|"...the predominant aroma...is pure tea, a very steady, gentle, assertive presence, owing more to depth than breadth."|
To be honest, that isn't the fault of the teas. It's just that I like this one so much, I haven't drunk much else since I opened it. I tried it originally because of the Lapsang designation; I do love Lapsang Souchong and other smoky teas. This has turned out to be quite its own thing, with a smoky character that is different from any others I have tried and loved. My research says that this is because this tea is roasted over fires of special pine wood from the Wuyi Mountains, rather than the cheaper and easier burning pine oil. This special pine wood is supposed to be deeply infused with fossilized resin, or amber, and this is what gives it the special delicate fruitiness.
And make no mistake, I really love this tea, much in the way a student loves a master, for I keep learning new things every time I brew and drink. I hope our relationship will be a long one, and I have no doubt that it will continue to be fruitful. They say that this tea comes from the small village where drinking tea as a beverage originated, and while that is impossible to prove, I can well believe it.
Black, short, thin, wiry, some broken, a very few stems. A light smokiness to the aroma, but more a smell of oaks and distant burning leaves in the fall. Not the typical "burn your nose with a rubber hose" smell of many Lapsangs, but a subtle and sweetly tangy smokiness, along with a very characteristic "tea" smell. The tea aroma is very like the fragrance of a "tea" rose, without the rose character.
Two rounded teaspoons in 212 degree, filtered water, 5 minutes steeping time in my beloved IngenuiTEA. Sweetened with sugar. Green Hill recommends steeping times of 3-7 minutes, and they know whereof they speak, but more about that later.
A beautiful brewing process. Another TeaViews reviewer wrote recently of tea leaves dancing in her brewer, floating to the top at the start and then sinking with the process. This was like that; leaves swirling madly around the circumference of the clear pot, coming to rest at the top, then gradually drifting to the bottom, one by one. A beautiful and engaging dance of tea.
The wet leaves have an appealing jammy aroma, along with the still attendant smokiness. The oaky character is still there, but I have to add here that the predominant aroma at all stages is pure tea, a very steady, gentle, assertive presence, owing more to depth than breadth. Which is not to say that this is a narrow tea. Anything but. It actually reminds me of Golden Monkey, another tea from Fujian province. It is a very round tea.
The first mug was wonderful, as I said, subtly smoky and jammy, lots of swirling flavors that went in and out. The second steeping was much the same, still a dark golden liquor with beautiful clarity and a rich texture that is almost chewy thick.
The surprise came the next day, with a 6-minute steeping on the second series of steeps. For me, that would normally push a black tea over the edge into tannins and bitterness, and I seldom do it. I will have to adjust that position, because it made this tea even deeper and more nuanced, and brought out a rich spiciness that I hadn't tasted before. It's not specific, just an overall spicy flavor and texture that wasn't present with the shorter brewing time.
At seven minutes, the third steeping held its own with its predecessors. A bit paler in color and less dramatic in flavor and texture, but still quite enjoyable. The fruity character was more present without the stronger components dominating, so this steeping had its own statement to make.
I would go out on a limb here and recommend 6-7, even 8 minute steeps with this tea. It seems impossible to over-steep, but more than that, it becomes a different tea with every additional minute of brewing.
I was unable to find this tea on the Green Hill website, so I don't know what the price is like. Their regular Lapsang Souchong (Bohea Lapsang) is $9.00 for five ounces, a very fair price for better quality Lapsang. Based on my experience of the Fancy Grade, I wouldn't hesitate to try the regular; I'll be doing a review of the regular very soon.
— To purchase Green Hill Teas Bohea Lapsang Special Grade, 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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