Smokey flavor in non-smoked green teas?

I’ve been buying a lot of Spring 2017 green and white teas lately, mostly from Yunnan Sourcing. I’ve noticed a smokey aroma in the dry tea leaves, and the first infusion. To my knowledge, none of the teas I’ve ordered are supposed to have a smokey flavor like a lapsang souchong. Example teas: and I also notice this in teas not from YS.

The aroma reminds me of the charcoal puck used in incense burners like this:

I’m wondering if the air used to dry these teas is heated by charcoal, and that’s what I’m tasting. It seems like a flaw. Note: I never rinse my green and white teas.


14 Replies
AllanK said

I would think that smokey flavor in non smoked green teas is a sign of bad tea processing. It should not in my understanding be present in green teas. It is often present in raw puerh teas but not in green teas.

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yyz said

It’s actually not unusual to have a mild smoke flavour in green teas where they are produced by using the kill green methods of pan frying over open flame or baking over charcoal. It is often a sign of a tea that is produced more artistically vs those produced using electrical machines. Charcoal or unprocessed wood can be used as a source of heat. The other kill green method is steaming which is actually a more ancient method but is less often used in China and mostly for Sencha style teas nowadays.

LuckyMe said

I expect pan fried teas to have nuttiness but smokiness like in gunpowder green tea is unusual unless the tea was processed that way.

TeaLife.HK said

I agree with yyz: it is from processing over wood/charcoal fires a la pu erh. This smoke should dissipate over time. OP, are you rinsing your greens?

@TeaLife.HK: no, I don’t rinse my green teas. Maybe I should.

Ken said

I never rinse green or black teas either.

TeaLife.HK said

I rinse everything; green/white/yellow gets a rinse with water at room temperature. Anything else gets a rinse with water off boil

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andresito said

to summarize what AllanK and yyz said above, I think its from pan frying, where they did not clean the wok prior to the next batch of tea, and the oils/residue stuck on the wok are burning and taint the flavor, so yes its a flaw.

or they actually burnt the tea a little. either way, its a sign of bad processing and I wouldn’t want to pay for it when there’s better teas available. Any vendor selling that should have tasted the batch prior to offering it for sale. like AllanK said, greens typically shouldn’t be smokey.

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Ken said

I would contact YS and have them test the batch, that you are tasting smoke in. It might have been a bad batch, even the best company mistakes can happen. It what they do after a mistake that really tells.

Now its also possible that smoked/roasted flavors can carry over even in a gaiwan if you were brewing lapsang souchong or Shui Xian or some other strongly smokey/roasty tea, you might have to clean your gaiwan with vinegar or baking soda.

So contact Scott have him test the batch, and soak your gaiwan in a diluted solution of baking soda or Vinegar.. not both that would be messy and see what happens.

Ken said

Also if you are detecting it in other tea, you might want to look up to see if there are any scrub fires that happened around harvest. This messes up the grape harvests here in Las Vegas and in California all the time.

I do notice the charcoal aroma & taste in a tea not from YS. I just mentioned YS because many Steepster readers are familiar with them.

Ken said

Yeah clean and test your gaiwan/teapot and see if that is doing it. After that contact YS, if there was brushfires changing the flavors he will know about it.

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MrQuackers said

Certain types of green tea seem more likely to have smokey characteristics. Gun powder comes to mind. We’re not talking about Lapsang Souchong’s smokiness, but rather a light flavour that covers a bit of the green tea taste.

I have a sencha tea here that has an off aroma of socks in the first steeping. Subsequent steepings are fine, though.

Teafloor said

I think you have to try rose green tea or jasmine green tea.

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