According to the general manager at Handunugoda Tea Estate, this Ceylon Souchong is different from the more commonly known Lapsang Souchong in one particular way. While the Chinese origin Lapsang Souchong is traditionally smoked over pinewood fires, Handunugoda Tea Estate claims to smoke their Ceylon Souchong over cinnamon wood! For those of you with an appreciation of cinnamon, this description should definitely get you excited. As much as I love and appreciate the potent pine character of Chinese Lapsang Souchong black teas, I am quite excited to get a potent cinnamon character in this tea.
Although not specified in the description, and thus not assumed to be such, I would be even more excited if the cinnamon used to smoke this tea was Ceylon cinnamon, rather than the cheaper, less interesting Chinese cinnamon. For the purpose of being as concise to the company’s marketing of this product as possible, I will simply use the term cinnamon rather than Ceylon cinnamon.
I provided more details on Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate in my recent review of the Rainforest Black Tea.
Let’s get to the review…
The dry leaves varies in color from pale brown to charcoal black. There also appears to be thin shavings of tree bark or cinnamon sticks, which I assume to be from cinnamon, that have a yellow-brown color. The tea leaves are all small fragments, appearing to be of BOP (broken orange pekoe) grade. The leaves are lightly machine rolled, and fully oxidized. There are no bare tea stems, and no signs of buds. The aroma, although very pleasing, has me a bit confused and concerned. There are potent scents of pinewood smoke, with a nice compliment of fresh cinnamon, and a light scent of dark red grapes. This is a great aroma, but I have to say that as of now, I am more convinced that this tea is smoked with pinewood, with maybe a blend of a little cinnamon wood, and has some fresh cinnamon bark or sticks blended in the final product to give a cinnamon twist. Without visiting the estate and observing the production process, it would be difficult to determine the truth here.
Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F (93°C) water for 3:00 minutes.
The liquid has a red-orange color. The aroma has potent scents of pinewood smoke, and fresh cinnamon. The body is full, with a very smooth, silky texture. There is no bitterness or astringency, and a pleasant, light briskness. The taste has notes of pinewood smoke, fresh cinnamon, light malt, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste is sweet, carrying the light malt flavor, and pleasantly smoky.
The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The wood or cinnamon stick shavings have also taken on this copper-brown color, and are difficult to distinguish from the tea leaves. The leaves are all small fragments, again appearing to be of BOP grade. There are no bare stems or observable bud fragments in the mix. The aroma continues the pleasing scents of pinewood smoke and fresh cinnamon.
The Ceylon Souchong Black Tea boasts many great qualities for a Lapsang Souchong style of black tea. The body and mouthfeel of this tea is indeed of a higher quality than most Chinese Lapsang Souchongs that I have tried over the years. The smoky character, combined with those of the cinnamon, compliment one another beautifully. This is a tea that I could see myself enjoying on a regular basis. I certainly do recommend this tea to any lovers of Lapsang Souchong.
With that being said, I do have my concerns that this tea is not smoked using cinnamon sticks or bark alone. With all due disclosure, I am not an expert on the aromas and tastes of most kinds of wood smokes on the planet, and I cannot say that I have ever smoked any food or other edibles with cinnamon bark or wood, but I am fairly convinced that what I picked up on was pinewood smoke. Considering the obvious cinnamon character that is also found in this tea, I would not be surprised if cinnamon bark, wood, or sticks are included with pinewood during the smoking process, but I (at this moment) do not believe that the tea is smoked purely with cinnamon. Not that this takes anything away from the quality of the product itself, but as a believer in accurate marketing descriptions, want to point out an observation that I have made. If I am, in fact, incorrect in this observation, I apologize in advance, and upon being furnished proof that purely cinnamon is used to smoke this tea, will be happy to revise this post accordingly.
To my readers, do not let the above observation stop you from trying this tea. It is truly a very good smoked black tea, and well deserving of your time.
Thank you again to the management at Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for providing this sample of Ceylon Souchong Black Tea!