I sent Bonnie some of my Ashes of Autumn and she sent me some of Happy Lucky’s lapsang in return. During a tasting she did with many professional tea tasters, Ashes of Autumn (Whispering Pines’ premium lapsang) fell to the bottom of the charts. I was amazed to hear that since I had never heard anything but good things about it! I had, after all, spent the first year of my business tasting lapsangs to find the best one…I went through more than 100 and nothing had compared to AoA for me, so I was very interested to taste this tea!
The tea is really good, the smoke level is perfect. It’s sweet and balanced with layers of smoke and a completely smooth body. It’s definitely the best tasting lapsang I’ve ever had. Though as I was sipping it, I felt like there was something missing…something I get from Ashes of Autumn that I wasn’t experiencing in Happy Lucky’s tea…so i decided to make a pot of Ashes of Autumn to go alongside it.
The issue I have with HL lapsang has absolutely nothing to do with the taste. The tea is perfect, the aroma is perfect, but something is off for me. Something about it is not as enjoyable as AoA.
After having my first little cup of AoA I realized what my issue was. On my search for the best lapsang soughing for my company, I was unknowingly searching for a memory. I was looking for the tea that would bring me to a campfire in the dead of winter, pinewood crackling and the uneasy bite of the freezing air on my cheeks. I was searching for a memory where not everything was perfect and enjoyable. One where there was a balance between pleasant and unpleasant.
Ashes of Autumn has a bite. It has a light bitterness and a lingering dry-throat astringency with pine-smoke sitting in the back of your nose as you breathe out. The tea is heavy and rough but pleasantly sweet and not overly-smoky. I can breathe out and taste the pinewood for quite a while after finishing my cup. The experience is similar to waking up in the freezing morning, climbing outside of your tent and still smelling the smoke on your clothes.
The difference between these two teas comes down to the memory for me. I drink lapsang to bring me to the fire in the winter. HL lapsang is, to me, a simple tea. It’s a really really good tea, but it’s just a tea. As Bonnie has said, you have to listen to the stories tea has to tell you. HL’s lapsang is good but it doesn’t tell me anything. I drink tea for the stories, for the memories, and for the emotions those memories bring back to me.
This tea is a better lapsang souchong, but it’s not where my heart is. I don’t want a mellow, smooth, easy-drinking lapsang that could probably put me to sleep…I want the cup that will wake me up and ease me outside into the winter wonderland. :)