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Thank you so much to both David Duckler and Master Bi for this opportunity!

This is one incredible tea. I must admit that I have never had a Lapsang Souchong before this tea, as I always had the assumption I would dislike the smokiness. I occasionally like the hint of “smoke” flavors in some higher roast oolongs or pu’ers, but the smell of actual thick smoke has me gagging. This tea, though, has shown me what Lapsang Souchong can really be all about. It is the Truth of flavored teas. The smoke enhancements are so well integrated into the leaves’ flavor profile here that it is impossible to tell where the tea ends and the flavoring begins. They seem one and the same. The flavors are so well enmeshed and it produces this savory, textural beauty of taste. And it certainly is a taste like no other. I’ll take you through my gong fu session, but the images and descriptions I use to convey this tea I will admit that I would have been confused and possibly even turned off by them if someone had described them to me when discussing a tea. Yet, somehow, this tea manages to turn this unlikely flavor profile into something incredible.

I use about 2 grams of dry leaf in my 100 mL gaiwan, a bit less than a quarter full. I first came up with this ratio because I was being stingy and wanted to make this small sample last forever, but [thankfully!] it turned out to work quite well. While I’m on the topic, I’ll mention that they look a great deal like a heavily roasted mi lan xiang’s dry leaves.

Wash: 3 +/-1 seconds

Steep 1 (4"): Based on the smell of the wet leaves, and especially the dry leaves (and also my [incorrect] perception of what smoked tea was), I expected the first sip to assault me with deep, smoky flavors and a drying texture. Psht! This was nothing like that. This is juicy. It’s savory. It certainly is thick, but has the most brilliant, clear amber liquor to juxtapose it. I think the best way to describe this taste is to attempt to call to mind a perfectly barbecued pork brisket. Yes, that’s correct. Imagine a succulent, moist brisket seasoned with a humble spread of salt and a dry rub of natural spices allowed to slow cook for hours in a smoker with natural hickory or mesquite wood. Perhaps add a touch of citrus zest when it’s finished. Yup. That’s this tea to me, who has lived in the southern US his whole life, and grown well-accustomed to the flavors of awesome barbecue.

Steep 2 (10"): Oh yeah, so if you could tell by the last steep’s description, the whole “smoky” taste wasn’t that overbearing. In fact, it wasn’t until this steep that I was actually made well aware of it at the top of each sip. Like I mentioned before, this tea isn’t boasting it’s smoky flavor. Instead, the smoke intensifies and draws out the depth and interesting notes of the tea leaves, putting a slight spin on them. The savory goodness and salty/spiciness also increases here, all coming together with the meaty flavors, rounding out the body and creating a very deep complexity. The mouthfeel becomes thicker and spicier, and with the increased “meaty” flavors, becomes almost “chewy.” There is also a tingling felt all over the surface of the tongue. This is also the first point where I can really tell that this is tea. That “pure” black tea flavor becomes very prominent, and one can pick out the inherent tea leaf sweetness brought into this steep.

Steep 3 (20"): At this point, all the flavor nuances kind of meet in the middle, creating an even deeper, thicker body than before. The liquor’s appearance becomes a darker golden brown to match, although none of the clarity is lost. The sweetness is also much stronger in this steep. It almost seems like a nice honey glaze on the brisket I mentioned above. Ohhhhh it’s good.

As a side note, while I was impatiently waiting for the next steep to do it’s thing, I took a sip of the still-warm wash and was astounded. Relatively speaking, it’s the best wash I’ve tasted for a tea. It’s like a reallyyyy weak version of steep 1, but twice as sweet. I’m pretty sure the next time I taste this I’m going to forget the wash…

Steep 4 (30"): So at this point the smoke becomes less powerful, actually allowing other flavors to rise above it. In this and the next steep, that sweet glaze-like flavor I mentioned from the last steep is most prominent. In the next, a honey sweetness is most apparent. This steep is very similar to the last, besides a slight apple-y flavor. Hmmmm… applewood-smoked bacon, anyone? Actually, the aroma of the wet leaves becomes very reminiscent of this, especially after the first few steeps and the smoky aromas begin to fade.

At this point, I’ll mention the aftertaste, which is thick, tangy, and smoky. The most amazing flavors really come out on the exhale after every sip.

Steep 5 (40"): From most to least expressive: honey, smoke, spice (and lots of it), meat, savory, apple, salt. The mouthfeel at this point is very spicy and lingers longgg after a sip. The insides of my cheeks and roof of mouth are left nice and tingly.

Steep 6 (1’): At this point the tea starts fading, although the same basic flavor profile as the last steep is displayed. I think I took this tea to a few more steeps the first time I tried it, but I didn’t have anything noteworthy on them.

So, all in all, this tea is a game changer. It has completely redefined what I perceive flavored or scented teas to be. There is a hand-rolled jasmine sample that came in my David’s Choice box as well, and I’m itching to try that one now that I’ve had this, just to see how the scenting has been transcended. At any rate, this Lapsang Souchong is a masterful work of art. I wish I had had something to compare it to previously, as it seems now that any Lapsang Souchong that I consume after this point will seem monotonous and dull. Ah well. Such is tea. :)

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C
Bonnie

I discussed this a bit with David today and told him how extraordinary the smoked oolong flavor is and how much I want Verdant to carry this tea. He said Master Bi’s tea’s are expensive. Bah! Even if this was only available during the Holiday’s and cost more, I’d buy it because it’s like nothing else. You are correct about the first steep being the smoked meat and the second steep being a surprise because the tea doesn’t become overshadowed by the smoke. The levels of flavor and nuances are a fine meal.

Cody

You know, Bonnie, I don’t think I would purchase this one. Maybe another sample size to keep around for a rainy day, but certainly nothing more than another session or two’s worth. I rarely find that any tea is as amazing as the first time I tried it (although I suppose aged pu’er would be, but that’s a different story). It takes me ages to get through 2oz of tea, so I rarely ever purchase anything over an ounce. I don’t have any “staple teas” that I always have on hand. I actually don’t think that I’ve ever bought the same tea twice.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love that I was able to try this Lapsang, but I’m satisfied and ready to taste the next awesome thing. That’s really what I love about tea; there is always a new tea to try that isn’t exactly like anything else out there.

Bonnie

Ah you’re a hunter. I’l try to think of you as a hunter…and if I find something special, I’ll try to remember to tell you about it! (once)

Cody

Hahaha, yeah I suppose I’m something like that. “Gotta catch ’em all,” right? I always love suggestions of things to try. I’d definitely be interested if you find a particularly fascinating specimen. ;)

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Bonnie

I discussed this a bit with David today and told him how extraordinary the smoked oolong flavor is and how much I want Verdant to carry this tea. He said Master Bi’s tea’s are expensive. Bah! Even if this was only available during the Holiday’s and cost more, I’d buy it because it’s like nothing else. You are correct about the first steep being the smoked meat and the second steep being a surprise because the tea doesn’t become overshadowed by the smoke. The levels of flavor and nuances are a fine meal.

Cody

You know, Bonnie, I don’t think I would purchase this one. Maybe another sample size to keep around for a rainy day, but certainly nothing more than another session or two’s worth. I rarely find that any tea is as amazing as the first time I tried it (although I suppose aged pu’er would be, but that’s a different story). It takes me ages to get through 2oz of tea, so I rarely ever purchase anything over an ounce. I don’t have any “staple teas” that I always have on hand. I actually don’t think that I’ve ever bought the same tea twice.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love that I was able to try this Lapsang, but I’m satisfied and ready to taste the next awesome thing. That’s really what I love about tea; there is always a new tea to try that isn’t exactly like anything else out there.

Bonnie

Ah you’re a hunter. I’l try to think of you as a hunter…and if I find something special, I’ll try to remember to tell you about it! (once)

Cody

Hahaha, yeah I suppose I’m something like that. “Gotta catch ’em all,” right? I always love suggestions of things to try. I’d definitely be interested if you find a particularly fascinating specimen. ;)

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Bio

I’m fanatic about all things tea-related. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with Wuyi yancha, aged Taiwanese oolongs, and sheng pu’ercha. Nearly all of my sessions as of late are performed gong fu, with pu’er tastings comprising probably eighty percent of them. My collection of pu’ercha is small, but growing steadily. Much of the specimens I drink daily are various samples, although I dig into a cake every so often.

I love trying new teas and I am always learning all I can about the world of tea. Hence, I spend a majority of the time I devote to tea either drinking, writing notes in my journal, or reading. But mostly drinking, as I think it should be. Since I have handwritten logs of everything I drink, I cannot usually find the extra time to log my notes here, and unfortunately my online log is underrepresented.

When drinking, I look for a tea that presents a unique experience, something that involves every sense and provides intrigue in every aspect throughout steeps. I search for teas with balanced complexity and something that makes me keep reaching for my cup. I yearn to find all the positives a tea possesses and every subtle nuance hiding among the leaves. I try to be detailed in my notes and deliver a more comprehensive view of the tea, paying attention to things other than simply flavors and qualitative aspects of aroma, such as the form of the liquor and its development in the mouth. Things like this are much easier to compare between teas, as I find them to be more consistent between sessions, and also make distinctions between a good and mediocre tea easier to make.

Teaware
Adagio UtiliTEA electric kettle.
For gong fu, a 100 mL porcelain gaiwan and a 100mL Yixing di cao qing xi shi pot dedicated to mostly young sheng pu’er.
I drink all green teas in small (maybe 450mL) glass tumblers in the traditional style, with off-boiling water.

Location

Fort Myers, Florida

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