The Subject: Lapsang Souchong from The English Tea Store.
Water temperature: 212° F
Steeping time: 5 minutes (see comments)
Tea type: Black, loose leaf, large pieces
Scents, flavorings, etc.: Pine Smoke
Aroma, dry: Smoky, earthy
Aroma in the cup, plain: Smoky, earthy
Taste, plain: Smoky, earthy, astringent, no bitterness
Aroma in the cup, enhanced: Smoky, earthy
Taste, enhanced: Smoky, astringent flavors subdued, while earthiness emphasized
2nd Infusion: Lighter color and aroma; still smoky, earthy, and astringent
“Go-Withs”: Smoked meats, dishes containing sage, stronger flavored fruits such as cranberries
How tea leaves are processed after they are picked off the Camellia Sinensis bush makes all the difference in how the tea tastes. That is very evident with Lapsang Souchong. One whiff from the plastic pouch it came in tells the story. Tea leaves are usually dried as the first step in the processing. With this tea, the drying is done by pine smoke, a lot like how various meats are cured using mesquite smoke, hickory smoke, etc.
Our first sips told us that this tea is not the usually black tea blend we consume on a daily basis (Typhoo, PG Tips, English Breakfast, etc.). The smoky, earthy, and somewhat astringent aromas of the dry leaf and steeping tea carried through to the plain tea “liquor.” (We always try tea plain first and then decide if we want to try it enhanced with milk and sweetener.) For this tea, people in the West generally drink it enhanced, so hubby prepared a bit that way, too. A mouthful showed me that this was a good alternative with the milk subduing the smokiness, emphasizing the earthiness, and covering the astringency completely. However, I found that plain or with a bit of sweetener was better.
We stayed with a steeping time of 5 minutes but think that the tea might have less astringency if steeped a shorter time, possibly on 3 minutes.
We deducted a half teapot only because of the newness of this tea to us and that hubby found it a bit disconcerting. For anyone familiar with Lapsang Souchong, I heartily recommend this one.
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Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, the rating of the tea and any opinions concerning it are always strictly objective.
Read more great tea reviews on A.C.’s blog, Little Yellow Teapot Tea Reviews!