Master Bi's Top Shelf Lapsang

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7 Tasting Notes View all

  • “Yikes!! My tasting note is certainly going to pale in comparison to the two that preceded it! I was feeling like something interesting and on the “heavier” side tonight, so chose to brew up this...” Read full tasting note
  • “It’s difficult to come behind Paul and his Pulitzer Prize winning review… such a lovely write-up of this fine tea, but I’ll do a little follow-up. Paul was so right…the leaves are...” Read full tasting note
  • “Thank you so much to both David Duckler and Master Bi for this opportunity! This is one incredible tea. I must admit that I have never had a Lapsang Souchong before this tea, as I always had the...” Read full tasting note
  • “Ok, I don’t really have any experience with Lapsang Souchong’s…but I feel as if I just completely spoiled any future tries of other Lapsang teas. This is an absolutely pleasant and...” Read full tasting note

From Verdant Tea

Reward sample from Verdant Tea’s Reward Program.

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7 Tasting Notes

6073 tasting notes

Yikes!! My tasting note is certainly going to pale in comparison to the two that preceded it!

I was feeling like something interesting and on the “heavier” side tonight, so chose to brew up this tea. I like lapsang souchong in moderation (and particularly with milk), but who knows what this one will be like (well, a couple people do. But not me!)

The aroma of this tea is like smoked meat. Beef jerky. Campfire. It’s quite strong, and to my untrained nose, smells much like any lapsang souchong.

The flavour, however, is where it differs from other lapsangs I’ve tried. The smoke is unbelievably smooth here, no astringency, no sharp bite at all. In fact, the tea finishes with a surprising sweetness! I used about 2 tsp of leaf for 8 oz. of water, and am surprised at how delicious this is! It definitely doesn’t require any additions, although I’m certain it would hold up to them.

Hopefully I can get in a few more infusions tomorrow!

ETA: Second infusion, a couple minutes. This is truly unlike any lapsang I’ve previously tried. The smoke is still heavy in the second infusion, but there’s this amazing sweetness to it, and I can really taste the black tea underneath it. I have to admit that although this is a neat experience, I really can’t see myself ever really selecting such a tea to drink just on a whim (or if I did, I’d be dosing it with sweetener and milk and these nuances would be lost).

Boiling 1 min, 45 sec

Oooh, one of my friends loves Lapsang. I’ll have to pick this up for him.


Unfortunately this is one of the ’David’s Reserve Sample’ teas that I got from the rewards program! :( There are a couple reward packages left, I think, so if you’ve been collecting points on the site you may be able to get one…?


It’s the smoked oolong instead of it being a smoked black tea that makes it so wonderful.


It’s a smoked oolong?!


pretty sure it is


Neat! I wouldn’t have known. Not that good at telling things apart yet, especially with the smokiness on top.


So, for the sake of classification, were the leaves fully oxidized? I mean, is it like the mi lan xiang black that Verdant offers where leaves that are typically used for one class of tea are processed as a different class? Or is this actually a heavily-oxidized oolong that had a further processing step of smoking?

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676 tasting notes

It’s difficult to come behind Paul and his Pulitzer Prize winning review… such a lovely write-up of this fine tea, but I’ll do a little follow-up.

Paul was so right…the leaves are beautiful.

Sometimes, I look at the leaves and marvel. Long and twisted, blackish/brown with a light smoky scent. I mean it, light smoke.

I love Lapsang. I’ve sent out so much China Lapsang Souchong from my local tea shop (Happy Lucky’s) that many of you have tasted it and know what I’m talking about. It’s been all over the United States, Canada and the U.K. (I even sent some to..gulp…David Duckler!)
I have some nerve don’t I!

My favorite Lapsang has been my favorite because it’s smoky and sweet. I use Lapsang Souchong mainly to COOK with! (David Duckler used what I sent him for a fish rub which is something that I do ground together with Urfa Chili, Peppercorns and Sea Salt)

Master Bi’s Lapsang is NOT for cooking (unless I win the lottery and go to China and buy up all of Master Bi’s stock)! This tea is for DRINKING!

When I was drinking the tea, the flavor wasn’t harsh or flat, but smooth…velvety smooth with a gentle sweetness that’s in a different league than any Lapsang I’ve had… ever.

The Smokiness is like the aftertaste of great bacon or bbq…not the firepit smoke in your face. No smoke knocks you down!

Here’s the part that got my ‘eyes wide open’…I could still taste the ‘tea’ under the smoke. Yes, a raisin, floral, bakery goodness that was present, wafting around in the aroma and taste.
Such complexity is not there in Lapsangs most of the time (IF EVER)!

Oh David Duckler, if you can get this as an item for regular ordering…it’s the BEST LAPSANG I’ve ever tasted!

(As an experiment for those who love Lapsang’s, I added some milk and the flavor wasn’t diminished at all. Still spectacular!)

Further steepings are amazing!!! The roasty oolong flavor with a slight smokiness is the best of the best taste! This is not like anything you can imagine when you think of a Lapsang. Please, don’t just stop at the first steep!

I just wrote a story on my blog if anyone is interested:

Here’s an excerpt:
Our first Christmas…living in the forest community of Paradise…we went on an adventure to cut down a tree together. We bundled up nice and warm and piled into my car.
Christmas carols were blasting from my tape deck and I had a big thermos of hot cider to share. The tree farm was decked out with lights and decorations… welcoming the 6 of us to cut down any tree for $10. (they had Christmas music playing too and a fire pit for warming hands and eating free cookies)

We took our time… going from tree to tree. Which one would it be? Too tall? Too short, too bare or too fat?! Our tree had to be perfect! We all had to agree! For these girls, Christmas wasn’t always a happy time. Someone was often drunk or high or missing at home (if there was a home at all). Some were beaten at holidays.

Finally, the nod was given and we drank some cider to seal the deal. The tree was tied to the top of the car and off we went to decorate our tree!

When we got home, someone had come by with a note that they wanted to give us a tree. I had to make a quick call of thanks and head them off. How nice of them though!

The next day, when I returned from work…the girls were all excited!

“Mom, look what’s in the kitchen…come and see…!”


I’m excited for this one!!!!! Especially after your review! I got my reserve samples yesterday :D

Invader Zim

I have yet to sample this. It terrifies me, but I will try it, and it will be the first Lapsang I will try. Reading you and Paul’s tasting notes on it calms me, and makes me more curious than terrified.


Invader Zim the Brave!


I took some to Happy Lucky’s for my tea guys to try. They were amazed! The best they had ever had too…and the second steep you can really taste the roasted oolong. Delicious beyond what you think of as Lapsang. Almost a new category.

Autumn Hearth

Okay if I wasn’t jealous already I’m certainly jealous now. And there was a moment that weekend when my husband said oh go ahead an subscribe, but I felt guilty, should have leaped on that moment of weakness. Sigh.


i already love lapsang. i want this tea so badly!


I’m hoping that this will eventually become available to everyone since I can’t afford the subscription either. I’d love to be able to buy this!!!

Invader Zim

This one terrifies me because I don’t like black teas to begin with (does that make me a black sheep or a non-black sheep of the tea community?!) and I’m not a big fan of smokey teas. But the way you two (Bonnie and Paul) describe this, it sounds amazing and I’m less apprehensive about trying it. Although, I’d much rather go bobbing for apples…I like apples :)


Do you like oolongs Zimmie? Do you like bacon?

Invader Zim

Is the sky blue Bonnie? lol yes, I like both!


TeaFoold, you are a troll. Please stop harrassing my good friend Bonnie. You are taking her words out of context. What she means (as I understand it) is that some companies are new or want to grow, and deserve to have their delicious teas shared with the world and the HYPE she gives them will help achieve that.


Lol, I guess I missed some drama! Always interesting since I get comments emailed to me ;) Silly trolls!


Kittenna, yes…someone was calling me names here and on another review. Then, the comments were deleted. I took mine off also in the interest of less confusion for everyone and it’s Christmas.

Donna A

Hi Bonnie. You seem like a nice person with interesting reviews and that’s why you were one of the 1st people I “followed” when I joined Steepster. Thanks for taking the time to post! And Merry Christmas.


Thank you Donna…Merry Christmas to you too!

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64 tasting notes

Thank you so much to both David Duckler and Master Bi for this opportunity!

This is one incredible tea. I must admit that I have never had a Lapsang Souchong before this tea, as I always had the assumption I would dislike the smokiness. I occasionally like the hint of “smoke” flavors in some higher roast oolongs or pu’ers, but the smell of actual thick smoke has me gagging. This tea, though, has shown me what Lapsang Souchong can really be all about. It is the Truth of flavored teas. The smoke enhancements are so well integrated into the leaves’ flavor profile here that it is impossible to tell where the tea ends and the flavoring begins. They seem one and the same. The flavors are so well enmeshed and it produces this savory, textural beauty of taste. And it certainly is a taste like no other. I’ll take you through my gong fu session, but the images and descriptions I use to convey this tea I will admit that I would have been confused and possibly even turned off by them if someone had described them to me when discussing a tea. Yet, somehow, this tea manages to turn this unlikely flavor profile into something incredible.

I use about 2 grams of dry leaf in my 100 mL gaiwan, a bit less than a quarter full. I first came up with this ratio because I was being stingy and wanted to make this small sample last forever, but [thankfully!] it turned out to work quite well. While I’m on the topic, I’ll mention that they look a great deal like a heavily roasted mi lan xiang’s dry leaves.

Wash: 3 +/-1 seconds

Steep 1 (4"): Based on the smell of the wet leaves, and especially the dry leaves (and also my [incorrect] perception of what smoked tea was), I expected the first sip to assault me with deep, smoky flavors and a drying texture. Psht! This was nothing like that. This is juicy. It’s savory. It certainly is thick, but has the most brilliant, clear amber liquor to juxtapose it. I think the best way to describe this taste is to attempt to call to mind a perfectly barbecued pork brisket. Yes, that’s correct. Imagine a succulent, moist brisket seasoned with a humble spread of salt and a dry rub of natural spices allowed to slow cook for hours in a smoker with natural hickory or mesquite wood. Perhaps add a touch of citrus zest when it’s finished. Yup. That’s this tea to me, who has lived in the southern US his whole life, and grown well-accustomed to the flavors of awesome barbecue.

Steep 2 (10"): Oh yeah, so if you could tell by the last steep’s description, the whole “smoky” taste wasn’t that overbearing. In fact, it wasn’t until this steep that I was actually made well aware of it at the top of each sip. Like I mentioned before, this tea isn’t boasting it’s smoky flavor. Instead, the smoke intensifies and draws out the depth and interesting notes of the tea leaves, putting a slight spin on them. The savory goodness and salty/spiciness also increases here, all coming together with the meaty flavors, rounding out the body and creating a very deep complexity. The mouthfeel becomes thicker and spicier, and with the increased “meaty” flavors, becomes almost “chewy.” There is also a tingling felt all over the surface of the tongue. This is also the first point where I can really tell that this is tea. That “pure” black tea flavor becomes very prominent, and one can pick out the inherent tea leaf sweetness brought into this steep.

Steep 3 (20"): At this point, all the flavor nuances kind of meet in the middle, creating an even deeper, thicker body than before. The liquor’s appearance becomes a darker golden brown to match, although none of the clarity is lost. The sweetness is also much stronger in this steep. It almost seems like a nice honey glaze on the brisket I mentioned above. Ohhhhh it’s good.

As a side note, while I was impatiently waiting for the next steep to do it’s thing, I took a sip of the still-warm wash and was astounded. Relatively speaking, it’s the best wash I’ve tasted for a tea. It’s like a reallyyyy weak version of steep 1, but twice as sweet. I’m pretty sure the next time I taste this I’m going to forget the wash…

Steep 4 (30"): So at this point the smoke becomes less powerful, actually allowing other flavors to rise above it. In this and the next steep, that sweet glaze-like flavor I mentioned from the last steep is most prominent. In the next, a honey sweetness is most apparent. This steep is very similar to the last, besides a slight apple-y flavor. Hmmmm… applewood-smoked bacon, anyone? Actually, the aroma of the wet leaves becomes very reminiscent of this, especially after the first few steeps and the smoky aromas begin to fade.

At this point, I’ll mention the aftertaste, which is thick, tangy, and smoky. The most amazing flavors really come out on the exhale after every sip.

Steep 5 (40"): From most to least expressive: honey, smoke, spice (and lots of it), meat, savory, apple, salt. The mouthfeel at this point is very spicy and lingers longgg after a sip. The insides of my cheeks and roof of mouth are left nice and tingly.

Steep 6 (1’): At this point the tea starts fading, although the same basic flavor profile as the last steep is displayed. I think I took this tea to a few more steeps the first time I tried it, but I didn’t have anything noteworthy on them.

So, all in all, this tea is a game changer. It has completely redefined what I perceive flavored or scented teas to be. There is a hand-rolled jasmine sample that came in my David’s Choice box as well, and I’m itching to try that one now that I’ve had this, just to see how the scenting has been transcended. At any rate, this Lapsang Souchong is a masterful work of art. I wish I had had something to compare it to previously, as it seems now that any Lapsang Souchong that I consume after this point will seem monotonous and dull. Ah well. Such is tea. :)

205 °F / 96 °C

I discussed this a bit with David today and told him how extraordinary the smoked oolong flavor is and how much I want Verdant to carry this tea. He said Master Bi’s tea’s are expensive. Bah! Even if this was only available during the Holiday’s and cost more, I’d buy it because it’s like nothing else. You are correct about the first steep being the smoked meat and the second steep being a surprise because the tea doesn’t become overshadowed by the smoke. The levels of flavor and nuances are a fine meal.


You know, Bonnie, I don’t think I would purchase this one. Maybe another sample size to keep around for a rainy day, but certainly nothing more than another session or two’s worth. I rarely find that any tea is as amazing as the first time I tried it (although I suppose aged pu’er would be, but that’s a different story). It takes me ages to get through 2oz of tea, so I rarely ever purchase anything over an ounce. I don’t have any “staple teas” that I always have on hand. I actually don’t think that I’ve ever bought the same tea twice.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love that I was able to try this Lapsang, but I’m satisfied and ready to taste the next awesome thing. That’s really what I love about tea; there is always a new tea to try that isn’t exactly like anything else out there.


Ah you’re a hunter. I’l try to think of you as a hunter…and if I find something special, I’ll try to remember to tell you about it! (once)


Hahaha, yeah I suppose I’m something like that. “Gotta catch ’em all,” right? I always love suggestions of things to try. I’d definitely be interested if you find a particularly fascinating specimen. ;)

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13 tasting notes

Ok, I don’t really have any experience with Lapsang Souchong’s…but I feel as if I just completely spoiled any future tries of other Lapsang teas.

This is an absolutely pleasant and comforting/warming tea… The way the smoke dances alternately between the background and in front. Sweet and smoky, I feel as if I should be relaxing behing a fireplace toasting marshmallows! Though I don’t want to eat anything at the moment because I want the pure taste of this great tea to engulf my mouth! As it says with the tea info, I can certainly see why this type of smoked tea is popular. The smoke mingles with the caramel and malt of the tea in a synergistic way, and it is taking me for a ride!!

Lol looks like I may need to find a way to have 2 reserve subscriptions, as 2oz of these teas would be totally amazing!

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