This review must be read with the understanding that I absolutely love smoky flavoured food and drinks. I’m a big fan of Islay single malt scotch whiskys. I love smoked meat. Smoked fish. Campfires. So it is with that bias in mind, plus the fact that I love this tea, you should read this following review.
The first time I tried a lapsang souchong tea was in Belfast, Ireland. The tea was a bagged version. I think it was Twinnings, but I honestly cannot recall. It was very early in my tea education. I was a tea neophyte at the time, but sophisticated enough to realise that bagged teas were a perversion of the fresh, well made, loose leaf versions. To digress a little here, I use to hate white teas. Absolutely hate them! All my experiences came from bagged versions of white, which would be sacrilege at this point in my life! Then I got my hands on a very fine silver needle, and a fine bai mu dan and all that changed. The sophisticated nature of those teas became apparent and all was right in my world. Anyway, that bagged LS was horrible. It tasted like rubber, with a slight burning taste. Almost like the zenith of a riot. For note, buses and cars use to burn during riots outside of my family home in Belfast. It is a smell that is seared inside my snoze! So I forgot about LS due to that experience which rather sullied my expectations.
Then I sourced this particular LS. I got it because I started to get into smoky scotches and thought I’d give it another go. I was not disappointed. The smell of the loose leaf is extremely smoky and strong with a definitive pine characteristic. There is, thankfully, not a hint of riot in this tea! This tea was infused for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Five grams of tea was used per 175 ml cup, a little strong, but I like my tea this way. The smell of the infused liquor is again, very heady, smoky and pine. But there is also a spicy creaminess which gives this tea more character. I can see how a lapsang souchong could become one dimensional, but the spicy, creamy notes add an extra layer to this tea which I enjoy. The first taste is smoke. Then pine. Then malt. The spicy characteristic sits on your tongue playfully, whilst the creamy flavor adds a smoothness to the finish. The aftertaste is all campfire. It transports you to your roots, of a primordial atavistic past. There is not one hint of astringency to this tea. Which always surprises me, every time! No bitterness either. It is wonderful. It does remind me of a really, really high end scotch whisky. That smooth character, the lack of acridity, the complexity of flavor.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But it is mine, and there are others out there like me, I think.
To give you an idea of how strong the smokiness in this tea is, in our Early bird blend, we use 0.8 g of LS per 25g of finished tea. So it makes up about 3% of that tea. Strong stuff that must be respected if you are going to blend with it. At least this particular lapsang souchong is.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cream, Pine, Smoke, Spicy