Be careful with this tea! I say this because I found that I must very carefully stress-test (as my engineer friends tell me) this tea to find the optimal brewing time. Use a near to boiling water and test steeping times every thirty seconds until you hit about four minutes as each variety of the Lapsang will differ wildly in its tolerance of steeping time. I have seen as much as a three minute variance. That being said when the flavor of the tea and the charcoal combine just so, the tea becomes something quite magical. This is a perfect winter tea, in fact it has become my tradition to celebrate the coming of winter with this tea. Enjoy this tea after being out in the cold.
The flavor is smokey, charcoal, but also woody, almost meaty (yes, as in red meat), and some times you can get a hint of piney goodness. If brewed too quickly it just tastes like ash, and if brewed too long it becomes acrid, dusty, and just disgusting. Also, drink this tea while it is still hot to warm. Letting it cool can make it bitter.
This tea does go well by itself, but it also benefits from a small amount of sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup) and milk (but not cream in my opinion). This tea does not work well in the therapeutic use of a “Hot Toddy” because it will leave a sore throat scratchy, but it can be enjoyed with whiskey. As you will often find this tea mixed with others in blends at your local tea store, I recommend mixing a small amount of it with a bright flora tea (like an Assam), or with an Earl Grey (especially if the Earl Grey’s bergamot is a little on the aggressive side)