|"...it's your imagination that is aflame, as you dream of royal Mongol campfires, silken robes, and tents walled with beautiful rugs."|
Lapsangs are pretty much an acquired taste, and that goes for the variations within the style. There are many different Lapsangs and each has its adherents and detractors. This Lapsang Souchong from Upton Tea wasn't received as a sample. I bought it on a hunch and it has been one of my top favorite teas for a couple of years now. I doubt that's going to change; for me, this has become the standard against which all others are judged.
Prices range from $1.50 for a 12g sample up to $51.50 for an 800g packet. I find this to be worth every penny. There are many variations in their pricing; you can also choose a packet or a tin. My 200g tin ($18.84) has been refilled several times now. I have to add that my tin says, "Packed for Patricia Resnick" and that little perk is free with Upton Tea orders. I still enjoy seeing it, tea snob that I am.
Back to the Black Dragon. This is a beautiful tea for a Lapsang. The broad, twisted leaves retain their color variations, from light green and gold to deepest black. The smoking process has permeated the tea so that the characteristic campfire odor is the first thing you notice upon opening the tin. Breathe more deeply, however, and you'll find a caramel-like sweetness, almost as though the leaves had been soaked in simple syrup before smoking. There is also an earthy, almost dusty note, not unpleasant. It evokes images of the long journey these leaves have made to reach my cup on the other side of the world. I'm talking camel caravans and clipper ships. That's how they do it, right?
The instructions call for 212 water and a heaping tsp. of leaves for each six to eight ounce cup. It says 4 minutes, but I steep mine for a full five minutes to extract every bit of the complexity of these leaves. The result? A beautiful cup of reddish gold brew with body that almost invites you to chew it. The sweetness is there, the smokiness is there, but there is also a subtle elegance that was undetectable in the dry leaf. This is a tea of the outdoors, but this is also a tea for a refined sort of traveler. Add some sugar if you like (I do), milk if you must (I don't). It can carry either, but it doesn't need them.
This Lapsang isn't everyone's cup, and your family will just want to know what's burning. Just tell them it's your imagination that is aflame, as you dream of royal Mongol campfires, silken robes, and tents walled with beautiful rugs. They won't understand, but you won't care.
— To purchase Upton Tea Lapsang Souchong Black Dragon, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.
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