Okay, I’m getting around to posting this review way later than planned. I finished a bunch of tea samples from Old Ways Tea last month, and until now, I have yet to get around to posting any of them. I decided to get this one up here first simply because I have not reviewed a lapsang souchong in what feels like forever. As Wuyi smoked black teas go, this was a very good one, though I also doubt it would be the sort of tea a lot of people would want to drink regularly. That’s the thing about lapsang souchong-regardless of whether or not you enjoy it, it’s not really an everyday, all seasons kind of tea. It’s also the sort of tea that you either enjoy or you don’t, and if you have tried multiple lapsang souchongs and have yet to find one that you enjoy, there is no guarantee that you will ever find one to your liking.
Naturally, I prepared this tea gongfu style. I ended up buying a couple of small gaiwans from Old Ways Tea and decided to break one of them out for this session. After a very brief rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in approximately 3 ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of pine smoke, tar, char, cedar, and honey. After the rinse, I picked up emerging aromas of roasted peanut, malt, and cinnamon. The first infusion then saw the pine smoke reassert itself on the nose. In the mouth, I surprisingly found gentle notes of malt backed by subtle impressions of cinnamon, char, cedar, roasted peanut, and pine smoke. Subsequent infusions saw the nose turn citrusy and spicy. Notes of cream, minerals, brown sugar, roasted almond, and toast appeared in the mouth. I also noted the belated emergence of a slight honey flavor in the mouth as well as hints of chocolate and orange zest. The pine smoke notes were somewhat more prevalent on these infusions, though they remained much more restrained and sophisticated than the nose would have led me to expect. The final infusions offered lingering mineral, malt, and pine smoke notes backed by fleeting touches of cream, roasted nuts, brown sugar, and orange zest. A cooling menthol-like herbal impression also showed itself on the swallow.
An impressive, sophisticated, and surprisingly restrained lapsang souchong, I am willing to bet that fans of such smoked black teas would find a lot to enjoy in this one. My only real complaint was that I felt that the smokiness could have been a little more pronounced throughout, but for those who prefer a lighter smokiness in such teas, I am sure that will not be a complaint at all. Those who hate lapsang souchong will probably not be converted by this tea, but I found it to be very enjoyable. I would not want to have it every day, but it did make me hopeful that Old Ways Tea will soon bring in more smoked black teas for me to try. Judging by this one, I am certain that any future lapsang souchongs they source will be worthwhile.
Flavors: Almond, Brown Sugar, Cedar, Char, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cream, Honey, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Orange Zest, Peanut, Pine, Roasted, Smoke, Tar, Toast