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The first discounted tea this month is our Keemun Panda, in bags or loose leaf. Keeman is written in traditional Chinese like this: 祁門紅茶, and pronounced chee-MEN. It brews into a vibrant red with smoky and chocolately hints.fdd332ef6296e4d34ac74234d63ebb71

Of all the China black teas available, Keemun Panda is probably one of the best known. Keemun is one of the congou-type teas meaning it requires a great deal of gongfu (disciplined skill) to make into fine taut strips without breaking the leaves. Interestingly, the characters in the written Chinese script for time and labor are the same as those used for ‘gongfu.’ It is often said that a properly produced Keemun, such as Panda, is one of the finest teas in the world with a complex aromatic and penetrating character often compared to burgundy wines. Traditionally, Keemuns were used in English Breakfast tea. Keemun is one the best-keeping black teas. Fine specimens will keep for years if stored properly, and take on a mellow winey character.

The name Keemun comes from Qimen county in southern Anhui province where almost all the mountains are covered with tea bushes. Qimen county produced only green tea until the mid 1870’s. Around that time a young man in the civil service lost his job. Despite being totally heartbroken and completely embarrassed by his shame, he remembered what his father told him: “A skill is a better guarantor of a living than precarious officialdom.” In America we would say, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Following this advice, the young man packed up his courage and his bags to travel to Fujian Province to learn the secrets of black tea manufacturing. Upon his return to Qimen in 1875, he set up three factories to produce black tea. The black tea method was perfectly suited to the tea leaves produced in this warm, moist climate with well drained sandy soil. Before long, the superb flavor of Keemuns became very popular around the world.

If you haven’t tried our exquisite Keemun Panda tea, now is the perfect time, with 15% off through the month of May only.

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I’ve written about smoky teas a number of times in these pages, mostly discoursing about how much I didn’t like them. My latest opus on this topic is here. Once upon a time you would not have heard a good word pass from my lips about smoky teas. Not that it was for lack of trying them. I sampled various blends over and over again and always came to exactly the same conclusion – an enthusiastic thumbs down.

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Then things started to change – just a little bit and very gradually, mind you. For the most part I owe it to Keemun, a Chinese black tea that often has smoky notes, ranging from barely imperceptible to moderately intense. While I don’t care much for the latter and I don’t know if I’ll ever make peace with Lapsang Souchong, a tea I’ve always found to be quite smoky, I find some of the milder varieties of Keemun to be tolerable and some even a little bit likable.

These days I’d stop far short of calling myself a fan of smoky teas. I certainly don’t seek them out but I can put up with certain ones, at least to some small extent. What I’ve found recently, in the course of the past few weeks or so, is that I’ve been using the smoky stuff to “save” other teas. I’ve written about this practice before and to summarize, it consists of taking a tea that’s not quite bad, but mostly just lackluster, and mixing it with a better quality tea to make the latter go further.

I’ve found myself doing this a lot lately with a tea that I received a rather large sample of a while back. After taking one sniff of it I looked around to see if someone had lit a campfire. Then I realized that smell was the tea. I put it aside, assuming I’d probably end up giving it to someone at some point. It’s not a tea that I could ever imagine drinking straight unless my tastes drastically change. But lately I’ve but using it to salvage a few black teas that I wasn’t quite in love with ut that were made quite palatable with the addition of just a bit of smoke.

Who knew?

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Keemun Panda

Keemun Panda

If I had to choose one type of tea to drink exclusively for the rest of my life, I’d probably have to go with black tea. If I had to narrow that down even further and choose just one variety of black tea to drink exclusively for the rest of my life, there’s no doubt that I’d go with Assam. That’s assuming, of course, that it was a high-quality single estate variety.

Until relatively recently, Keemun, a Chinese black tea (which the Chinese sometimes refer to as red tea), was a variety that barely showed up on my radar. I knew that it was often a key component in breakfast tea blends, but I’d had mixed results with those and had sampled very few straight Keemun varieties.

Over the past year or so I’ve had the chance to try out a number of Keemun varieties and have yet to find one that’s been a disappointment. Keemun, also known as Qimen, for the county in China’s Anhui province where it is produced, is a variety of black tea that’s typically known for having small leaves and a rich, full-flavored taste that contains notes of smokiness, though these are much more low-key than those of a strongly flavored tea like the pine smoke-cured Lapsang Souchong.

The region where Keemun is produced was once known exclusively for its green teas. Black tea is a relative late comer there and is said to date from 1876, when a transplant from China’s Fujian province, where black tea production was quite common at the time, took the techniques that he had learned there and applied them to the making of Keemun tea.

While there’s no set formula for the different types of breakfast tea blends, Keemun frequently turns up in the various English breakfast tea formulations. Among the more notable varieties of Keemun are Mao Feng, which is known for its larger leaves, and Hao Ya, which is thought by some to be among the best of the Keemun teas.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sticky Fingers Pumpkin Spice Scone Mix

Sticky Fingers Pumpkin Spice Scone Mix

Another trip around the sun, another Summer winding down, and another occasion to celebrate with tea: the Autumnal Equinox rolls around once more.

For those of you who don’t pay a lot of attention to the various phases of our journey through this solar system, I’ll give a brief rundown of what “Autumnal Equinox” is. (Those of you who already know this can skip to the next paragraph.) “Equinox” means equal. “Autumnal” means Autumn. Duh! Seriously, since our planet’s Equator (that imaginary line around the center of our globe) “tilts” so that we don’t directly face the sun, our days get shorter and longer (with our nights getting longer and shorter). At the Equinox, night hours and day hours are exactly 12 each. The Autumnal Equinox marks when the days start getting shorter and the nights longer (here in the Northern Hemisphere). With that in mind, let’s see how you can mark the occasion with tea.

Loose Organic Ceylon Tea

Loose Organic Ceylon Tea

Shorter daylight hours means cooler temperatures, so all you iced tea fans might want to switch over to hot tea. Those of us who drink hot tea year round will be looking into some of the more “robust” tasting teas such as a malty Assam, a spicy Yunnan, the lightly smoky Keemun, or a basic black Ceylon. Don’t forget pu-erhs and Kenyans. Blends that contain any combination of these are also good choices. Or you could go for some spiced teas (often simply called “chais” here in the U.S. even though “chai” means “tea”) that have spices and flavors we tend to associate with Autumn here: cinnamon, apple, pumpkin, etc. (so far, I haven’t come across a corn flavored tea, even though corn is harvested this time of year).

This brings to mind foods that can be part of your tea time, including apple pie, pumpkin pie/scones/bread (or even all three), pecan tarts, cornbread with butter and honey (yum!), the list goes on and on.

In many school districts, kids are already back in school so you moms and/or dads who are at home during the day can have a self-pampering tea time. Light a scented candle, bake up some goodies, steep up your fave robust-tasting tea and say “Farewell” to another Summer.

Enjoy!

See also:
An Autumn Cup of Tea
Spicing Up Your Autumn Teatime
Fall Is Just Around the Corner
Yes, It’s Fall Teatime Again
Harvest Time Hurrahs!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Name: Keemun Panda China Black Tea

Brand: English Tea Store

Type: Black tea, Chinese

Form: Loose leaf

Review: As those who follow me in the tea world know, I am fond of Keemun. Unfortunately, a fair number of Keemuns on the market cost a pretty penny and they aren’t always easy to find in tea stores, so keeping it on hand can be a challenge. Fortunately, the English Tea Store’s Keemun Panda provides a nice, hearty Keemun at a very reasonable price (as of February 26th, 2011 it sells for $3.79 for a 4 ounce bag).  The fine, delicate, dark brown leaves give up a rich nose of smoke and red wine which continues after the tea is brewed. While the color of the infused tea isn’t very inspiring (it’s a rather muddy brown), it tastes great. Not as refined as some of the more expensive Keemuns that I’ve tried, but powerful in flavor and not at all bitter. It also has a lovely, almost cinnamon-like sweetness in the finish which becomes more pronounced as the tea cools. Please don’t add any sugar or milk to this tea. It doesn’t need it and will compromise its wonderful flavors.

Preparation Tips: I like this tea made with boiling water, 4 grams per cup and steeped for about 3 minutes. You can give it a second steep, but it isn’t as good, and at the price charged for this tea, why would you?

Pairings: This tea is lovely on its own, but it also goes quite well with many different types of food. I’ve had it with a traditional breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast as well as a lunch of sautéed Brussels sprouts and bacon. I also like it with peanut butter and bacon sandwiches.

(Yes, I really like bacon.)

In any case, Keemun Panda goes wonderfully with many things, and is robust enough to stand up to most menus.

Keemun PandaFor most of us – or at least for most of us this side of Asia – tea and black tea are almost synonymous. Though other types of tea have become more popular in the West in recent times, if someone mentions the word tea, it’s likely to conjure up an image of that old standby, the black one. And though varieties such as green, oolong and puerh may tend to be more prized by tea connoisseurs, there are those – present company included – who believe that nothing beats a cup of truly good black tea.

Though all tea is derived from the same plant – Camellia sinensis – they are processed in different ways that provide us with a total of six types – black, green, oolong, white, yellow and puerh. One of the most processed of all types, black tea leaves go through a process called oxidization that breaks down the leaves, releasing chlorophyll and tannins and giving the finished product its unique dark color and flavor.

Black tea is produced in a number of countries around the world, but for all intents and purposes the most notable of these are China, India, Sri Lanka, and a number of African countries. Much of the tea grown in Africa is of so-so quality, at best, and goes into blended teas. Teas grown in Sri Lanka are mostly of the black type and are still marketed under the name Ceylon, which is the former name of this island nation.

In Sri Lanka’s next door neighbor – India – there are three primary tea-growing regions, all of which are devoted, for the most part, to the production of black tea. Assam is the most significant of these and probably one of the world’s largest single tea-growing regions. Assam produces large quantities of lower and medium grades of tea and a much smaller quantity of high grade single estate tea. India’s Darjeeling region is primarily known for its relatively modest output of an aromatic and flavorful variety of premium tea. Nilgiri is arguably India’s least significant growing with a modest output of black tea that spans the range of quality.

Though China is probably best known for all of its other types of tea, the black tea grown there – which the Chinese sometimes refer to red tea – is worthy of mentioning. Some of the most noteworthy Chinese teas of this type include Keemun, a small-leaved variety with a faintly smoky flavor that is often a component in various breakfast tea blends. Yunnan tea is a particularly flavorful variety of black tea which is characterized by long spindly leaves. It takes its name from the Yunnan province of China, which also gives the world much of its supply of Puerh tea. Golden Monkey, though not so well known as these other Chinese black teas, is also worthy of any black tea lover’s consideration.

Don’t miss William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!

Keemun

Keemun

As noted in this recent article on The Teas Of Fujian (one of China’s many provinces), all the tea in China covers quite a bit of territory, especially given that China is the number one tea-producing country in the world. And while it might not be sporting to play favorites, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to suggest that of all of China’s tea-producing regions it’s the output of Yunnan that might be the most noteworthy.

Yunnan province is located in the southern part of China, where it butts up against Tibet, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Vietnam. Yunnan is a largely mountainous and rugged region that is home to about 45 million people.

There are two well-known tea varieties that hail from this part of the world, including one that takes its name from the province itself. Less than 15 percent of China’s tea output is black tea (which the Chinese often refer to as red tea), but Yunnan, or Dian hong, is probably one of the best-known of these varieties – with the possible exception of Keemun.

Most Yunnan teas tend to have a larger number of the buds and golden tips that are indicative of better grades of black tea and it has a full-bodied, mellow flavor that typically lacks much in the way of bitterness and astringency.

The other popular type of tea that originates in Yunnan is the variety known as Pu-erh (which, like many types of tea, is subject to a number of variations in spelling). As one tea expert put it, Pu-erh is “perhaps the most exotic tea in China’s vast repertoire of astonishing tea.” Increasingly the favorite of tea connoisseurs inside China and more recently in other parts of the world, some of the rarer aged varieties of this tea have become valuable as an investment as well as a beverage.

It would be impossible to touch on the basics of Pu-erh in the limited space available here. For a good overview of this topic, check out this recent post, The Mysterious World of Aged Pu-erh.

Don’t forget to check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!

By A.C. Cargill

Tuesdays Are for Tea…and so is the rest of the week, but Tuesdays are a bit more special. Why Tuesday? Because this day occupies a unique position in the work week.

Tuesdays Are for Tea

Tuesday isn’t a depressing Monday when you head back to work from the pleasures of a weekend spent at the beach, tending the garden, or taking the kids to the pool. It’s not “hump day” (Wednesday) where you know your work week is halfway through, your week’s tasks are closer to being done, and another weekend is being planned. It’s not Thursday, when you get a tingly feeling by knowing that Friday is just hours away and that pile in your “In” box is finally getting shorter. It’s not Friday (“TGIF!” “TGIF!”) where you’re dotting the last “i’s” and crossing the last “t’s” on that report you’ve slaved over all week while coasting through until the weekend starts. Nope, it’s none of those. It’s just plain old Tuesday.

Not any more!

Tuesdays are now “Tea Day”! It’s a day to enjoy a cupful (or potful) of your favorite tea, whether it’s a robust Keemun or a delicate white tea; share a “cuppa” with your co-workers; and have a few friends in for a chat, some tasty treats, and a freshly brewed pot of tea.

Here’s a recipe for a great Tuesday Tea Day, just to get you started thinking:

  • Select a special tea to enjoy on Tuesday (it can be a different one each week). Some of my favorites are Gunpowder, Barry’s Tea (a hearty Irish blend), and Lapsang Souchong. (Ah, the promise of great taste to come in those little dried leaves of tea!)
  • Have a special teapot set aside just for these Tea Days for brewing that special tea.
  • Set aside a time and place in your schedule to brew and enjoy this tea. Be sure it is comfortable and has a peaceful atmosphere that allows for undisturbed reflection.
  • Have all the necessary “trimmings” in place (sweetener, milk, cookies or other treats, a book to read or some other amusement, and if possible some soft music), along with the appropriate accoutrements (cups and saucers, teaspoons, small plates, napkins, etc.).

Above all, bring with you an attitude that this is “me time” – a setting whose sole purpose is a little self pampering while focusing on this time of enjoyment.

Hope this whets your appetite for a great Tuesday Tea Day and helps you figure out what you want to make this day special for you.

Of course, this whole Tuesday thing is for you people who work a 9-to-5 job in an office or elsewhere. Your work week is Monday through Friday. The rest of you, fear not. You can have the special Tuesday feeling whenever you’re ready for it. If you work Thursday through Monday, for example, you can consider Friday to be your “Tuesday” (since it’s the second work day of your work week). However, any day will do. The point it to set aside a special time to enjoy this wonderful beverage cherished throughout the world.

As for me, I’m ready for another “cuppa” – today it’s Gunpowder tea with just a sprinkling of sweetener – and a wedge of lemon meringue pie with sky-high meringue. (Don’t worry – all of the calories leak out of pie when you slice it!) Enjoy!

Check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, for more interesting articles!

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© Online Stores, LLC, and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, LLC., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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