Keemun, or qimen black teas come from the Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) region of Anhui Province in central China. As with much of China’s tea culture, the technique for producing this tea was borrowed from neighboring Fujian Province. Today qimen is one of the most popular teas in China, and the flavor varies greatly from farm to farm. It is a fully oxidized tea, which means it was fully aged before it was dried, bringing out a deeply rich, dark color. Although qimen’s flavor is hard to pinpoint, it makes the perfect English breakfast tea no matter the variety.
Qimen teas vary greatly in taste, even from person to person with the same tea! Our wild-grown teas have a hint of cocoa with a wide range of other flavors, depending on the individual and even the time of day. We have heard the low-mountain version described as having an initial impression of cocoa, then switching to a smoky cedar, and finishing with a nutmeg aftertaste. The low-mountain teas are ideal for those looking for a more potent tea flavor, and our wild tea certainly fits the description.
Our Wild-mountain qimen is one-of-a-kind in that it is produced by only one small, ecologically-conscientious grower in the region. Mr. Zheng happens to be a personal friend of ours, and his passion for purity was one of the key motivators for us getting into the tea business. He is a third-generation tea master, though he is the first to go completely wild in his tea production. He spent years hiking throughout the Yellow Mountain region in search of wild-growing tea. Although tea is an indigenous species to China, it is not likely that there are any naturally growing tea fields in this region. Instead of naturally growing fields he stumbled across an old mountainside tea plantation that was abandoned generations ago. Today it has returned to the wild, with countless other plant species growing amidst the sprawling tea trees. Only the strong survive! He purchased the land and now hikes up with a team twice per year to pick the feral leaves and bring them down on their backs.
His motivation was purity and nature. He wanted to taste tea the way it was meant to be. He knew that tea growers always have their own supply of tea just outside their homes, tea they didn’t water, weed, or adulterate in any way. He noticed an obvious difference between a wild-grown tea and a carefully farmed tea, and the wild-grown teas always beat out the farmed teas on taste.
He claims that tea’s versatile nature is not limited to processing and weather conditions. He believes that tea has the unique ability to soak up the life-essence and flavor of plants around it, through the soil and roots. He says that properly, organically grown monoculture teas can be very good, but they are still just farmed plants. He believes tea is a superfood that requires more than just buzz words like “organic” and “ecological”. When other plants are growing amidst the tea, the soil chemistry changes. Hence, the tea flavor changes to something far beyond organic. He says that only the strong survive, since he uses no fertilizer what-so-ever, and he doesn’t even water these feral mountain trees. Mr. Zhang says you can even taste the difference between different tea trees on his wild mountainside.
His goal is to offer this pure product to the world, so that farmers on the mountain tops aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the beauty of a genuinely pure and wild tea. And he promises that Qimen is only the beginning!