Ah, lapsang souchong. Like smoke in a glass. A campfire in a cup. The scotch of teas. Can you tell that I enjoy this type of tea?
Lapsang souchong is produced in the Fujian province of China, traditionally on Wuyi mountain. The leaves are smoke-dried over pine charcoal, which results in a very strong, smoky tea. For this reason, lapsang souchong is a divisive flavor- you may love it the first time, or you might need a few cups to enjoy it.
The good people at Teavivre were kind enough to send me a few tea samples to try, including lapsang souchong! I discovered Teavivre just recently- their website is fantastic! Along with their teas, they have lots of informative articles on tea types, traditions, and the teamaking process. You’ll find a wealth of information here. I’m also a big fan of how they list the steeping directions for both the western method and the traditional Chinese Gaiwan method.
I decided to compare Teavivre’s lapsang souchong to Adagio’s offering, which is at a similar price scale. I brewed both teas at 195 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 minutes, and a used a teaspoon of each tea per cup of water. Let the tea tasting begin!
Teavivre’s lapsang souchong is grown on Wuyi Mountain. Fresh from the bag, Teavivre’s smoky smell is much more delicate than I had expected. When I poured out the leaves, I was pleased to see there was a mixture of leaves and the golden tips of the plant. Just by looking at the dry leaves, I knew I could expect a balanced flavor in the cup. The wet leaves have that tan color that signifies a good black tea, and you could probably get multiple flavorful infusions of this tea.
The flavor was indeed balanced, and rather lighter than the full-bodied smokiness I’m used to in a lapsang souchong. The smokiness is apparent when you smell your tea as you drink, and it has a light, lingering smoky finish. I like a lapsang souchong tea that kicks you in the pants, so this tea would be best suited for those who are new to the distinctive taste.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Price: 10.90/3.5 oz
Where you can buy it: http://www.teavivre.com/smoky-lapsang-black-tea/
Whereas Teavivre’s lapsang is more subtle, Adagio’s fulfills that kick-in-pants quality that I enjoy. When you smell the dry leaves, you get a strong woodsy, smoky flavor, almost reminiscent of a meat jerky (remember how I said that this tea isn’t for everyone?). The dry leaves are a lower quality than Teavivre’s- they’re more chopped up, which is going to make the flavor less mellow and a bit harsher. The wet leaves are also telling- they’re a dark color, almost black. This isn’t to say it’s a BAD tea, just that it’s a lower quality than Teavivre.
The flavor, while not as balanced, has a fuller taste, the smokiness really coming through in the smell and the taste. I was surprised at that, considering that this tea brewed into a much lighter-colored brew. I had to double-check to make sure I was indeed tasting the Adagio lapsang! You really get transported to a campfire drinking this one, but I’m docking it a few stars for its quality.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Price: $8/3 oz
Where you can buy it: http://www.adagio.com/black/lapsang_souchong.html
I’m not done with Teavivre! I still have silver needle, keemun hao ya, tie guan yin Iron Goddess and luo chun to taste from them, so stay tuned!