous factors, including growth conditions, plant variety, processing techniques, and brewing methods. Interestingly, research has indicated that the most premium Keemun black tea, while potentially richer in antioxidants, may not deliver the most health benefits.

Surprisingly, intermediate to high-grade teas may surpass their competition-grade counterparts regarding health advantages. Consequently, for those seeking an unparalleled taste experience, the highest quality Keemun black tea is the way to go. However, if the focus is more on reaping the most health benefits, selecting intermediate-high grades would be more prudent.

Supports Healthy Diuresis

Keemun Tea from China, due to its Caffeine and Aromatic components, effectively Aids in Diuresis. 


It enhances lLiver Blood flow, improves the filtration rate in the kidney glomeruli, and widens renal capillaries. Inhibiting water reabsorption in renal tubules increases urine production, supporting a healthy, natural detox process.

Provides Anti-Inflammatory and Antiseptic Benefits

Polyphenols in Keemun Tea help reduce Inflammation. Regularly consuming this tea can benefit those affected by bacterial infections or food poisoning. 

In some parts of China, Keemun Tea is even used topically to help heal wounds, bedsores, or skin irritations, demonstrating its potential as a natural antiseptic.

Remove Tiredness

Keemun Black Tea, celebrated for its potential to Alleviate Fatigue and Noost Cognitive Functions, is due to the Caffeine content it holds. This unique component stimulates the cerebral cortex, enhancing mental acuity and stronger memory retention. Additionally, Caffeine facilitates the removal of Lactic Acid, known to cause feelings of fatigue, along with other waste products, Aiding in revitalisation and increased energy.

Clear Inner Heat

Similarly, Keemun Black Tea’s capacity to regulate inner body temperature, especially vital during hot summer months, can be attributed to its rich Polyphenols, Sugars, Amino Acids, and Pectin composition. These compounds stimulate saliva production, effectively quenching thirst and imparting a cooling effect. 

Moreover, the Caffeine in Keemun Black Tea regulates body temperature and stimulates the liver to expel unnecessary heat and waste, thus promoting a balanced and healthy Physiological state. Keemun Black Tea is thus a superior choice for those pursuing Cognitive and thermoregulatory benefits.

Safeguards Digestive Health

The fermentation and baking process of Keemun Tea from China promotes the enzymatic Oxidation of tea Polyphenols, mitigating any potential harm. The Pxidised tea Polyphenols enhance Digestion, nurture the gastric mucosa, and Aid in healing ulcers, especially when added brown Sugar and Milk. 

Furthermore, Keemun black tea provides additional benefits such as preventing Tooth decay, combating ageing, reducing Blood Sugar Levels, offering anti-Cancer properties, protecting against radiation, and Aiding in weight loss.

Promotes Anti-Cancer Properties

The polyphenols found in black tea, particularly the compound Theaflavin, may provide protection against certain types of Cancer. Theaflavin plays a significant role in the chemo-protective activity of Black tea, potentially reducing Cancer risk and Bolstering overall health.

Promotes Heart and Brain Health

Consuming Black tea can contribute positively to Heart and Brain health. Regular intake may Lower Blood Pressure and decrease the risk of certain Heart conditions. 

Studies suggest drinking three cups of Black tea daily could help reduce cardiovascular disease risk and lower Cholesterol. 

Furthermore, increasing this intake to four cups daily may decrease the risk of stroke, underscoring Black tea’s role in supporting overall Heart and Brain health.

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Keemun tea side effects

Due to its moderate to high caffeine content, Keemun tea can cause side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, and increased heart rate, especially in caffeine-sensitive and pregnant individuals.

As a type of Black tea, Keemun tea does contain a certain level of Caffeine, which, while beneficial in some aspects, can lead to side effects, especially for individuals with heightened sensitivity to Caffeine. 

The Caffeine levels in Keemun tea are moderately high, but they can vary due to factors like cultivation methods, altitude, and soil type. This variability makes it challenging to give an exact estimate of the Caffeine content in this specific tea.

Keemun black tea is often derived from young leaves and shoots, which tend to concentrate Caffeine. Moreover, it is typically steeped at higher temperatures and for longer durations, further increasing the release of Caffeine into the brew. This characteristic makes it a popular choice for invigorating breakfast tea blends.

However, the side effects of Caffeine should be noticed. If you are Caffeine-sensitive, consuming too much Keemun tea may lead to symptoms like Insomnia, Anxiety, Headaches, Irritability, an increased Heart rate, or Dizziness. If you experience these side effects, reduce your tea consumption or consider transitioning to Caffeine-free herbal teas.

Special caution is advised for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, as excessive caffeine consumption can lead to complications like premature birth and issues with fetal development. Always follow the guidance of your healthcare provider regarding Caffeine intake during these times.

How to make Keemun tea at Home

How to make Keemun tea at Home
How to make Keemun tea at Home

My guide will be divided into ingredients, tools, and step-by-step instructions. I’ve incorporated insights and advice from fellow members of my local tea club to refine this process further.


  • 1-2 teaspoons of Keemun tea leaves
  • 8 ounces of purified or spring water


  • A teapot or infuser
  • A kettle for heating water
  • A thermometer (optional)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Measure out 1-2 teaspoons of Keemun tea leaves, adjusting the quantity based on personal taste preference.
  2. Fill your kettle with 8 ounces of purified or spring water.
  3. Heat the water to 194 ºF (90 ºC). Utilising a thermometer can ensure accurate temperature control.
  4. Place the measured tea leaves into your teapot or infuser.
  5. Pour the heated water over the tea leaves.
  6. Let the tea brew for 2 to 5 minutes.
  7. If using Keemun Hao Ya Black tea (made exclusively from tea buds), slightly lower your brewing temperature to avoid a bitter taste.
  8. Avoid using too hot water to prevent scorching the leaves and creating bitter tea.

Note: The essence of brewing tea lies in finding the balance between temperature, brewing time, and the number of tea leaves. A few trials may be needed to find your sweet spot. Enjoy the process and the resulting perfect cup of Keemun tea!

Useful Tips & Tricks For storing Keemun Black Tea

After enjoying a lovely cup, proper storage of Keemun tea ensures it maintains its freshness and quality.

I store my Keemun tea in an airtight container, away from heat, light, and moisture, which could degrade its flavours. It’s also best to keep it separate from spices or strong-smelling foods to prevent it from absorbing other aromas.

Brewing Keemun tea is a process that can be as enjoyable as savoring it. These steps I’ve shared from my personal experience should guide you in crafting a delightful cup.

Keemun Tea vs Other Black Teas: A Week in Tea Tasting

I recently spent an entire week diving into the world of Black tea. From the brisk Assam to the delicate Darjeeling, I relished the journey. 

But one comparison stood out: Keemun tea against other renowned black teas and even the Japanese Sencha.

Day 1-2: Keemun Tea vs. Darjeeling Tea

My tea-tasting week started with Darjeeling tea. Known as the “Champagne of teas,” this high-altitude Indian brew has a fruity, floral profile with a muscatel finish. 

With its rich, smoky, and slightly sweet flavor, Keemun felt more grounded. Both offer a complex array of flavors, but Keemun presents a more comforting and hearty brew, while Darjeeling serves a more refined, delicate cup.

Day 3-4: Keemun Tea vs. Assam Tea

The next comparison brought me to Assam tea, another Indian black tea known for its strong, malty flavor and brisk finish. 

Here, I found that Keemun’s flavor profile is more subtle and nuanced, with its smoky and sweet notes balancing the maltiness found in Assam. 

While Assam might be ideal for someone seeking a robust, wake-up brew (it’s often used in breakfast blends), Keemun could be better suited for a reflective, relaxed tea time.

Day 5-7: Keemun Tea vs. Sencha Tea

By the end of my week, I decided to broaden the horizon and contrast Keemun with Sencha, a famous Japanese Green tea. Though not a black tea, seeing how tea’s character changes across cultures and processing methods was enlightening. 

Sencha, known for its grassy notes and umami flavour, provides a light, refreshing experience quite different from Keemun’s smoky and malty notes. This contrast encapsulates tea’s diversity, each with a unique identity and charm.

Exploring these different teas over a week illuminated the beauty of tea diversity for me. Whether Keemun’s smoky sweetness, 

Darjeeling’s refined elegance, Assam’s bold briskness, or Sencha’s refreshing lightness, there’s a tea for every mood and moment. 

The world of tea is as deep and fascinating as the cultures that foster it, and there’s always more to learn and savour.

Conclusion: Why Keemun Tea Deserves a Spot in Your Tea Collection

In conclusion, Keemun tea, with its unique smoky yet sweet profile, is an experience. Its complex flavors and rich history add depth to any tea collection. 

Its versatility makes it the perfect companion for reflective moments and bustling breakfast scenes. Truly, Keemun tea brings a slice of Chinese tea heritage into your teacup, enriching your tea journey one brew at a time.

Thanks for Spiriteadrinks.com


What is Keemun tea made of?

Keemun tea, a type of Chinese black tea, is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Known for its distinct aroma and flavor, it’s typically grown and processed in China’s Anhui province.

What is the most popular tea in China?

The most popular tea in China varies by region and preference, but Green tea, particularly Longjing tea and Biluochun, holds an important place due to its health benefits and cultural significance.

What is Keemun tea made of?

Keemun tea, renowned for its rich aroma and mellow flavor, is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. This tea variety is carefully cultivated and processed in China’s Anhui province.

How do you drink Keemun tea?

To drink Keemun tea, steep it in hot water, ideally at around 90-95 degrees Celsius, for about 2-5 minutes. The result is a flavorful brew that can be enjoyed plain or with honey or lemon, depending on personal preference.

Is Keemun tea bitter?

Keemun tea, when brewed correctly, should be balanced. Its flavor profile is typically smooth and slightly malty, with a hint of natural sweetness. However, steeping the tea for too long or at too high a temperature can taste bitter.