This is quite a pleasant smoke blend. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m a plebe or what, but I’ve noticed most of the smoky blends I’ve tried since joining Steepster all please me (provided I’m in the mood for smokiness) in pretty much the same way, to roughly the same degree. It’s as if the smokiness takes care of any concerns about smoothness, astringency, bitterness, body, etc.; perhaps it’s just that the tea types used as the foundation to make smoky blends (lapsang souchong and keemun usually) tend to have qualities aside from that (medium-thick bodies, a sort of vanilla/chocolate-y thing underlining everything) that sit well with me. Whatever it is, anything more nuanced than the musty SMOKESMOKESMOKE one dimensional over-the-top feels-like-the-whole-tea-table-must-be-covered-in-soot lapsangs we drank at Crumpets years ago seems to get my approval. This is no exception. I have a big tin specially labeled for my “decent afternoon smoke break” teas—it’s got bits and bobs from lots of places: Upton Imports, Della Terra, New Mexico Tea Company, Harney and Sons, Lupicia, Samovar—and I like them all just about the same, where they’re interchangeable to me when that’s what I want. This will do nicely in that collection, one of the best of the lot, as compulsively drinkable as Upton’s Baker Street. It’s got that subtly sweet, choc-vanilla undercurrent I love and associate with keemuns, and the smoke is definitely present but it’s warm and gentle, not acrid or musty. The ashy quality of lapsang only comes out full strength in the aftertaste, and it’s kind of nice if you like that sort of thing because you’ve been primed by the sweet warmth at the front of the sip.
I keep saying it but I really appreciate Harney’s vast “strong black tea blends” collection and how impressively decent-to-great they are given there’s about a billion of them. They do a great job catering to legacy-style morning tea tastes but sourced and blended to be flavorful, smooth, balanced, and lovely.