Keemun Hao Ya A Grade "Chinese Breakfast Tea"

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Black Tea
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205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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From Chicago Tea Garden

Like the Gobstopper of teas, the flavors and aromas of Keemun Hao Ya ‘A Grade’ change with each sip, cup and brew. At first taste, the liquor is reminiscent of grilled peaches, which melds into the lingering aftertaste; a competition between the tea’s floral bouquet and its underlying smokiness. The golden amber-brown color of the tea matches its taste, while the smell of the tea is more reminiscent of its aftertaste, sweet like roses, with a hint of maltiness.

The dry Keemun leaves are small and uniform. The consist of wiry buds that are slightly tippy. The smell of this dry leaf is deceivingly stronger than the taste of the tea, presenting itself as almost biscuity and smokey.

While brewing Keemun Hao Ya, the leaves begin to plump and expand. By the time the first steep is complete, the wet leaves have lightened in color to a brownish-red, and every leave maintains its eveness and consistency. The wet leaves smell savory, almost meaty; an indication that the sweetness of this black tea has begun to seep out of the leaf into the water. It really is a beautiful tea during every step of preparation.

Serving Suggestions
Hot Tea
- 1-2 min @ 200F (just off the boil).
- Can be steeped multiple times. We typically steep this tea 2-3 times.

Iced Tea
- After steeping hot tea, refrigerate until chilled. Add a slice of orange, and serve.

- Keemun refers to the Keemun Zhuye cultivar of the tea plant.
- Mandarin: “Keemun Downy Buds”

About Keemun
This certified organic grade of Keemun was once reserved only for royalty. This is a first flush tea harvested in Spring of 2010. Keemun is the original “breakfast tea” and is considered one of China’s great teas.

Behind the Leaf
This tea was harvested and processed between March 18 and April 25 by the villagers of Jinzipai Village in Qimen County China.

About Chicago Tea Garden View company

Chicago Tea Garden is an online tea shop committed to providing extraordinary teas and tea education to tea lovers and those new to the leaf. Chicago Tea Garden's co-owner Tony Gebely also runs the World of Tea Blog [] and Tweets at @WorldofTea.

13 Tasting Notes

911 tasting notes

Can I just say? Receiving my first order from Chicago Tea Garden made me very happy. All the teas came in tins, each with little tasting cards and all neatly packed. It’s nice to see prettily presented tea. Of course, as pretty as it is, nothing can compare to the smell. Not of the package itself (that just smelled like box, so no leaking tea flavors) but once I opened up the tins and stuck my nose into the tea… Seriously yum. Across the board.

Last night I naturally had to bust open the Sticky Rice Pu-erh, something I’ve been craving for-freakin-ever since I had my sample. But this morning, I get to delve into something new. It was a tough choice but ultimately the smell of this one won me over. Because, really? The smell is crazy. There is so much going on I can’t pick it all out – sweet, smoky, bakey, tart, acrid, flowery… I can’t stop smelling it! The leaves are so pretty, too. Tiny, wiry little delicate-looking things. Brewed up, the smell has changed and mellowed, but it’s still pretty wow. It’s mostly bakey with some sweet and floral and toasted thrown in.

Oh man. What to say about the taste? It’s awesome. Just as complex as the smell, it is by far the most complex Keemun I’ve had. Sweet, bakey, smooth, bright, tart, floral… all of these words popped into my head while I was sipping. Each sip brings me different flavors. Sometimes it makes me think of grilling a flower then drinking the nectar out of it. Other times I think of raw sweet potatoes with a bit of honey.

This is not a fast sipping tea. Because of the complexity and how the taste seems to change and expand from sip to sip, I find myself taking slow sips, just enjoying the flavors for a while. I can’t help but roll the tea around in my mouth, making sure ever surface is coated, before swallowing. Because there is this beautiful aftertaste when the air hits my mouth – very floral.

I would say that this is not a tea for everyone. The husband is not a big Keemun fan in general because of the smoky/roasted taste it has can come across as sour or acrid. And this one has those same notes – they are soft and smooth, blend beautifully with the rest of the tea and I read them as more of a sweet & sour or raw potato taste and I kind of love those flavors in this (and typically in Keemuns in general). So if someone doesn’t like Keemuns for that reason, I’m thinking this might not change their mind (I will have to use the husband as a tester sometime to confirm). But for someone that likes Keemuns or someone that would like them if perhaps they had more depth, this one would be a winner. It’s truly fantastic.

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec
Paul M Tracy

I too just received my first CTG purchase. I went sample crazy so I didn’t get to see how a full tin looks, but the tasting cards are a really nice touch. Sticky Rice is up next for me!


This tasting note made my morning. I’ve been searching and searching for something to sub in for the Jackee I’ll be missing, and have been hoarding. It sounds like a pretty wildly different flavor set, but the other Keemuns I’ve been trying have all sort of lacked character. Definitely going on the shopping list!


Paul, I love the sticky rice! Actually, so far I love all of CTG’s offerings. :)
Sophistre, I’ll stick some in the package for you! It is vastly different from Jackee (Jackee’s bolder) but this one definitely shouldn’t bore you.


Oooooh, I didn’t put this one in my order as I have so many black teas right now but it’s going on the shopping list!


As it should! I might have just ordered 200g of it. Excessive? I’m going with no.

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1353 tasting notes

These last couple of days have been pretty awful for me and I’ve been in a somewhat asocial and depressive mood. Not as bad as it has sometimes been before, but still noticable. Luckily my parcel from Auggy arrived yesterday, containing my Keemun education (I think I must be at level 2 now, or…?), so I’m making a start on that now and starting with this one, which Auggy said was her favourite out of the three.

It smells very sweet, with a little spicyness to it. Weirdly it’s reminding me a little of freshly baked rye bread. As in proper rye bread. The danish sort. Like this (And if you follow the Oprah link and if you watch the video of a danish home, do NOT believe the headline. That is NOT a typical danish home, but it is a fairly standard size fridge, even if Oprah seems to expect us to be able to store enough food to feed an army. We don’t need room for more food than we can eat, do we?) Anyway, that’s what the aroma reminds me of. Even though it’s not actually the same smell. Just sort of in the same semi-category nearly almost kind of.

After the cup has been sitting for a little, the spicyness is still there, but the sweetness has transformed a little. It’s kind of semi-green now. Not green-green and not very grassy, but with a definite vegetative quality to it.

I can’t immediately pick up notes of smoke in the aroma though.

On the flavour there is definite smoke, however. It’s the first thing I notice when I taste it, especially if I slurp a little. Underneath that again the straw-like spicyness and the very sweet note from before.

Weirdly the flavour is reminding me of rye bread again. A good rye bread (for me) has tons of grain in it, making it a heavy bread. This is kind of the same. It tastes like it’s a heavy tea, sort of. If it was a rye bread it would be one of my preferred ones. Grainy. I’ve managed to get myself lost in this odd comparison, and it’s surprisingly difficult to really explain it, and even more difficult to untangle myself from it again.

Let’s just say it’s making me want to eat rye bread now.

I’m liking this a lot, and I can totally see why Auggy counts it among her favorites. It certainly deserves a metric ton of points.


It’s funny how our tastes evolve as we grow older. I used to HATE rye bread when I was younger, but now I adore it. This sounds delicious.


Yes. I absolutely couldn’t eat beans as a child. Since I wasn’t otherwise a picky eater, I was allowed to avoid them. I wouldn’t say I like it today, but I can eat it. Spinach and cottage cheese, though, have moved from EW! straight into the category of Favourite Things.
This is really very good, I definitely suggest you check it out (and then come back and tell me what you think about the rye bread issue…)


I totally get the rye bread thing. And the not-green but vegetal thing. And the straw thing. And I’m glad the package arrival made for happier times. I could say I arranged that special with the post office – they held on to it for a few days (or five) just so it would come at the perfect time. Yep, that’s my story.


I need to have TeaSpring’s Keemun again soon and keep this post in mind since it’s the same leaf grade. I wonder if the rye bread will turn out to be a typically keemun thing for me, like raisins is with assams.

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596 tasting notes
I got myself a whole canister of this stuff. I love it.

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158 tasting notes

‘I love this tea. Like, yeah. A lot.’

That was all Auggy wrote about it on the card with the bag, and then she noted steep times. How could I not go for this?

This has been included because I am presently on a crusade to find a Keemun that will occupy the ragged hole that’ll turn up in my cupboard eventually, but which is currently occupied by Jackee Muntz. Jackee will not last forever, after all.

The smell has a lot of depth. Freshly steeped and too hot to drink, I kept catching glimpses of something fruity behind the familiar smell of Keemun’s mild smoke, then something bright and bake-y, and something slightly nutty. These are terrible descriptions, but I would be hard-pressed to be more accurate with them. As the cup cooled a bit, still hot for drinking but no longer billowing steam, the smell became predominately bake-y fruit. It wasn’t until I opened up the page to start writing a note that I saw ‘grilled peaches’ on the description and said, YES. That! I am the first to be skeptical of tea descriptions, since people are usually more suggestible than otherwise, but this is a far cry from ‘well, maybe I can find that there if I think about it’…oh, it’s there. It’s there in spades with the bake-y flavor that makes me want to say this is like…like…like slathering something in peach preserves and grilling it. I’m trying to figure out what the ‘something’ would be. Its been a long time since I had potato bread last, but maybe something like that?

This translates very well to the taste. Sipping, the flavors are as above, with a pronounced and obvious musk and nuttiness (I associate both with peaches in my head), without losing a very mellow, shadowy sweetness.

I don’t get the roses mentioned from this cup, though I think the sweetness at times tastes more floral than fruity to me, particularly in the aftertaste. Holding the tea in my mouth, it’s more starchy and bake-y. As it cools even more, the fruity smell is coming so far forward that it almost reminds me of the tropical plaintain thing that some of my favorite teas have…starchy but sweet. I would never in my life have expected something like that from a Keemun, but there it is!

This is one smooth steep. It does have that sort of ‘I could get bitter and sour on you in a hurry if you use too much leaf or steep too long’ taste on the middle of the back of the tongue, but I think that’s just a Keemun thing generally, and it hasn’t made good on the threat, so I’m quite pleased.

It isn’t the salty-sweet caramel pretender that Jackee is, but this tea has a lot of the qualities I enjoy in a cup, so I think I shall find a place for it on the reg.

Subsequent steeps will get noted in a bit.

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec
RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

I totally need to place a Chicago Tea Garden or maybe just go there and pick something up. All the great reviews I have seen have me curious.


I haven’t had much from them to be honest — just the sticky rice tuo-cha and this tea, so far — but I really liked both of them.


Yay! Glad you liked it. I’m seriously having a love affair with this tea. It’s very different from Jackee but so complex and tasty – much more than I would have thought a Keemun would give.
Rachel, I don’t believe they have an actual store yet (talking to Tony, I believe both of the owners still work “real” jobs full time) but they are seriously worth checking out. Great stuff.

RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

Darn, I could have just stopped if there was a brick and mortar location. Nevertheless, I will need to place an order.


Hmm… This description REALLY makes me want to try this tea. I’m on the hunt for a really great peachy tea, and I’m reaaally wanting to try something with a bit of smoke.


I’d hesitate before calling this a peach tea, per se, but the note is there nevertheless. I say this only so that you don’t place an order expecting an obviously fruity tea, only to get a Keemun with a little bit more fruit than one might expect from a Keemun (at least when the aforementioned ‘one’ is me, as I’m still learning as I go). I’d hate to mislead you! That said, I wholeheartedly recommend it! I think it’s delicious.

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431 tasting notes

I had this after my almost daily cup of coffee. Yes, coffee just one cup though. Nevertheless, as for teas this one started my day. I was lucky to first sample this goodie at Tony’s Tea Tasting at the Chicago Tea Garden and since I enjoyed it I picked some of it up on my way out along with others in his delicious tea arsenal.

I found this one to be bold and smooth, a little smokey and toasty. It was a delicious cup, especially in the morning.

195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec

I have a cup of coffee in the morning too – on the weekends sometimes two! I don’t feel like I have to choose :)


This is sorta off-topic, but I saw your sales post on Tea Trade and I am SO getting some. I’ll probably do two orders because I couldn’t pick just five. :D

RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

Sweet, Tabby! If you want to get it today I can ship it out tomorrow. :-)

RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

I agree JacquelineM. I too enjoy a great cup of coffee. Nothing wrong with that. :-)


Sure, I’ll PM you. :)

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328 tasting notes

First, I have to admit I have been steeping this one too long. The consensus is 1 min and I have been steeping for 3 mins! Luckily my tea did not go bitter……the overall taste is a pleasant smokiness. Not a burn your mouth w a campfire tar taste like some lapsang souchongs but subtle and pleasant. As the tea cooled, some cocoa notes were detected which took me off guard. I want to try this tea again w shorter steep times and maybe it will be even better.

1 min, 15 sec

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51 tasting notes

Q: Is this a wonderfully tasty Chinese “black” tea?
A: “Hao Ya”!

Q: How many decent infusions did I get from my leaves this morning?
A: About 8.

Q: How does this tea compare to similar Keemun black teas?
A: Very uniform leaves create a smooth infusion with focused flavor.

Q: How many minutes should I wait before ordering some of this for myself (and all of my friends and family…)?

A: Zero minutes.

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100 tasting notes

Very light. Very smooth with just a hint of not even bitter but maybe sour at the very end? It’s almost got more smell than flavor. I recognize this is better than the other one I had but I think it is too delicate for me. Kind of like Japanese food – it seems light on flavor until you get used to it, then it’s really flavorful.

Lainie Petersen

I’m still working with this, but suspect that this may be a tea that benefits from either a lot of leaf or gong fu brewing in a tiny teapot. Will report results of experiments later.

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7 tasting notes

Deifnately Grade A. Has a nice earthy aroma, like a forest after a rain. The liquor is a deep amber color, and the slightly chopped leaves have a dark brown appearance.

I’m on the second steep, and it’s still a mellow but flavorful tea with hints of spice and honey and has plenty of heartiness.

This may be more of a morning/winter tea, but I’m still enjoying it in the heat of a Southern afternoon.

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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