Keemun Panda (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Keemun Panda (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

If pressed to choose my least favorite type of tea, I’d probably have to go with Lapsang Souchong. For those who may never have heard of it, it’s a Chinese type of black tea whose leaves are cured/flavored by exposing them to the smoke of a pine wood fire – or at least “real” Lapsang Souchong is made this way. Which is all well and good if you like that sort of thing, and I’m not averse to a little smoke in food, but when it comes to tea I have never acquired a taste for it.

I bring this up in my review of the English Tea Store’s Keemun Panda because most of the Keemun I’ve sampled thus far has a bit of smokiness to it, although it tends to be much less pronounced than you’ll find with Lapsang Souchong. I tend to run screaming when it comes to smokiness in tea nowadays, but if it’s faint enough, then I’m okay with it, and there are actually some Keemuns I’ve liked quite a bit.

Having said all that, I’ll say that this was a very fine example of the breed, but there was just a bit too much smoke there for me to add it to my list of everyday choices. According to the English Tea Store’s description, “a properly produced Keemun, such as Panda, is one of the finest teas in the world with a complex aromatic and penetrating character often compared to burgundy wines.” They also note that “the bright, reddish brew delivers a winey, fruity flavor with depth and complexity.” I’m not quite sure what “winey” means and I didn’t personally catch onto the fruitiness, but I won’t argue with the bit about the depth and complexity.

As for the assertion that this tea “takes milk well,” I’m not and never have been a milk and sugar fan, but with a tea such as this particular one I can see how such a mixture might actually work. My other point, and it’s one that I frequently make with black teas, is a caution not to oversteep. The description calls for two to five minutes in water that’s been brought to a rolling boil. My standard steep time for any black tea is two minutes and this one might do quite nicely with longer times but I’d caution readers to start short and work up to the longer times that can sometimes bring out undesirable flavors in any tea.

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