Post By: Bennet
Keemun Gong Fu is widely considered to be one of the finest black teas in the world. It was so highly regarded that the Chinese sometimes referred to it as ‘the prince of tea’, such was the reputation of its exquisite flavour and rich fragrance, along with the fact that it is one of the most valuable black teas produced in China. Although this tea is perhaps not so well known in the West as certain Indian black teas, many of us have probably been drinking it without being aware of it, as it is often used in combination with other varieties in English Breakfast tea blends.
The story of Keemun Gong Fu can be traced back to just one man, a businessman and Civil servant from Keemun county in the the Anhui province in the second half of the nineteenth century. While travelling in Fujian, he observed the black tea production techniques used in that province, and was inspired to try to recreate them in his home town, where only green tea had been cultivated previously. He used local tea bushes, so creating a completely new and unique tea, and the tea’s popularity today is testimony to the project’s success.
This popularity is in part down to Yuan Long Hu, who in 1916 cultivated a wild tea crop in Keemun, and transplanted many Keemun bushes to different parts of the province. He visited each plantation regularly to teach producers the techniques developed in his hometown in the 19th century and to ensure that the highest standards were maintained in the production of any crop bearing his town’s name. He also sold the tea throughout the country and beyond, and Keemun Gong Fu began to make a name for itself outside of China for the first time.
The Anhui province where the tea is grown is temperate, with abundant rainfall. The region is home to the famous and stunning Huang Shan mountain range, which shelters the tea producing areas in a moist microcosm of swirling mists and gentle showers. A network of small streams and fresh springs criss-cross web-like throughout the region, which nourishes the soil with a unique complex of minerals, creating an incredibly lush and fertile terroir.
The picking season for the tea begins in spring, and harvests continue periodically for several months. In each successive round of picking, less tea is harvested, and the harvests themselves become less frequent and tend to tail off some time in late summer or early autumn. The tea is prepared by rolling whole tea leaves into thin strips, taking care they do not crumble or break. In fact, it is from this procedure that the tea takes its name, since Gong fu can be translated as ‘careful skill’.
Keemun Gong Fu [LINK] is ideal as an invigorating breakfast tea, and if feeling particularly English is even appropriate for drinking with milk – although it would never be dreamt of in China!