|"I've had Lapsangs that are "whack you over the head with a smoking log" strong and I find them harsh and unpleasant. I like mine strong but smooth, and balanced enough for the flavor of the tea to shine through. This one solidly meets that standard. "|
American Tea Room's Lapsang Souchong offering is made with black tea from China's Fujian Province which has been smoked over spruce wood fires. The dry leaves are small and dark, and smell smoky and pungent, as you would expect, but also surprisingly sweet, that note a mix of what seems to be the tea and spruce resin. The combination has a touch of cedar about it, although that wood is not mentioned in the production of the tea. There's also a bit of leather. The smokiness is thick, and as stated, pungent, but not harsh like some Lapsangs. There's a freshness about it that takes me back to those nighttime campfires in the woods.
I steeped a rounded teaspoon of the dry leaf in 8 oz of 208F water for five minutes. The minute the hot water hit the leaves a note of fresh resin wafted up from the pot and by the time the tea was done my whole kitchen was filled with the aroma.
The liquor was a medium amber color and had the same smoky spruce aroma. The flavor was initially all sweet and smooth black tea, but the rich smoke flavor quickly followed, clinging to the teeth and inside the lips, and the fragrance filled my mouth and nostrils. (Exhale through your nose to get the full effect.) At the very end of the flavor spectrum there was a surprising and lingering salty note, and then an astringent finish. What continued to surprise was the sweetness in each successive sip. If I had to choose one phrase to describe this particular Lapsang, it would be "robustly complex and mellow." ATR suggests pairing this tea with roast meats and spicy Thai dishes and I can see why, especially the meat. It would be great with a good steak, grilled rare, and a buttery baked potato. The flavor and aroma lingered endlessly in my mouth. Really. Later I had to eat an apple to clear my palate for the next tasting. That's not a complaint, just a testament to the power of this tea.
I tried a second infusion but this, not surprisingly for a black, is a one-steep tea. Both the tea and the smoke flavors were pretty much exhausted.
I've had Lapsangs that are "whack you over the head with a smoking log" strong and I find them harsh and unpleasant. I like mine strong but smooth, and balanced enough for the flavor of the tea to shine through. This one solidly meets that standard. It's not in any way wimpy, though. My rating is based on my preference; those who like a more extreme pungency may differ, but I'd encourage you to give this a try. For me, this is everything I want in a Lapsang Souchong in perfect measure.
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