Jin Xuan Xiao Zhong, Taiwan Lightly Smoked

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Black Tea
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Baked Bread
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Edit tea info Last updated by Pamela Dean
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Boiling 3 min, 45 sec

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10 Tasting Notes View all

From Norbu Tea

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.

About Norbu Tea View company

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10 Tasting Notes

2816 tasting notes

My order from Norbu Tea arrived and I am thrilled!

As an affordable indulgence, what I got were 10 gram samples, shipping was only $3.00 and super fast from Texas to California. It’s so great being able to try a smaller quantity of tea before you commit to a larger size.

Most of my samples are oolongs which they recommend steeping in a gaiwan, but this one can be steeped Western style so I decided to try it. I’m willing to try any smoked tea and this one sounded so intriguing. Tea smoked over dried sugarcane? Sign me up! When I opened the package the black wiry leaf smelled like roasted chocolate. woooo!

So this got steeped in an infuser mug, their recommendations are for 3-4 minutes and I believe my steeping time approached that. I got a dark amber color of tea and the leaves smell earthy and lightly smoked.

The cup is a dark amber and smells a bit like a lapsang. My first sip of tea is lovely, a sweet infusion that reminds me of caramel and wood. It’s only in the finish of the tea that the delicate smoke becomes subtly apparent, along with a lovely sweetness that is lingering in my mouth. This is also oddly relaxing, or maybe I’m just falling asleep after lunch. ;-)

This reminds me of a really light lapsang in that it has the same tangy sort of barbeque-y element, but since the smoke is very light this would be a great entry into smoky teas for someone who’s afraid of them. :P

Norbu’s note mentions a slight astringency which I am not picking up on too much. Overall this is a really neat tea with a lot of different elements to it and I could certainly see myself ordering the full size. So glad I tried it and can’t wait for the weekend when I can try gonfu’ing my new wuyi and fenghuang oolongs!

p.s. I also got a lighter, but still lovely second steep out of it.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

Sounds very good and their shipping is fairly priced!


Yep. So far I am a happy customer.


This sounds really amazing!

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421 tasting notes

Brewed this western style, using a Finum basket. Gave it 3-4 minutes, and it needs that time to open up.
The leaves are long, long, long and blacker than a moonless night. They take time to open up, and patience is required for them to release their exquisite flavors.
This is very gently smoked tea, that tastes like a very, very good Keemun – it has some of the malt/bread flavor to it, with a gentle smokiness that does not feel artificial, but gives it depth and body. There is something of the sweetness of sugar to it, and I did not experience any astringency when drinking it. A great intro to smoked teas,and a wonderful companion for a cold winter’s night, in a large steaming mug, with your hands wrapped around it for warmth.
Norbu did it again!

Flavors: Baked Bread

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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1779 tasting notes

Oooh. This is FANCY. Thanks Sil for the sample!
And this sipdown puts me at 150! Woooo!

It’s really rich and lightly smoky. I should have had this a few months ago when it was bitterly cold as this tea would be greatly comforting on a freezing night. It’s a little sweet, but I think I’m getting mushroom-y notes in it as well.

Fancy. This tea is fancy.



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8166 tasting notes

sipdown! I am falling behind, BUT i managed to travel for work and NOT buy more tea even though i did find some lol. I had the last of this today in an effort to have a cup that could kick me into action. it didn’t work all that well. I did really enjoy this in the morning though, as it was a little cooler than normal :)

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3187 tasting notes

So I attempted pouring a “splash” of maple syrup once again and though I may have been just a touch heavy handed with the syrup, the result is quite nice. The maple and smoke are both very present which is leading to a flavor reminiscent of tasty maple bacon or delicious BBQ. What an amazing combination! Plus, this is a lovely tea. Thank you Sil for both the sample and the maple suggestion. It would be interesting to try this out with an even smokier blend such as lapsang as I feel it would be quite pleasant.


this is not overly smokey as far as smokey teas go…i tend to find the smokier the tea (as long as it’s drinkable), the better the maple + smoke blend is for me


I can see that. While drinking his, I found myself wanting more smoke because I figured it would cut down the maple sweetness just a touch.

Terri HarpLady

yeah baby! Although I enjoy my lapsang plain, a little maple lifts it to a wonderful flambé like dessert :)


I can see that.

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