Mmm, what a nice full-bodied smokiness when I open the packet. It took me a while to get into Lapsang Souchong, but now I really enjoy it. For me a good one has a balance between the smokiness and the tea flavors, and the smokiness is itself made up of individual sub-components. Let’s see how this one measures up.
I see that they’re recommending 5-7 minutes steeping time, so I’ll go with 6 and assess it there. The brew is a clear dark golden-brown, and it smells really good. I’m getting a malty scent in with the smoke, and more – just an overall savory quality to it, like a well-cured meat (apologies to my vegetarian friends).
Taste: nice! Good balance there between the elements. The smoke is complex enough for my taste, and features the maltiness I smelled before as well as pine. It does not overpower the taste of the tea and doesn’t burn the back of my throat – both of which I’ve experienced with other Lapsang Souchongs.
Am I crazy to try the second half of this with cream and sugar? What the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wow, surprising how much that tones down the smokiness, and also brings out flavors that remind me of very dark chocolate. The smoke is more an ambience than the main star at this point, and that works well for me. I’d definitely drink this again – it’s versatile and tasty.
Edit: I’m going to bump up the score a little because now at 15 minutes later I’m still getting this incredible smokey chocolate aftertaste. Yum!