Beware this tasting note is a big one. I wanted to compare all of Teavivre’s Keemuns within a week, since they have some of the best Keemuns and I will definitely be buying at least ONE of them. I have written individual tasting notes for these teas in the past, but this review is to compare the four. I have acquired these samples within the last six months, so I’m not sure if they are the same harvests now. All of them will be steeped at the same parameters: two tsps // 10 minutes after boiling // 2 min steep #1 // 3 min steep #2
Premium Keemun Hao Ya $15.90 for 100g/3.5 oz
First steep: I knew that the leaves of my new sample were definitely going to be different than the sample that I had from around the time Teavivre started out (I can’t believe that was only three years ago!) Sadly, I think I liked my previous sample better. The only difference in steep sessions was that last time I waited 18 minutes for the water to cool after boiling rather than ten minutes, but I have since learned that ten minutes is closer to 194 degrees. This sample is slightly more astringent (maybe it would benefit from only using 1- 1 1/2 teaspoons), it loses that hint of smokiness, it has less of that deepness of flavor that translates to a dark chocolate. There is still a hint of plum or cherry though. And this is still a very nice tea. Previously, the Premium would have been my favorite. We shall see!
[[I also tried to recapture the magic of the previous harvest and tried a cup with 1 1/2 teaspoons and 18 minutes after boiling. This time the astringency was gone that the first cup had but I also wasn’t able to find the flavor depth and the chocolate that the first harvest had. The second steep a couple minutes after boiling for a three minute steep and that cup was pretty good too – not oversteeped at all. I’m sure all harvests will be different though, so I’d keep trying samples of the Premium once in a while to see if it’s one day the same.]]
Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant $12.90 for 50g/1.75oz
First steep: The dry leaves are short, mostly black with touches of gold. This cup tastes similar to the Premium Keemun Hao Ya, but everything about the flavor is lighter. The fragrance of the cup has a hint of plum, but less plum than the Premium. It also has an astringency that translates to the chocolate flavor, but the astringency is much less than the Premium, therefore there is less chocolate flavor than the Premium. No hints of smoke are to be found in this cup, but I like my keemun to have a bit of smoke. There is a flavor to this one that isn’t found in the others that I can’t place – something like wine or muscatel. It isn’t a strong muscatel, not like a darjeeling. Very unique.
Second steep: This cup is also very nice but it has that hint of flavor like it’s oversteeped: the tree bark-like flavor. I probably shouldn’t have steeped this cup for three minutes. Not astringent at all though, just the tree bark flavor. So the Superfine Keemun has less of a bite than the others, if that is what you’re looking for.
Keemun – Grade 2 $8.90 for 100g/3.5 oz
First steep: I expected a CTC leaf, very low quality, very astringent. This tea is NONE of those things. I’d say this one is closer to the astringency strength of the Organic Superfine Keemun (the Premium and Grade #1 seem like a stronger tea). It just lacks the little hints of flavor that make the Superfine special, what I call the wine-like flavor or the muscatel. This had the same level of chocolate as the Organic Superfine. A nice burgundy cup while the dry leaves look like the same shape as the others, but they don’t have that hint of gold.
Second steep: This cup loses a lot of flavor and its replaced with that oversteeped tree flavor I don’t like. Maybe the second steeps shouldn’t be steeped for three minutes. But I guess I’m judging by first steeps anyway. An amazing cup for this price – much better than I expected.
Keemun – Grade 1 $11.90 for 100g/3.5 oz
I’m trying this one again last of the four. Even though I had it recently, I vaguely remembered the flavor and I had the feeling it would be my favorite of the four. It just happens to be the keemun for me though, it’s probably different for everyone! The dry leaves are all black. I guess the Superfine is the only one with the hints of gold leaf. For me, sometimes the astringency/ strength/ briskness/ bite / whatever you want to call it is the most important thing. This one to me could win just on the strength of the flavor. The Superfine and the Grade #2 have a lighter strength. The Premium is probably closer to this one in strength. But I know that others that have more knowledge on tea would appreciate the lightness and the special flavor hints that the Superfine has. Not me, not right now though. Maybe one day. This one has a depth to it that I love, but it’s also very sweet and chocolatey.
Second steep: This one has less of the “oversteeped leaves” flavor on the second cup, so I also like it for that. It was a bit more astringent though. If the new batch of the Premium keemun still had more of the hints of plum, I’d probably buy that one, but I think this one is currently my favorite.
OVERALL You can’t really go wrong with any of these. Any tea collection should have a nice keemun and any of these would do nicely. I can say I like them all. I have no idea how they figure out the grades for these four teas. They are all similar, but there are little things with all of them that make them slightly different. None of them really have any smoky flavor, so if that’s you’re thing, you should be safe with all of these. I do like to have a keemun I have in stock to have a bit of smoke, as I feel like that is the main characteristic of keemun. These are all amazing for a black tea anyway. I can’t live without at least ONE of them. I think all four of them are unique from any other tea I’ve tried yet. I’m very appreciative that I was able to try them before buying!