It has been taking me entirely too long to do my reviews, so from now on I plan to only mention those things that are noteworthy; why did it take me this long to finally come to this decision?! I don’t know! I admit I judge I’m sometimes a little slow on the uptake. : – }

Experience buying from Seven Cups http://steepster.com/places/2824-seven-cups-online-tucson-arizona

Date of Purchase/Frequency of drinking: I bought this in spring 2011 and have been drinking it off-and-on since then.

Aroma of dry leaf: unbelievably strong smell of smoke!

Brewing guidelines: Ceramic six-cup teapot, with large metallic tea-ball; stevia added; I always use my standard black tea guidelines with this tea.

Aroma of tea liquor: unbelievable smell: I absolutely love that smoky aroma!

Flavor of tea liquor: Incredible! It makes me think of times when I have sat around a campfire on a cold evening while enjoying a warm beverage with friends!

Aroma of wet leaf: Smoky, wonderful!

Blends well with: I would think it wouldn’t take much of this to add a little smoky flavor to any tea.

Value: $4.31 / 50 grams (I think it was 25% off). Not a bad price for the quality (considering it wasn’t a ‘fresh’ tea).

Overall: When I read in Heiss and Heiss’s Tea Enthusiast’s handbook that Lapsang Souchong is a ‘love it or hate it tea ’ I just had to try it. And, fitting with what they said, this tea absolutely blew me away when I first tried it (astonishingly enough, even my wife liked it initially, but she has sense changed her mind). I will never forget that drinking this tea gives me a sense of sitting around a campfire, which still amazes me, as I truly enjoy recalling that image every time I drink it. I have been drinking this tea here-and-there since I bought it, and I spontaneously decided to brew up the last of it today (which inspired me to finally write this review). I am sad that it’s gone (but the reality is it’s time to make room for new teas, although this one’s going to be hard to replace). A minor note: when drinking the first steeping after it sat and cooled quite a bit I noticed that I don’t like the taste as much as when it hot (unlike some teas which can be just as good). Still, I really enjoy both the taste and the aroma of this tea. I recently purchased a Lapsang from Culinary Teas, so I’ll have to see how good that one is. I think Lapsang Souchong is a tea I have to have in my cupboard at all times (it may even have to be Seven Cups Strong Smoke version, we’ll see). I can believe that this is a love it or hate it tea, and I am definitely in the ‘love it’ camp (of course, with the ones sitting around that campfire!). I think of the legend many years ago when some oppressive overlord decided to pay a visit to a tea plantation in China. This visit forced the tea farmers to inadvertently hide their unprocessed tea leaf stash in a place where the leaves took on a smoky flavor. That unusual happenstance allows me to reap the benefits! Thank you to all of the people and the unusual circumstances who/which made this wonderful smokey tea possible!

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(Updated 6-3-2014)

After about three years I changed my avatar from the picture of a green teacup with steam rising (one I created using Paint) to this dragon gaiwan. This is one of my favorite gaiwans, although I haven’t brewed any tea in it as of yet.

You can call me, Joe.

What, How and Why I steep:

I typically expect, and shoot for, at least three flavorful steepings out of (just about) any tea I brew up.

I generally start at the times and temps below ( = minute(s), " = second(s) ), then add 5F and 30" for each successive steeping:
Chinese Green - 175F, 1’ ;
Japanese Green - 160F, 1’add 15F, then decrease by 15";
White - 160F, 2’;
Oolong - This varies;
Indian Black/Chinese Red and Herbals - a little off the boil, 2’; why do I start with such low temps & short steep times? So as to ‘spread out’ the flavor over multiple steepings. I have found this to work with every tea I have tried so far. Also, I am not looking for intense flavor in that first cup (i.e. Western style), I would prefer to taste it—and savor—it over many steepings.
Pu-erh - Beginning in 2014, I finally chose to dive into pu-erh! Standard parameters when I brew ripened pu-erh in my 150 ml gaiwan (I also own an 11 oz Yixing):
First I do a 15" rinse with near boiling water. Then for each successive steeping I add Stevia.
……….1st: Near boiling, 0.5’
……….2nd: Boiling , 1’
……….3rd: Boiling , 1.5’
etc. Until there is no flavor, or I ran out of time and energy.

I hope to ‘streamline’ my reviews going forward, so, hopefully, they are a little less technical and dry (and perhaps even stilted), and a little more organic and experiential (and hopefully, flowing); this somewhat new approach to reviews is a kind of metaphor for where my life is headed right now, and is one reason why I write reviews: as a kind of time-capsule of where I was in my life at that time.

Tea Rating scale:

1 – 29: There is no reason to even think about drinking this stuff again.
30-49: I may drink it if someone else brewed it up, but I would not bother brewing it up myself let alone bother buying any.
50 – 59: I like something about it, and I may brew it up if I already have some, but I would not buy any more of it.
60 – 69: I like a few things about it, and I may buy it if the price is right.
70 – 79: This is a tea I enjoy and would drink fairly regularly as long as it is reasonably priced.
80 – 89: A tea I will drink as often as I can, and will likely try to buy some when I run out (as long as it’s affordable).
90 – 99: This has everything I look for in the best of teas: beauty in appearance, a delightful aroma, and most importantly, depth and yummy-ness in its flavor.
100: Perfect.

My primary interest is in artisan loose-leaf Chinese green, red and ripe pu-erh tea, although I enjoy a white and an oolong tea every now and then as well. Here and there I brew a few of the other true teas and an occasional herbal.

Since I choose to live on a very limited income (‘Voluntary Simplicity’), I have to be very conscience about how much I pay for tea. In reading their Tea Enthusiast’s books, Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss sold me on the wonders of artisan teas. Thankfully I have found that there is affordable, artisan tea out there; it’s just like anything else that has true value: it takes hard work, dedication and at least a little persistence to find it.

I came to tea out of a desire to find something to help calm and focus my mind as naturally as possible. My mind is very active, so to speak, and at times I find it very difficult to focus and keep myself centered. For years now I have been practicing Yoga daily along with others things to help me to stay relaxed and present, but I found I wanted a little something extra to help me start the day; the theanine in green tea seems to help me in this.

I have been enjoying loose-leaf tea since November of 2010.

I enjoy connecting with others about tea.

I drink Stevia with just about all of my tea (no sugar or artificial sweeteners).

I drink a pot of green tea every day in the AM (usually steeped three times over the course of the day), sharing it with my wife.

Each tea in my cupboard is carefully and colorfully labeled in a tin or in a jar that used to hold something else (I love to reuse things!) .

I have three teapots: a glass Bodum – I don’t use the metal infuser/press anymore (greens), a 16 oz glass Victorian (to brew greens and whites, and to use as a pot to decant other teas into), and an 11 oz Yixing (ripe Pu-erh only). (New in 2014) I also one a number of gaiwans ranging in volume from from 125 ml to 250ml.

I tend to be direct, straightforward and honest when I post anything to the discussion boards. I take the approach that everything I say is stated with the implied disclaimer: In My Humble Opinion (i.e. IMHO). I may occasionally emphasize this point, where appropriate. I view your comments in the same way. You are in no way obligated to read what I have posted. And I am in no way similarly obligated to you.

Sitting with my cup of tea I greet the day in anticipation of new discoveries along the way.


Midwest, USA

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