Name: Qimen Imperial
Brand: American Tea Room
Type: Black tea, Chinese
Form: Loose leaf
Price: $18.60 for 2 ounces, $8 for a sample (as of September 2012). Use coupon code Lainiesips10 for 10% off any loose tea order.
Review: While I do have a standardized tasting process for teas that I review, occasionally I manage to subject a tea to what I call the “oops” test. This test happens when I manage to forget a tea in its brewing vessel. I’ve left teas for anywhere from 15 minutes to 12+ hours, and it’s often interesting to see which teas remain palatable after an extra-long steep.
Qimen Imperial passed this test.
The tea itself is absolutely splendid. The dry leaf is dark brown, small and even, which is the sort of thing I expect from high-end Keemun/Qimen tea. Its nose is surprisingly sweet and it brews up to a medium-bodied, chocolate-brown liquor with a decidedly sugary nose. Interestingly enough, the tea isn’t actually all that sweet (again, consistent with Keemuns that I’ve had in the past). Instead, I detect red wine (Burgundy?), dark chocolate and a tiny hint of smoke. The cup is smooth with a hint of astringency at the finish.
(Now back to the “oops” test.)
During one of my tastings of Qimen Imperial, I got distracted and forgot about the infusing tea. The next day, I opened the teapot to find a decidedly cold batch of undecanted Qimen Imperial lounging around the teapot. I cursed myself several times for my sloppy brewing of an expensive, exquisite tea and then decided to have a sip.
The tea was delicious. No bitterness, mouth-stripping astringency. Just tasty, albeit cold, tea.
Incidentally, if you don’t brew Qimen Imperial gong-fu style (short infusions), you can get a decent second steep, though it isn’t really remarkable. Given its cost, I’d recommend keeping it on hand for special occasions.
But do drink it, though. It is lovely.
Preparation Tips: Gong-fu style, with plenty of leaf to a small amount of water works wonderfully for this tea, though the standard 1 teaspoon to 8 ounces water works great, too.
Serving Tips: As you might have guessed from this post, I am a strong advocate of serving this tea whenever you can. It makes a great breakfast tea, but I’ve also enjoyed it with both Chinese and Thai food as well. Splendid on its own as a sipping tea.
Disclosures: There are affiliate links in this post. I received a free sample of this tea from the retailer.