Smoked teas. They aren’t for everyone. Usually, it is one of those things that people either love or hate, and I fall in the camp of loving it. In fact, if you forced me to pick my favorite tea, I would say a smoky Lapsang Souchong.
I had three different smoked teas on hand, and I thought it would be neat to do a horizontal tasting of all three of them to see the differences. I had a little bit left of a sample of Japanese Whisky from Harney and Sons, a Lapsang Souchong from In pursuit of tea (a gift to me), and smoked Lapsang Souchong from Path of Cha. Coincidentally, I had 3.6 grams left of both the Japanese Whisky and the in pursuit of tea Lapsang. So I used 3.6 grams of all three teas and brewed them for 10 + 5 seconds at 200F. I don’t have identical teaware, but I did use neutral teaware for all three to make it as close as I could to being identical brewing conditions.
I will start with the Japanese Whisky. This is a Japanese black tea, which is pretty rare as most Japanese teas are green. It is smoked over fire of wood chips of Japanese whisky barrels. I have done a separate post on this tea alone, but I noted the texture was a bit thin and smooth. The smoke was there but not overpowering and it had some fruity sweetness to it. There was no bitterness and very little astringency. This is a really nice tea.
Next up was the in pursuit of tea Lapsang Souchong. This one had a medium body with some floral notes to it and some tart fruit sweetness but overall this tea just didn’t work for me. It tasted like cough syrup in my mouth and once I had that thought in my head it was all I could taste. I gave it two infusions to be fair but it wasn’t any better the second time.
Lastly was the Path of Cha Lapsang Souchong. This is a Chinese tea from the Fujian province which is smoked over pine wood. I can describe this tea in one word: Smoky! Again, depending on your preference, this can be good or bad. I really enjoy the smoky flavor and this tea is in your face smoky and I love it. This teas also had a bit of a fruity sweetness on the end to round it off which is nice.
I think the Japanese Whisky from Harney and the Lapsang Souchong from Path of Cha are both very good teas. I wouldn’t recommend the in pursuit of tea unless you really like the flavor of cough syrup. If you are not familiar with smoked tea or have never tried it, I would say start with a Japanese Whisky and see if you like it. If you have had it and you know you love the smoky goodness like me, then go for the gusto with the Path of Cha. They are both excellent choices with fairly big differences in flavor.
The price on the Japanese Whisky is $25 for 3 oz ($8.33 per oz.) The Path of Cha is $8 for 1oz. So the Path of Cha is slightly cheaper but they are very close in price and they both have very good shipping policies so you shouldn’t pay any difference there either. Heck, if you are feeling adventurous just get both of them!
This was a fun experiment and I hope to do some more of these types of comparison tastings in the future. Cheers!