Review: Mark T. Wendell Hu-Kwa

Black Tea, Lapsang Souchong Tea, Mark T. Wendell Add comments
Jamie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"That a Lapsang could come across as both full of its hallmark flavor as well as delicate and elegant seemed a marvelous achievement to me. "
Jamie’s Teaview: 9/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 9.8/10, Melanie gave it 6.5/10, Sophie gave it 8.3/10
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Mark T. Wendell's Hu Kwa Tea is a beautiful offering of a Lapsang Souchong, and according to their website, it's considered a benchmark for Chinese Lapsang teas. It's certainly wonderful from an aesthetic perspective, with long, slender leaves smelling of pine fire sweetness. I brewed a teaspoon of this tea in 8 ounces of water permitted to boil and then cool in the kettle for a couple of minutes. The website at Mark T. Wendell offers excellent brewing parameters for this tea, which I will admit to being somewhat hesitant to follow to the proverbial T. I allowed the tea to steep precisely 5 and a half minutes. Then I removed the leaves and allowed the tea to sit in the pot another half a minute before pouring.

The tea has a gorgeous deep coppery orange color that you could spend a great deal of time admiring in its own right. Along with a beautiful color comes a truly sweet smell loaded with pine smoke. The taste is light and elegant, sweet and with balanced smoky nuances that linger delicately. I found the cup to be really surprising, and quite unlike other Lapsangs I've been able to try. Of several I've tried, this one is remarkable to me in that the smoky scent and flavor is pervasive, to be sure, but is wonderfully balanced and tasteful. The taste of smokiness doesn't linger in the mouth as a cloudy, campfire sort of residue but rather as a bright and piney, fresh crispness. The cup has a fine, surprising elegance and lightness to it that is most enjoyable and eyebrow raising considering the power that a smoke flavor can sometimes have to make a cup heavy. This cup is truly light. That a Lapsang could come across as both full of its hallmark flavor as well as delicate and elegant seemed a marvelous achievement to me.

In my experimentations with leaf proportions, I found that a scant to precise teaspoon yielded the best results for my tastes. A slightly higher amount of leaf, roughly 1.5 teaspoons per 8 ounces, definitely brought to light a sturdier cup. While still excellent in taste, the lesser amount of leaf allows a just perfect natural sweetness to shine through along with the smoky flavors. The sturdier cup exhibited interesting sour notes rather than notably sweet ones. I thought the lesser leaf steeping would pair well with savory items and the stronger cup seemed to request a sweeter pairing.

A second infusion is well worth the time. I found the tea quite forgiving and never prone to bitterness in terms of either the first or the second infusion.

I highly recommend this lovely Lapsang offering from Mark T. Wendell and can definitely see why Hu Kwa is considered a benchmark among Lapsangs.

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

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