First, when I just discovered smoky Lapsang Souchong I was madly in love with it: because it was so different, strong, with such a distinct personality – I like assertive teas. Then gradually I began to lose my interest when it became clear that smoky Lapsang manufacturers often use second-grade teas as a base and the smokiness itself frequently comes from the cost-cutting, industrial scale smoking process that completely overpowers the base with some very generic and uninteresting smokiness. And once I even encountered the unmistakable acridity of the liquid smoke!
So, I approached this sample bag from Teavivre with weariness and low expectations. But this tea restored my faith in smoky Lapsangs: they are a great, distinct kind of tea – when done right. This tea has an absolutely fantastic smokiness. The fragrant is incredibly rich and real; you can close your eyes and almost hear the cracking of the pine branches and needles in the campfire. I usually spend a minute or two just inhaling the aroma before taking a first sip.
The taste is very piny and smoky, with a good deal of complexity. It also feels very authentic and not mass-produced at all. A looong piny aftertaste. The tea itself is not shining through – it is by no means a lightly smoked Lapsang – but it does add some sweetness, which becomes more pronounced with subsequent steeps. And this tea can produce several of them without substantively changing its character.
This is not a tea for everyone. It is barely borderline a tea at all. But it is very “real” and can easily command one’s attention: I actually was late for a work meeting because I just HAD to finish this cup.
P.S. I ranked it so highly since I consider it to be a great representation of the class and not because it reveals the complexity of the tea itself and calls for the exploration with a gaiwan and a stop watch. The tea itself is moderately broken and probably not the best: it is all about smoke and pine.
Flavors: Campfire, Pine, Smoke, Sweet