From mythical origins and misty mountains comes one of The Tea Centre’s most mysterious brews: Keemun Finest Mao Feng tea.
While the most common association is with green teas, mao feng is actually any tea grown on the Huangshan Mountain. This mountain is in the Anhui province and part of China’s larger Yellow Mountain range. As well as provenance, mao feng is always hand plucked, comprising of solely the buds and first leaves of a tea plant.
Geography, climate, and perhaps a little folklore all play a part in why mao feng is such an elevated brew—both literally and figuratively—in the eyes of tea enthusiasts.
Moreover, the Anhui province is home to the city of Qimen, a two-hour drive from the mountain. In fact, Keemun is a Western romanisation of Qimen. The tea was given this name after a merchant from Qimen first made this black tea in 1875.
Ready to ascend into the clouds and discover more about mao feng? Let’s begin!
The ancient legend behind mao feng tea
The origins of mao feng are legendary and stem all the way back to ancient China. A long time ago, a young scholar and beautiful tea farmer fell in love on Huangshan Mountain.
They were set to marry before disaster struck! A powerful landowner saw the woman plucking tea one day and made her marry him instead. While the landowner kept the woman locked away, he killed the scholar for good measure.
It was only when the woman could escape did she discover what the landowner had done. Distraught, she went to the scholar’s grave on the slopes of Huangshan Mountain and began crying over his remains.
Legend has it that the woman is still crying, becoming the rain that consistently falls over the mountainside. Moreover, her tears are said to have transformed the scholar’s remains into the first mao feng tea tree.
The woman’s tears and passion are the mist and humidity that make Huangshan Mountain the ideal location for growing tea all year round.
How is mao feng tea made?
Does Huangshan’s climate comes from a woman’s tears or nature? Our scepticism leans us towards the latter. However, we do know that it’s one of the best climate for growing Chinese tea.
Mao feng translates to ‘fluffy peaks’ in Chinese, and the meaning is two-fold. Specifically, ‘fluffy’ refers to the perpetual mist surrounding the tea plantations and the downy buds that mao feng tea bushes are famous for producing.
Being so high up in the mountains (Huangshan tea plantations are 800m above sea level) ensures that temperatures and humidity are unvarying. This creates a largely controlled environment for growing delicious tea.
Moreover, all mao feng gardens are built into the mountain slopes. As a result, fresh rainwater naturally irrigates the tea bushes when continuing its journey down the mountainside.
When the tea bush is ready for harvest (usually around April), tea farmers hand-pluck the leaves in a special way. This hand picking technique ensures that the batch comprises only downy buds and the first few leaves of the tea plant.
Upon harvest, the batch is then driven down the mountain and off to Qimen. There, it is turned into Keemun finest black tea! This is also where our mao feng tea diverges from its more famous green tea counterparts.
What is Keemun tea?
The green mao feng leaves become black upon oxidation using a specific Keemun-style withering technique. This technique was born in the late 1800s under the supervision of Yu Quianchen. Yu, in turn, took inspiration from tea merchants in the Fujian province.
If Fujian sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the traditional home of lapsang souchong! While Keemun is not traditionally smoked over pinewood like lapsang souchong, the two brews share similar smoky characteristics for this reason. Prior to Yu, the Anhui province only made green teas.
What makes Keemun special and different to many other black teas is it’s left to wither for longer in the sun among the Qimen forests. This makes for a slower oxidation process, allowing the leaves to take in piney aromatics from nearby trees. It also creates a nuanced nutty flavour in the leaves.
The black tea leaves the undergo pan-frying. This not only halts further oxidation but, in combination with the piney aroma, gives Keemun its smoky taste. Moreover, since Keemun Finest uses mao feng leaves, you’ll notice that its leaf boasts a lighter and sweeter taste in comparison to Keemun OP.