Having now tried this tea, I completely understand why the reviews are a bit all over the place. Even beyond the simple fact that being in a trade box might not result in optimal conditions for the leaf (no disrespect intended to the wonderful Dr. Jim, whose efforts for this community I hold in the highest respect!), the tea itself is somewhat of a puzzle box.
The first few steeps, it is entirely possible, even likely, that I referred to this teas flavor as “repugnant” and “not unlike steeping a carton of unlit Benson & Hedges”. I understand, I think, why some people described a smoke flavor while others noted none – it’s so precisely a mimic of tobacco, at least to my palate, that if like myself you have never lived near where the plant is grown the natural reaction (which I had myself at first) is to associate burning, ash, and unpleasant eye-watering bar scenes with the flavor. However, critically thinking, I cannot say there actually was any smoke present, although what was present I did not enjoy.
However, the flavor was very full. This is not necessarily good when it’s a bad flavor to your tastes, but still notable as an indicator of quality. It had unfortunate length. But the body reaction was altogether pleasant, and kept the desire to continue the session alive and kicking. It was rather a reversal of something like French fries, as a kind soul pointed out to me during pontification over this odd sample. With junk food, the mouth wants more and the body suffers. This was completely the opposite.
Son where around steep 6-7, the flavor took a complete left turn and became rather pleasant, but at the cost of the vital force that made the early steeps so penetrating. It was as if the station was abruptly changed from music you dislike to your favorite tunes, but simultaneously the volume was halved. I found myself wishing the strength of the earlier steeps had intersected somewhat with the flavor I more enjoyed – but it’s entirely possible that the flavor did not alter as much as the notes I disliked weakened, allowing me to see the treasures lying beneath the surface.
The tea did not end quickly either, although it may sound like I am implying it did – a dozen or more of the more tasty infusions ensued, they were just more of the “calm and gentle” variety as opposed to the initial “boat in a maelstrom” feel.
Perhaps next time, I shall try my hand with rather less leaf, and see if that tempers the early going. I sense I haven’t found the trick to open this puzzle box yet – but as it’s out of stock, I suppose it’s all right if I never do.
If nothing else, I found this a unique experience, and those are often worthwhile ofor their own sake.
Drink well, until next I prattle at you endlessly.