I brewed this with a well-heaped teaspoon steeped for four minutes, boiling water.
The colour is so intense a dark brown as to be opaque and almost black, with a yellowish cast round the edge of the surface circumference.
In the nose there’s a doughy element and there’s a meaty element reminiscent of Oxo or Bovril or some such thing.
In the mouth … I’m actually struggling for words, this is a bit different. First of all, as you’d expect from the seller’s notes, there’s absolutely no Lapsang Souchong taste of pine, nor is there any smokiness. It has that smoothness and body I usually link to a ‘butter’ element, but this time it’s definitely not a butter taste; perhaps I could call it toffee, but it’s not sweet – not that it’s at all harsh or bitter. It’s almost as if it ‘thickens’ the tea and it definitely gives a richness of flavour. There’s that Bovril or Oxo element – just a hint of beefiness. There’s just enough good basic tea there, but, oddly, I’m getting a rather stronger basic tea element in the aftertaste, from a second or so after swallowing, onwards. There’s the faintest hint of liquorice in there. These things blend together to give a quite savoury, meaty whole.
I could characterise this as a very ‘satisfying’, ‘soothing’, ‘comforting’ tea, but if that makes it sound like the traditional British cuppa it’s the wrong impression. This is a bit different – something out on it’s own. It’s a really excellent cup of tea.
This doesn’t seem like the kind of stuff that would bear a second infusion, but the instructions say one or two, so I’m trying a second – four minutes, again.
Surprisingly, this is still quite an intense colour. It may be a fraction less intense but I still can’t see to the bottom.
It smells almost the same, but with, perhaps, the very faintest metallic hint.
In the mouth it strikes me as a slightly lighter cup of tea than the first. That thing I was hesitant about calling toffee is now definitely a toffee element. The meaty thing is, perhaps, reined back a little. That tiny metallic hint is there, too, but I’m not sure if it’s right to call it ‘metallic’; it’s not grassy, perhaps it’s something between grassy and metallic. It’s very, very faint though, just enough to put a slightest ‘edge’ in the flavour. There’s something in the aftertaste – now, this sounds horrible, but I’m really not describing something horrible – that is reminiscent of that ‘smell of sick’ note you get in good champagne (I’ve actually seen it described as such by wine professionals, so it’s not just me being fanciful).
This is an excellent cup of tea, again, but not quite the same thing as the first one.
At £30 per 100g ($48 plus or €39 plus at the time of writing), this stuff causes some soul-searching, though. I only have a sample and I’d love to get in a stock of it; but it’s not as if it’s the only expensive tea in this batch that I’m thinking the same thing about – I can think of at least three without looking at my notes. If I gave in to the temptation, bankruptcy would loom, I think.