Producing a supurb Keemun - 2013 Harvest

I returned to the factory to cup last night’s production, and would like to think that my involvement was beneficial. After cupping the first batch of last night’s production I was just floored by how good it turned out.

The aim for this batch was to retain floral notes without the excessive bitter astringency commonly associated with today’s lower “fermented” Keemuns. After long discussions with the factory's head tea maker, Mr. Li, we decided to give this batch of excellent material a longer withering period and then use the standard oxidation time for the rest of the production. It work out just exquisitely, final cupping shows nice rich floral notes with no grassy bitterness.

I am still amazed on how floral a black tea like this can get! I took the entire production of forty kilos. The factory will be sorting out all unqualified leaves and will pack the tea tomorrow for shipment. I will give my final OK when I return for one more cupping to confirm acceptance. I can’t wait to share this tea with anyone that will listen to me!

Empty Fermentation Trough

Empty Fermentation Chamber - Interior

This second batch was aimed towards producing a "traditional" keemun black tea. This batch was given more time both in the "fermentation" trough and the "fermentation" chamber. The process was watched VERY carefully to make sure no over-fermentation occurred. The aim is to produce a deep red liquor with the trademark "keemun" sweetness and unique fragrance. The mouth-feel must be smooth and the sweet finish must be long lasting.

This morning's cupping showed excellent results. I asked for one final charcoal firing to reduce moisture to 6% and to further heighten the aromatics. The final firing helped seal in the flavor. Tea fired correctly can remain fresh tasting for much longer period of time. Charcoal firing is the preferred method when performed with skill. Otherwise, this is where your favorite Keemun takes on that annoying smokiness that often exhibited with a lot of the Keemuns produced. I asked the factory to finish firing and sorting by tomorrow morning when I return for a final cupping before departing to Fuzhou for this year’s Jasmine tea planning with my people there.
Sorting the tea by hand, selecting only the finest leaves, removing leaves of lesser quality.

After cuppings, I agreed to go to lunch but with NO ONE who smokes! This time, my head of gray hair helped me. Since most of them are younger, they deferred to the old guys who may have a heart attack (I use the heart attack scenario to full effect whenever I can).