This is my first experience with a loose leaf tea from The Republic of Tea. I have had other TROT teas in their tea bags, (pods?) at Panera and Sweet Tomatoes and was not all too impressed. I had the opportunity to try their full leaf Keemun 1110 tea, and had a much better experience with this tea.
The product is contained in a nice 3.5 oz reusable tin, which is a very nice touch that they do not charge for tins. On their website refills may be purchased for a small discount as well. Opening the tin, this has a very distinct aroma for a Keemun. There is definitely a smoky element to this tea, but not to the level of a lapsang souchong, in this tea the smoke is more in the background than the forefront. The dry leaves themselves have a very earthy smoky smell, but it definitely becomes smoother after infusion. The leaves are cut finely, in the style of all Keemun, there was hardly any dust at all. The Republic of Tea recommends bringing water to a roaring boil, however I usually do not like to brew my tea that hot. I tried both ways, brewing the tea at a rolling boil, and also at about 200 degrees. The tea stood up well to the high heat, it did not become overly bitter, although it was considerably stronger than when brewed at 200 degrees. This is more of a personal preference, for those who want a very strong tea, the tea will be fine in a roaring boil. See my brewing suggestions here. Note that boiling water will extract much more caffeine. I let the tea steep for 4 minutes, the tea turned a very nice amber brown color. The smell of the brewed leaves was almost like burnt caramel with smoke. The tea itself was decent for a keemun. I was dissapointed that It did not possess any floral elements that is characteristic to many keemun. This is a tea produced in gongfu style, so it does have a much bolder flavor than younger keemuns with tips. This is not a very complex tasting cup, the smoke seems to overwhelm any delicate notes. There is a hint of bittersweet chocolate in the background. The second steeping does remove some of the smoke, opening up more of the chocolate and the caramel that I smelled in the leaves. It was actually more pleasant than the first steeping. The color stayed amber, and the flavor held up very well for multiple infusions.
The Republic of Tea Keemun 1110 is a good tea for everyday drinking. It is a good strong cup of black tea to drink in the morning to wake up. It is a very full bodied tea with a rich texture in the mouth. I was wary of trying this tea because of prior negative experiences with this company, but I enjoyed this tea enough to want to try other varieties from TROT. It is very well priced at $13.50/3oz, which makes it accessible as a tea that can be drunk often.