18 Tasting Notes
Full disclosure: this is the first Lapsang Souchong I’ve ever had. I’ve been curious about it for a while and finally decided to try it.
This tea is not for the faint of heart. At first sniff, it reveals a formidable aroma of smoked pine. I was overwhelmed and somewhat put off at first by the intensity. However, the smell itself wasn’t unpleasant, and after getting used to it, I was able to pick up the refreshing scent of pine beneath the smoke, which I found very pleasant.
The liquor is a surprisingly clear, light rust color. The intensity of the scent and dark dry leaves led me to expect a very black brew. The flavor is at first very earthy and woody, but the significant trait is the lingering smoked pine that sticks to the back of the throat, reminiscent of campfire smoke that gets into everything. This pervasive smokiness could either be a very bad or very good thing, and it leads me to conclude that this tea, for my personal preference, is best consumed alongside food with flavors that are enhanced by the smokiness. After trying it a few different times by itself, I finally had mine with a goat cheese, roasted vegetable pizza. It was delicious. I had some of the tea after it had cooled down for curiosity’s sake and I must say that this tea is terrible cold, as one might have guessed. All I could taste was soggy wood.
Final verdict: Intense, smoked pine aroma can be polarizing. Delightful paired with the right foods (and likely disgusting with the wrong ones). I would not personally like to drink this tea by itself right now, but I could see growing to like it enough for that. Avoid drinking cold at all costs.
Flavors: Earth, Pine, Smoke, Toast, Wood
This is quite possibly my favorite Teavana tea. I don’t mean to imply that this means a lot because I have lots of Teavana favorites. Quite the contrary. I’ve liked few teas from Teavana, and this is one of those. It’s especially weird, given the low ratings this tea has. But I’ll just start with saying that, in its defense, it does not contain Hibiscus.
The tea brews to a clear, pale yellow, with a peachy hue. It does have a tendency to bitterness that can be eliminated by fastidious brewing and drinking (drink fresh and hot) procedure, but it does lead me to think that the white tea in this is not particularly high quality. This makes sense given that it is only being used a carrier for other, much more pronounced flavors. Enter the offensive sour cherry others have noted. So… I went through 1.5-2 oz. of this stuff over the course of a year or so, and never did the cherry flavor seem particularly sour or overwhelming. Strong, dominant, certainly. But never did I get the medicinal flavor mentioned in so many of the negative reviews. Not only that, but I found that although many of the reviews had a problem with this flavor, many did not. I mean, one expects that if a tea has a very pronounced flavor, some will love it and some will hate it, but it seems unlikely some would taste it and some would not. So I can only conclude that either Teavana changed this blend about 2-3 years ago or the flavor of the blend is severely inconsistent due to the distribution of “sour bits” (which, again, I didn’t really notice). The sour bits being presumably cranberry bits that the description mentions (and shows) but which I didn’t really taste or even remember seeing for that matter.
As for the flavor I did taste, it starts with sweet cherry, which dominates the palate but is accented delicately by faded rose (I sincerely mean that in the most positive way possible, like a faint scent of rose rather than its flavor) and carried by the mild, grassy notes of the white tea.
I found this tea pairs well with sweet, dessert dishes and fruit. It’s also great as a standalone treat when craving something sweet but light. Teavana’s regular price is definitely excessive, given that, as I said, I doubt the quality of the white tea is very high, but I would definitely buy it again if it was on sale.
Flavors: Cherry, Rose
I was only able to drink one cup of this tea because I only had one tea bag that someone gave me. I adored the aroma, cardamom woven into the Ceylon notes. I brewed it a bit strong and couldn’t sweeten it, so it was more bitter than I’d like. However, I believe that brewed less time or with sugar and milk it would be a delightful tea. I will have to try it again to give my final rating. For now, I’ll be conservative.
Unfortunately I didn’t have enough tea leaf to do as concentrated a ratio as I wanted to, but I still managed to double it. This time I got more cinnamon than anything else, it might even have covered up the weak hints of caramel and almond that were there before. All in all this tea was a disappointment, and I’m glad I’m done going through it.
As with many Teavana teas, this herbal tea promises much in its name and its scent. A whiff of the colorful blend is filled with roasted almond and sugary caramel. For some reason, it brews to an unexpectedly bright raspberry color. Last time I checked, neither caramel nor almonds are raspberry red. Looking through the ingredients list, my guess is that the “beetroot pieces” are responsible for the color, though I can’t for the life of me imagine what the benefit of beetroot in a caramel almond flavored tea might be… but I digress. On to the taste.
The scent of this brew is but a pale ghost compared to the scent of the dry tea. The caramel is there, faint, but there, and the almond is all but absent. The flavor is simply bland. There is a creamy aftertaste at the back of the throat, and of course I’m sure that the little smell the tea gives off helps to guide your tastebuds in more or less the correct direction. But of taste, of flavor traveling from the liquid to the tongue and your sensory perception, there is nearly none, and what I do catch occasionally is the odd taste of beets. Sadly, the lack of flavor doesn’t even surprise me. I will simply move on the next step as with all Teavana teas: triple the teaspoon to water ratio and give it another shot. For now, this tea gets a rating fit to my experience drinking it, though I suspect my rating will improve once I try the higher flavor concentration.
Flavors: Almond, Caramel
I tried this tea with the 3 tsp. to 1 c. water ratio as per the reported practices at Teavana stores. Naturally, the flavor increased dramatically, and I was able to better appreciate the figgy and floral notes. However, the warm, lush jammyness of the rose and fig flavors were simply ruined by the sharp hibiscus cutting through. I suppose it adds complexity to the flavor profile, but I feel that some other note would have been better suited to the job than hibiscus, which tends to overpower everything it touches.
Sadly, I can’t bring myself to really recommend this tea. Considering the concentration necessary for a richly-flavored cup, it’s a lot of money to pay for something that is at best mediocre. I should note that it did resteep fairly well one more time, the flavors were all diminished, but thankfully that included the hibiscus. Also, at this concentration level, I don’t believe it needs any sweeteners, even if you tend towards a sweet cup of tea.
Flavors: Fig, Floral, Hibiscus, Jam, Rose
The rose and the fig are there, in the scent, but a sip reveals them to be weak. And just beneath the surface, lurks hibiscus. Because if it’s a Teavana tea it probably has hibiscus, and if it’s a Teavana herbal tea, it definitely has hibiscus. But that aside, the lack of intensity and complexity in the flavors is disappointing, which is why I’m going to conduct an experiment with my next tasting.
I recently read an article by Gitte Lasby, titled “Teavana’s dirty secret: Why the tea you brew doesn’t taste like the store samples.” Her experience with Teavana was reminiscent of my constant disappointment with Teavana teas, which stems from the significant gap between their smell and their taste. They always seem to promise more than they can deliver. So, I’ve decided that when a tea fails to impress, as is in the case with this Fig Rose, I will use the tea to water proportion reportedly used at the stores (3 tsp to 1 c. water). It’s partly as an experiment, but also to be able to enjoy the rest of a tea I’ve already paid for. I will update on first experiment.
Flavors: Fig, Jam, Rose
In my continued efforts to find the missing element to this tea, I added a teaspoon of honey to it. The sweetness tasted more or less the same as that of the demerara sugar. I think the flavor profile of this tea is strong enough to cover up the nuances of different sweeteners and only the general increased sweetness comes through. So I still think it’s better off without any sweeteners or milk. This time, though, I did steep it for longer, and found the roasted and cinnamon flavors much more pronounced.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Roasted