Recently, my local(ish) grocery story re-did their tea section. They stopped carrying some of the more ‘normal’ teas (like Twinings and Bigelow) and added some new ones (like Teatulia and Le Palais des Thes). Even though most of the new teas they added are bagged (though they did add some loose, too), I couldn’t resist trying them. I was so pleased with Le Palais des Thes’ Blue of London that the next time I stopped into the store, I perused the other LPdT selections. This was one of the ones that I grabbed.
I do love smoky teas. Love them. But I am not too big on harsh tar in my smoky teas. And I just sort of expect tar in bagged Lapsang. (Probably because of the smell of the Twinings Lapsang Souchong bags that I use to make the husband’s iced tea.) So I really wasn’t expecting much from this tea. But yeah, I bought it anyway and was prepared to be disappointed.
I was wrong. It’s lovely! There’s no tar in this at all. It’s smooth and silky with no astringency and a nice, sweet ending. I will say, for a tea that is described as “the smokiest of the smoky”, it’s actually relatively mild. That’s not to say the smoke is hiding – oh no! It’s there, evoking thoughts of brisket, bacon and ham. But I was expecting harsh, strong and smoke that smacked me around. Instead it’s calming, softy smoky and has a very mellow overall feeling with a great smooth, round flavor. The ending is sweet and smooth and makes me think of caramelized sugar paired with soft smoke.
The bag gives off a great smoked-ham-with-a-honey-glaze sort of smoky smell, especially once hot water hits it. It’s mouthwatering. But after steeping for four minutes, the taste isn’t as strong as that smell. In fact, once the bag is removed, the smell mellows out to a thick, heavy fall-like smoke and sweetness. And that’s what the taste is – smoke, tea and sweetness. It’s not overly complex but it is very nice to have all three flavors present during all parts of the sip. It gives such a great overall feel to the tea – smoothness, sweetness, mellowness and cuddly fall-esque smoke.
If I had one complaint about this tea, it would be that it is almost too soft and mild. The strong smell of the steeping teabag leads me to expect more oomph in the smoke and not to have it almost on the same level as the sweetness in the tea. But honestly, I like the sweetness so much that I can’t find it in myself to complain too much about the relatively equal balance.
I’ve had more complex Lapsangs but I can’t off of the top of my head think of a sweeter one. And for a tea bag, this is rather impressive. In fact, I liked it so much that I used it to make a cheesecake (bacon cake!) for Thanksgiving. It was amazing! The sweetness of the tea worked well with the dessert aspects of the cheesecake and the smoky added a delightful hearty sophistication to it. I served the cake with cups of du Tigre and the pairing was wonderful, accenting the smokiness in the cheesecake and the sweetness in the tea. The cheesecake was so delicious; I would definitely be willing to repeat the experience. And even without the cheesecake, I’m enthusiastic about repeating this tea experience. I imagine I’ll buy this tea again (and again).
(And if anyone is interested in the recipe I used, here it is: http://pinkness.danzimmermann.com/2011/11/bacon-cake.html)