Jin Xuan Xiao Zhong, Taiwan Lightly Smoked
Lightly Smoked Spring Black Tea
Harvest: Spring, 2011
Growing Area: Jenai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan
Elevation: +/-4,000 ft (1,200 M)
Varietal: Jin Xuan
10 Gram Sample Available
This tea is a uniquely Taiwanese spin on the classic smoked Wuyi Mountain black tea known in China as Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (Lapsang Souchong in the West). The amazing tea producers I have the honor to work with in Nantou County, central Taiwan produced only a small amount of this tea this Spring, and I was lucky enough to get the last few KG that were left by the time I got to visit their gorgeous plantation in mid-April, 2011. (The photos below are of the terraces these tea leaves came from)
Our Jin Xuan Xiao Zhong is processed much like the traditional Wuyi Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong or Lapsang Souchong, but there are obvious differences. First, just like the real Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, this tea is nothing at all like the super smoky “Lapsang Souchong” available in your local supermarket. The smoky aroma of this tea is subtle and sweet when compared to the hard-core pine smoke aroma that is most often associated with Lapsang Souchong in the West. This tea was not smoked using pine wood at all; rather, it was dried/smoked using (dried) sugarcane stalks for the fire! Smoking this tea over sugarcane imparted a slight caramelized sweetness to the smoky aroma and resulting flavor of this tea. The other major difference between this tea and traditional Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is that the source materials are taken from Jin Xuan varietal tea plants. Jin Xuan is a popular tea varietal in Taiwan which generally produces a rather subtle flavor that is often described as leaving a creamy or milky sensation and flavor in the mouth, and this tea is no exception.
The underlying black tea flavor is mild with a low level of astringency, which provides a very nice backdrop for the sweet smokiness to shine through. The liquor is a lovely, clear amber color, and the mouthfeel of the infusion is moderately thick. It leaves an intriguingly sweet and smoky aftertaste on top of a slightly creamy or milky sensation from the Jin Xuan source materials.
When steeping this tea, I recommend using a more “Western” approach to achieve a balance between smoky sweetness and the mild astringency of the black tea. Steeping this tea Gong Fu style is pleasant, but the resulting infusion is primarily smoky and milky/soft in the mouth without much astringency to balance it out. I recommend using 1-2 grams of leaf (more than a big pinch, but smaller than a handful) per 6-8 oz cup, water at a full boil, and an infusion time of about 3-4 minutes. These are just recommendations, so please adjust to your taste.