Subtle Roast Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong

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Oolong Tea
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Cedar, Earth, Honey, Pine
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Edit tea info Last updated by Dinosara
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205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 45 sec 12 oz / 354 ml

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From Verdant Tea (Special)

Tea of the Month Reserve Club – January 2013

In all truth, Wang Shilin is devoted first and foremost to his teapots. He is an avid collector of some of the very best contemporary yixing in China. When he tracks down a tea, it has to be the very best, because its flavor will be imparted to his teapots. This Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong was tracked down to steep in the famous Zhang Quanlin’s purple clay pots for its rocky elements and crisp subtle smoke.

Of all the Lapsang Souchong we have tried, this might be the very best. Not for intensity of flavor, but for the balance, nuance and subtlety. This tea makes you understand why a smokey flavor compliments Wuyi tea. It brings out all the rocky sweet caramel flavors of Wuyi and intensifies them through the careful, hand-tended pine and resin smoke.

Learn more about Wang Shilin:

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14 Tasting Notes

15139 tasting notes

mmmm i had this earlier in the day but forgot to log it. Took it with me on my afternoon walk with my other half. We won’t get much time to spend together over the next couple of days – he’s got a staff meeting tonight, and then tomorrow i’ve got a work function to go to, while he’s at dodgeball so really, we won’t be hanging out until tuesday dinner, before he’s off to raid for the evening. heh

I will be sad when this one is gone if only because i am a fan of the smoothness mixed in with the smoke and a little maple syrup :)


I admire people who take walks in frigid temps. So not me. But yes, I admire.


hahahaha on our first date, my other half and i walked for 4 hours…

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3294 tasting notes

The January tea of the month reserve club package arrived last week. Part of me feels that being a member is perhaps more money than I should be spending, but so far I have not been disappointed!

When I opened this first one, I was immediately caught up in the aroma of the dry leaves. Smokey & sweet, it brought up images of kettle corn, being made in large kettles the old fashioned way. The smokiness made me thing of a fine pipe tobacco as well. There are other faintly familiar aromas that I’m having a hard time placing. Like canned condensed milk (crazy, I know, but there is a hint of it) This is a very complex & interesting tea!

5G of tea + 4 oz Gaiwan (rinse) X 4 secs (+ 2 secs each steeping)

I’d like to say at this point that I have not always been all that into Lapsang Souchong. Having said that, I’ve been sitting here, sipping cup after cup. I’ve never steeped Lapsang this way, & I was missing out!
The smokey flavor is there, especially in the initial steepings, but not in your face.
There is a real nice sweetness that expands with each steeping. It brings to mind the aforementioned kettle corn, with it’s caramelized brown sugar.
I lost count, but after several steepings there is a creamy mouthfeel & the sweetness lingers, making me think of some kind of vanilla pudding topped with brown sugar that’s been given the flambe treatment. The smoke is still there, but in a very pleasant subtle way.
In the later steepings the sweetness gradually dissipated, giving way to a ‘rocky’ taste, a bright feeling on the tip of my tongue, & yet there were still sprinkles of sugar on top.
I actually made it through 15 courses, although admittedly I only drank about half of some of the cups, combining the 2nd half into a jar, which is in the freezer to chill. I’ll report on that in a little while.
A very yummy tea! Thank you David & Wang Shilin! I will savor it!


Gah! I’m still waiting on mine to arrive! whimper first month I’m getting it so i’m stupid excited!

Terri HarpLady

I enjoyed last months offerings, but to be honest, I think this month will be even better! I’ve still only tried one of them, but they all sound interesting!


I jumped on the band wagon this month in part because it’s the winter months. I’m not as big a fan of the greens/spring time type teas so i figure now would be a good time to try it and see if i can continue to afford this treat.

Terri HarpLady

I’ll look forward to reading your notes, as I feel our tastes are similar :)


i think it might have come today…but no one was home to receive it so now i have to wait until tomorrow lesigh

Terri HarpLady

awwww…poor baby…



Bah! Also the post office just randomly decided not to let me know they had tried to deliver something back at the beginning of January…so it was sent to the undeliverable hell…and they MIGHT be able to get it for me..but it may take 3 weeks. And the sad part? no one cal tell me where the package is from… Also i got the final notice yesterday…which told me they were going to return the package on january 5th…. 10 days past sigh

Terri HarpLady

all I can do is offer a hug {{{{{Sil}}}}}

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676 tasting notes

There are two kinds of wood you need for a good fire in a wood-stove, soft wood,like cedar to get the fire going, and hard wood, like oak for the fire to last a long time.

When I lived in the Sierra Mountain town of Paradise, one of the 6 girls that lived in my house was Susan. Her father was a tree feller. (That’s what you call them) Tree felling is a dangerous job, and when he wasn’t felling trees, he was drinking, so Susan stayed with me and her dad paid for her room and board with firewood. We had wood all Winter cut and stacked with bundled kindling. During power outages, we had heat! Cedar and Oak!

Compared with the 5000 foot altitude I live at now, 2000 feet doesn’t seem like much of a mountain, but where I live now is flat and dry. Paradise was mountain forest with tall pine and oak.
In the Fall and Winter, the smell of smoke from many wood fires was delicious wafting through the trees.

I absolutely LOVE the smell of a damp forest and wood smoke!
I LOVE the smell of the smoke early in the morning on a sunny, cold day holding a cup of hot tea in my hands, wrapped in a blanket while sitting on the back porch warm and happy.

Smoke means BBQ and 4th of July (the dumb little houses that smoke and do nothing else, remember them? And punks…those things that come with sparklers?).

So many people have memories of camping or hiking with friends when they drink a smoky tea. My grandkids call Lapsang Souchong ‘Memory Tea’.

This tea is NOT a Souchong! Souchong means: A tea made from the larger older leaves of the shoot. A lower grade of tea leaf.

This smoked tea is a high grade Oolong. Something Very Special!

I had a sampling of this tea before, so I took some of my tea to share with friends who I knew were NOT fond of roasted Oolongs but DID like traditional Lapsang Souchong. What would they think?

Joe prepared the tea according to the Verdant instructions, short 5 second steeps in a Gaiwan.
The flavor was lightly smoky, smooth and sweet. We had some trouble tasting further nuances in the tea with such short steeps so we decided to throw caution to the wind and do a 3 minute steep.

This was more like it we agreed! Longer Steep wins!
Sweet and silky smooth, but with whisper light smokiness.
The honey caramel Oolong base created a fat oozy syrup that coated the inside of my mouth…moving slowly from the back to the front.
I was toying with the idea of fruitiness but couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Maybe Fuji Persimmon. I don’t know, not sure.

I drank some more of this tea this morning, and took a picture. It was a time to reflect alone on wood fires and my life in Paradise. Time there with family and the 6 girls who came to me in High School and are now 40 year old women (including my daughter).
My parents, and grandmother are buried in that town.

You don’t have to be hit over the head with strong smokiness to have sweet memories, and this tea has given me all the gentle beauty I could desire.

I suppose that I’m like an old teapot that needs good tea to keep it well seasoned.

I’ve said this before, I hope this tea (or one like) it becomes available permanently.

Terri HarpLady

Yes! This is a tasty one!
Lovely review, ms Bonnie!


What a lovely, evocative review!


I loathe lapsang souchong…but I came to learn that ‘real’ lapsang is from a very specific estate (you can find more details in ‘the story of tea’) and that imitations have cropped up (pun intended) and some even rely on ‘flavoring’ oils….If you get a chance, the Tao of Tea at one point had a Bohea, which was one of the most sublime smoked teas I have ever had and I was stunned by it…it was layered and mellow, sweet and voluptuous in the mouth. If I can’t find the good lapsang…then the only way you will find this triple bagged in my tea locker, will be for use as an ingredient in thai prawn soup, or homemade BBQ sauce, or for Chinese tea eggs.


I have a LS that I like quite a bit, but this tea here is another story altogether. I know about the other real Lapsang too…I read.
The LS I cook with has a sweet smoke and comes from my town, look up the Happy Lucky’s Lapsang Souchong here on Steepster, people like it. This smooth smoke Oolong, ah…not the same league at all. This is an elegant tea!

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2201 tasting notes

Lapsang and I are not friends. I barely tolerate roastiness in my teas, much less full on smoke. So I wasn’t thrilled to see this one in the reserve club package but I decided that I would try it anyway to be a good sport. Plus it’s supposed to be “subtle”.

Immediately I smelled the smokiness of the dry leaf, and the minute the hot water hit the dry leaf the smell of burned, ashy wood filled the room. I basically ended up doing two rinses because the first steep was still way to ashy to me.

I have to say, beyond the smoke, there is some tasty flavors in this tea. There is a lovely honeyed maltiness that I wasn’t expecting. After a few steeps the smoke has actually become subtler, and I can enjoy the tea more. I can see how this is an exceptional Lapsang, even if I can’t quite fully appreciate it. Still, I will never understand the love of smoke in teas. More power to you guys who like them, but that is one flavor profile that I will never get into,

So does anyone want the second half of my pouch (7g left)? I’d love to send it to someone who would appreciate it more than I.


If you don’t find any other takers I’d be interested in tasting it :)

Terri HarpLady

I didn’t used to care for it, but interestingly, I’ve begun to develope somewhat of a liking. The same thing has happened with Earl Grey. The first time I tasted cheesecake I didn’t like it either…


Oh man, I’d have been all over this one had Stephanie not beat me to it! :)

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1113 tasting notes

I decided to try to finish up some samples that had been languishing. I still have enough for ONE more cup of this fella. I really like it but apparently I was not in the mood this afternoon like I thought I was. Maybe its just too hot and humid outside for warm smoked tea?


Oh yeah, drinking smoky teas in hot weather doesn’t sound right.


What about cold smoked tea, I wonder?

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417 tasting notes

Ok. So, smoked teas aren’t my favorite. Also, you should never take my tea ratings as being what I think the objective quality of a tea is. My ratings are just for me, and they’re a measure of how much I like to drink a tea.

It’s smokey, of course. This was actually more smokey than I expected after having another “subtle” Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong from Aroma Tea.

In the first steep there was the aroma of hard cinnamon candy, but I couldn’t find it again after that. There was also the aroma of molasses. There are lots of woodsy/forest smells. This tea has a bitter note mid-palate which I have tasted before, but I have a hard time describing. It’s something similar to the flavor of that delicate layer of “skin” that covers a walnut.

I wish I knew what kinds of vegan food to pair with a tea like this. While I like this tea, I don’t like it enough to save it for drinking on its own.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

Same here, there are very few times smoked tea is my liking :D I think usually roasted tea can be very tricky..


It seems like a difficult balance to enhance the flavor of the tea with smoking without covering up a lot of the tea’s flavor. I am biased here, but I suspect in the case of many Lapsang Souchongs much of the purpose of smoking the tea is to cover up the fact that the tea was of poor quality to begin with.

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206 tasting notes

Hmmmmmm….too strong for me. Its an expertly crafted blend but just not for me. I could see myself cooking with this type of tea.
Thank you Stephanie for the sample.


Yeah, lapsang-y, heh

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1501 tasting notes

Okay, more research needed before going further into this tea. I smell and taste Lapsang smokiness, yet Steepster tells me it’s an oolong, which is normally something (I find) I have a strong, severe reaction to within minutes of drinking. I get violently nauseous, and while that’s all that happens, it’s really quite horrible. This is the first oolong in… many years… that I’ve had zero reaction to. Nice! This makes me think it’s a lapsang though instead of an oolong, especially because of the taste, so I’m off to figure out what’s what, and why.

…… and I’m back. Okay, so Lapsang is really only referring to the roasting process, which of course makes sense (although I do feel a bit silly). So it’s a roasted oolong, and that’s why I’m getting campfire/pine needles out of this. It’s earthy and slightly sweet, with lots of smoke and woodsy elements to it. I also get something gummy, resin-like out of this, maybe myrrh? Dunno.

I’ll have to re-steep this a few times to see what else I can get out of it. Verdant’s descriptions of cream and chocolate? Far from this experience for me, so far.

Thank you Sil for generously sharing this with me; I realize it’s no longer available, and quite pricey to boot. Truly appreciated!

Flavors: Cedar, Earth, Honey, Pine

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

Glad it didn’t make you nauseous! Sorry about that…


That’s interesting, I have a similar reaction when I have more than two cups of black tea in a row, or if the two cups I have happen to be too strong.


Sil, it’s really okay… I’m actually glad I just drank it! If I’d checked I would have just passed it along, and I’m so glad I went for it instead.

Kat_Maria, I used to have a similar reaction, then that stopped outright. Now it’s just (I guess certain) oolongs. I wish I could figure out the rhyme or reason behind it.

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