I would like to make it clear early that this is a review of the Autumn 2012 harvest of this tea. This is a very important distinction. After seeing some disappointed reviews, I felt the need to weigh in.
I had the unique fortune of trying Laoshan Black for the first time without knowing of the hype it held. I received it as a sample in an order early summer 2012, and it immediately took the highest place among my favorite teas. I won’t go into too much detail, because it’s all been said, but all the notes and nuances I would later read in reviews were accounted for. The most amazing chocolate sweet potato notes, lingering on the breath well after drinking. My only criticism would have been the texture, but this was trivial, and not enough for any other tea to overtake it for me. I ordered a good amount soon after, and it remained my favorite…
Fast forward to late January, 2013. I ran out, and placed an order for more. I recalled this harvest being called “the most chocolatey yet”, so I was extremely excited. I opened the bag. A hint of the cocoa was there, but it was not the smell I had grown so attached to. Preparing gongfu style, the wonderful chocolate aroma that would reach me from the gaiwan was no longer present. Finally tasting, there was almost nothing of the Laoshan Black I had loved before. Like a ghost of its former self, there was only a faint hint of chocolate riding below what I can only describe as a very bland and generic “black tea flavor”. Confused, I tried to rationalize. Perhaps I had brushed my teeth too recently? I stayed my criticism until my next steeping. Perhaps I ate too recently? Continuing to make excuses for it, trying all different temperatures, times, and methods, I finally was ready to admit that Autumn 2012 Laoshan Black is nothing of the tea that earned the highest regard on this site, and in our homes. It’s not “bad”, but there is nothing to the Autumn 2012 harvest that would warrant my recommending a purchase to anyone. I will give that its texture is certainly more desirable this time around, but this does little to redeem it. It is no wonder to me that Verdant is pushing their chai iteration of this tea(which is pretty good) so hard.
After trying this harvest, I felt the need to review it because I was sure some would be trying LSB for the first time, and wonder if this is really one of the most acclaimed teas available. Do not let this harvest put you off to the Laoshan Black name, or black/tea in general. I’m sure that future harvests will return what we all loved about this tea, but until then I believe it’s score should reflect it’s currently offered harvest.