The water for black teas should be added near boiling point 210 °F (99 °C). Many of the active substances in black tea do not develop at temperatures lower than 194ºF (90°C). For some more delicate teas lower temperatures are recommended.
The temperature will have as large an effect on the final flavor as the type of tea used. The most common fault when making black tea is to use water at too low a temperature. Since boiling point drops with increasing altitude, this makes it difficult to brew black tea properly in mountainous areas. It is also recommended that the teapot be warmed before preparing tea, easily done by adding a small amount of boiling water to the pot, swirling briefly, before discarding. Black teas are usually brewed for about 4 minutes and should not be allowed to steep for less than 30 seconds or more than about five minutes (a process known as brewing or mashing in Britain).
It is commonly said that a steeping time above five minutes make the tea bitter (at this point it is referred to as being stewed in Britain), but in reality the precise time depends on a number of factors, such as the type of tea and the water quality, and bitterness can occur as early as three minutes, or not at all even after prolonged steeping. When the tea has brewed long enough to suit the tastes of the drinker, it should be strained while serving. The popular varieties of black tea include the Assam tea, the Darjeeling tea and the black Ceylon tea.
Keemun (simplified Chinese: 祁门红茶; traditional Chinese: 祁門紅茶; pinyin: qímén hóngchá, lit. “Qimen red tea”) is a black Chinese tea with a winey and fruity taste, designated as a China Famous Tea.
Keemun is produced in the Qimen County of Huangshan City, in Anhui (Anhwei) province. (“Keemun” was the English spelling for “Qimen” during the colonial era.)
Keemun has a relatively short history. It was first produced in 1875 by a failed civil servant, Yu Quianchen, after he traveled to Fujian province to learn the secrets of black tea production. Prior to that, only green tea was made in Anhui. The result exceeded his expectations, and the excellent Keemun tea quickly gained popularity in England, and became the most prominent ingredient of the English Breakfast tea blend.
Tasting and brewing
The aroma of Keemun is fruity, with hints of pine, dried plum and floweriness (but not at all as floral as Darjeeling tea) which creates the very distinctive and balanced taste. It also displays a hint of orchid fragrance and the so-called ‘China tea sweetness. The tea can have a more bitter taste and the smokiness can be more defined depending on the variety and how it was processed.
Keemun is typically drunk without milk or sugar; outside China it may also be taken with milk.
* Keemun Gongfu or Congou (祁門功夫) – Made with careful skill (“gongfu”) to produce thin, tight strips without breaking the leaves.
* Keemun Mao Feng (祁門毛峰) – A variety, where Mao Feng means Fur Peak, which is made of only slightly twisted leaf buds and is sometimes noted for a smoother and different flavor. Many people prefer to brew a smaller quantity of this tea for a longer time than usual, up to 7 minutes, to bring out more interesting tones in the tea.
* Keemun Xin Ya (祁門新芽) – The early bud variety, said to have less bitterness.
* Keemun Hao Ya (祁門毫芽) – A variety known for its fine buds, sometimes showing prominent amounts of silver tips, and generally the highest grade. Hao Ya is sometimes graded into A and B, where A is the better grade.
* Hubei Keemun (湖北祁門) – Not a true Keemun, a variety that comes from the Hubei Province west of Anhui, said to have similar qualities to the Anhui Keemun.