I’ve always liked Keemuns a whole lot, but for some reason I haven’t had one in years. Peg (the owner) at Premium Steap gave me a sample of this, simply saying that I’ll probably like it (she knows my tastes) and it doesn’t come around too often. Yes, she was 100% right, and yes I went back to buy a whole bunch of it before it was all gone.
First off, I’ll say that this tea is extremely forgiving. Got distracted while steeping? Not a problem. Accidentally put too much leaf in the pot? Don’t fret. I’ve steeped this in a Breville, a Gaiwan, and a ForLife steeping cup/basket. At temperatures ranging from 90C to boiling. Different water to leaf ratios (more leaf = better for me). It’s really just a matter of preference. It’s not like many Blacks where if you’re off by a little bit on your measurements it’ll feel like someone shoved an unripe quince in your mouth.
The bitterness that you get here is along the lines of what you would find in dark chocolate. As a matter of fact, there is a whole lot about this tea that is along the lines of dark chocolate. The flavor is like those Taza Mexican Chocolate disks, where the chocolate is ground and grittier. The secondary flavor in here is of dried blueberries. There also is also a little smokiness and maltiness hanging out with some spices (cinnamon?) in the background.
The texture is super soft while the liquor is in your mouth. The finish leaves a mild pleasant feeling of dryness on the tongue, that wants to be quenched with another sip of tea… which unfortunately means the cup of tea disappears way faster than I want it to!
Overall a complex, well balanced and smooth tea. Even though there are a whole bunch of flavors going on here, some more predominant than others, they all meld together beautifully, and the texture matches perfectly. I love how it can taste so interesting and full without being harsh and aggressive. This tea is delicious on its own and doesn’t need anything to help balance it, but why would I stop that from letting me taste it alongside some cheeses!
I tried it out with Colston Bassett Shropshire Blue, Etivaz, Birchrun Blue, Roncal, basic brie, Idiazabal, and Chiriboga Blue. I see a trend developing for plain old, nothing special, double creme brie… it’s good with just about all black teas, or at least, is certainly never bad. In this instance the combo went to the world of milk chocolate, very tasty but not mindblowing. I thought that the Etivaz, a super funky alpine style, had a chance of being extremey weird with it, but I like to experiment. It turns out that the wet woodland funk, was nicely balanced by the tea. The tea was overpowered, so definitely not a go to pairing but they didn’t clash, as I thought they might… it’s all in the name of science ;-) There weren’t any clashes from the lot, but the one that I thought would be a home run wasn’t. Years ago, I remember having a Keemun (Moa Fung or Ho Ya A, I don’t remember) with Colston Bassett Stilton, and it being an amazing pairing. (Basically, Shropshire and Stilton are the same thing, the difference being one has a yellow background color, the other white. Yay for annatto.) When I went to the store, the Shropshire had more of the flavor that would work with this pairing. It was good but definitely not the melding of worlds that I remembered. The tea just didn’t have the machismo to stand up to the cheese.
This is a black tea of finesse, and Chiriboga Blue had the finesse and subtlety to match. I’m so happy that my cheesemonger suggested it. It’s young and subdued, with a lactic tart canvas, very yeasty upfront, the blue flavor is mild but metallic, and there is a hidden white wine flavor in the finish. This pairing wasn’t one that created new flavors out of the blue, as some do. (I just noticed the pun after typing that.) It subdues some flavors and amplifies others to refine all of the wonderful characteristics shine. Tartness and bitterness are more nuanced and smooth, yeast flavors integrating more with wine flavors, berries brighter, chocolate more refined, etc… It was like having a dessert of mixed berries with mascarpone and dark chocolate shavings on top, and just a dusting of spice (no sugar added, the ingredients standing out on their own) and washing it down with an easygoing white wine. Simple, elegant and delicious.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BDQxwI4kXx5/?taken-by=thecheesenerd (brie not pictured)
Flavors: Blueberry, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Spices