It is amazing how infrequently in my life I smell that crisp, autumnal scent of burning wood, so common in this part of the world, and think to myself “Boy would I like that smell in a cup of hot water, so that I could drink it.” Frankly, that’d be a strange thing to think.
In fact, I would otherwise recommend not thinking that at all about things you smell. Sure, you’ll start out wanting to drink the scent of summer, or wanting to drink the smell of fresh spring rain, but sooner or later you’re going to be at the bottom of the barrel (who knows what that smells like) and you’re going to be drinking “The Scent of Freshly Laid Asphalt,” and then your life is over.
Therefore, you can see how it was some hesitation that I wound up purchasing Lapsang Souchon tea. I had neither had, nor heard, of it before, and I really enjoy experimenting with new teas. (This sometimes has disasterous results: do not mix your yummy Rooibos tea with your yummy black leaf tea, it will just upset your stomach). A tin of Lapsang was handed to me, I smelled it, and was terribly surprised to find that it smelled exactly like early October weather, when the smell of burning hickory wood is thick and cloying in the air.
Still, I bought it, brought it home, made a pot. Making a pot of it, by the way, made the whole house smell like a hickory wood fire, and that’s not always a good thing. I live in an apartment building. The last thing I needed was for the neighbors to say to each other “Someone is burning down their apartment in a hickory-smoked fashion, we had best call the appropriate authorities!”
You can see how Lapsang Souchon tea would be a bit intimidating, then. It doesn’t scream “drink me,” after all, but “cook marshmallows over me” Even when you’ve drained the tea leaves and poured yourself a cup, it too smells just as strongly.
But then, eventually, it cools and you take a hesitant drink of it. That’s when you find out that all your worry was for nothing, because as it turns out, Lapsang Souchon is one of the best teas out there, in this reviewer’s wildly biased opinion.
The interesting thing is that the tea doesn’t taste very much like hickory smoked wood at all. That’s all in the smell. The tea has its own interesting taste that’s harder to nail down than Earl Grey, and less pronounced than a fruit-based tea. Its taste is not sharp, and it is not strong. It’s a wonderful tea to drink by the teapot, and it is also a very good tea to drink if you are having red meat for dinner. There are huge lists of what sort of wines you are supposed to have with what types of meats. Well, honest, the same thing applies to tea. Lapsang Souchon, then, is a Red Meat tea.
I was only hesitant in the first place. Now, I welcome Lapsang Souchon gleefully into my home. Perhaps a bit too gleefully. Honest, I probably scare the cats. I enjoy the smell of it. And just a couple of months ago, before “interesting smells” turned into “really cold, cover your face,” (which is what happens in this part of the world), when everything outside smelled like burning wood, everything was reversed: this time around, the smell out of doors reminded me of Lapsang Souchon. I can think of worse things.
A final thought: it makes a good breakfast tea, but only because it has a silly amount of caffeine to it. Drink enough of the stuff and you’ll vibrate through solid matter in no time. (This reviewer does not guarantee this ability and does not suggest you run into the wall trying to phase through it. This reviewer also hope that, if you do, you do so hard enough to forget where you heard the suggestion.)