I find that the best way to enhance one’s ability to differentiate between and learn to identify teas from various regions is to do a side-by-side comparison. Today, I am comparing two black teas from very different regions. Therefore, the teas should have significantly different characteristics.
The first tea is an Orange Pekoe (OP) black tea from Poabs Organic Estates. This estate is located in the Nelliyampathy Hills in Chittur Taluk, Palakkad District, Kerala state of South India. Here is a quote from the Poabs Organic Estates website, “Kerala state, known as “God’s Own Country”, is a tropical paradise famous for its enchanting backwaters, lush green hills, ayurvedic systems, and cultural heritage, and attracts ecotourists from around the world. Through sustainable agriculture, Poabs Organic Estates makes a positive contribution to the ecosystem.” To visit the Poabs Organic Estates website, please click here. In addition to tea, Poabs grows many vegetables and spices, as well as coffee.
The second tea is the famous Keemun Congou Hao Ya grade A black tea from Anhui Tea Imports and Exports. This company owns about 20,000 hectares (nearly 50,000 acres) of tea plantations in and around Qimen county, Anhui Province, China. They produce many styles of tea in addition to this famous black tea that has been used in English Breakfast blends throughout tea’s European history. The Camellia Sinensis Sinensis cultivars are used to produce Keemun black teas.
Let’s see how these vastly different black teas compare. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of these two teas are quite different. The Poabs OP have a light to dark brown color, while the Keemum is black with some golden tips. The leaves of the Poabs OP are fairly large and rolled, with an occasional twig being visible (see photo). The Keemun leaves are much smaller and finer, twisted, no sticks, and obviously contains some tips. The Poabs OP leaves give scents of light molasses, wood, spices, and baked biscuits. The Keemun leaves give off scents of cocoa, malt, and other characteristics that remind me of dry red wine. The Poabs OP has a more spicy and woody character, while the Keemun is sweeter.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in ceramic professional tasting sets. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes.
The first infusion of the Poabs OP produced a liquor with a orange color with a red tint. The Keemun liquor had a darker orange color, almost red. Both were clear and transparent. The aroma of the Poabs OP had floral, citrus, dry wood, and spicy scents. The Keemun had scents of pine wood, burgundy wine, and light floral. The Poabs OP had a brighter aroma, while the Keemun was bold. The Poabs OP had a medium-full body, with a slightly dry feel. The Keemun had a full body, with a dry feel like a burgundy wine. The Poabs OP had notes of spice, dry wood, citrus, and light floral in the taste. There was a moderate astringency. The aftertaste was spicy and floral. The Keemun had bold notes of pine, burgundy wine, and light floral. There was a mild astringency. The aftertaste was winey and lightly floral.
The infused leaves of the Poabs OP have a dark green to brown color. The leaves are fairly large fragments with an occasional twig. This indicates a cultivar that produces a larger leaf, perhaps an Assamica or other hybrid. The aroma has scents of wood, spice, and light sweetness.
The infused leaves of the Keemun have a uniform copper color. The leaves are rather fine fragments with some tips being present. These fragments indicate the smaller leaves produced by the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis cultivar known to be used in Keemum teas. The aroma has scents of toast, pine, and resin.
Both types of tea leaves were infused a second time. Although the general characteristics remained the same from infusion to infusion, it seemed to me that the Poabs OP retained stronger properties than the Keemun. This could be due to the larger leaf fragments of the Poabs OP. Both teas produced tasteful infusions with fairly strong bodies.
The conclusion: although these two black teas are much different, both have their advantages. The Poabs OP had a bright smell and taste, which I believe would be more palatable to lesser experienced tea drinkers. There is no need to add milk to this Poabs OP. The Keemun had a bold aroma and taste, with a full body, which is why it is so popular among more experienced tea drinkers and those who like to add milk or cream. However, it certainly does not need milk or cream to be highly enjoyable. Basically, a person’s preference between these two teas will come down to how bold and heavy they like their tea. A drinker with a lighter preference will certainly prefer the Poabs OP, and a drinker with a bold preference will prefer the Keemun.
Thank you to Poabs Organic Estates and Anhui Tea Imports and Exports Company for providing the samples used in this comparison. Both are excellent teas, and I truly enjoyed this comparison. Cheers!