Review: Mark T. Wendell Hu-Kwa

Black Tea, Lapsang Souchong Tea, Mark T. Wendell Add comments
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"One of the most sophisticated Lapsang Souchongs I've had the pleasure to come across: if you're in the market for a smooth yet sturdy, woody tea, this is a great place to start."
Sophie’s Teaview: 8.3/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 9.8/10, Melanie gave it 6.5/10, Jamie gave it 9/10
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Named for a famous 19th century Chinese merchant, Mark T. Wendell has been supplying this premium Formosan Lapsang Souchong since 1904. The leaves absorb their distinctive smoky flavour while they are dried over pine fires. The dry tea is a mix of chocolate-coloured twigs and lightly twisted leaves. There are also flecks of rusty brown here and there. The aroma reminds me of gourmet bacon bits: it is not only smoky but rich, salty and a little sweet as well. The only brewing instructions on the website are to suggest a 5 and a half minute steep. I was a little wary at first to try such a long steep for a smoky tea, but things turned out just fine!

I used a level teaspoon of leaves in 8 ounces of water, heated to approximately 210 degrees Fahrenheit. The deep coppery brown liquor smells strongly of wood smoke. At the forefront is a delicious smoky flavour, slightly savoury and earthy. These delicate forest-floor notes are the most novel to me in a Lapsang and make for a very compelling cup. A lightly sweet aftertaste follows, somewhat reminiscent of the fragrance of balsam and cedar. It makes this tea surprisingly smooth and easy to drink. The heavy body makes for a rather stout brew, like the tea equivalent to Turkish coffee, but the acrid flavour that sometimes accompanies smoked black teas is completely absent. It is also not lacking in subtlety as the profile of the tea changes as it cools, verging more towards spicy notes over time. After witnessing the brawn of the first brew, a second 8 minute infusion comes across as meek and mild. Although it still bears it's characteristic smoke-filled top notes, the body is a bit too watery to my taste for it to really be successful.

Mark T. Wendell recommends drinking this tea clear. I found that adding milk still made for a pleasant cup, smoothing out some of the rougher edges of this tea. Honey and maple syrup both seemed to somehow obliterate all the smoky notes. Even the smallest amount transformed the cup into something blandly syrupy. I would have thought that being so stout and sturdy this tea could stand anything, but apparently sweeteners are just too much for it to handle!

I can see why Mark T. Wendell has had such a long tradition as fine purveyors of this tea: it is definitely one of the most sophisticated Lapsang Souchongs I've had the pleasure to come across. If you're in the market for a smooth yet sturdy, woody black tea, this is a great place to start.

Visit Mark T. Wendell Teas for more information on this tea and many more from their extensive product catalogue.

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