Smoked black tea from Shizuoka

Rather suspicious of Japanese black/red teas and convinced that it is green tea, steamed green tea in particular, that is the “soul” and the true personality of Japanese tea, I was not really in a hurry to create a complete black tea category on the Thés du Japon online shop. But then, finally, I came across a Japanese black tea that captivated me. The name it has been given by the producer, Mr. Matsumoto, is “Fuji-san Souchong”. This is of course a reference to the famous Chinese black Lapsang Souchong tea.
This black tea from Shimada (Shizuoka prefecture) is the first Japanese smoked black tea.
After several years of testing, the producer simply decided to use the Yabukita cultivar for the tea, however, for the wood used to smoke it, Mr. Matsumoto uses wood chips from Japanese whiskey barrels. In fact, the wood is from American oak barrels used for aging a famous Japanese whiskey at a distillery whose whisky’s name begins with “the H…”

At first, I noted that the dry leaves are not really pretty. However, the smoked flavor is very clear and very strong, easily dominating the flavour of the tea.

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At first, I noted that the dry leaves are not really pretty. However, the smoked flavor is very clear and very strong, easily dominating the flavour of the tea.

I never know how to brew this type of black tea, and I propose three methods, which also help to understand this amazing tea.

3 g of leaves in 90 ml of hot water, 60 seconds.
The scent is strong. While one might expect a very invasive “smoked” flavor, it appears that when the tea is still hot, the smoky aroma appears rather as a support for the sweetness of ripe fruit, typical of Japanese black teas. Then, after cooling a little, the smoky flavors are confirmed, establishing a good balance with the mellow aroma of tea. The overall effect is still quite dense and powerful.
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This tea is strong in the mouth. It seems that the smoked aroma also plays a major role, maybe even more than in the fragrance. From the first attack, you feel it, then, while the mild tea aromas appear, accompanied by a touch of very delectable astringency, smoky aromas seem to be the main component of the aftertaste, subtle but long.

Through the astringency and delicious smoky flavor, this black tea has achieved a delectable balance that clears the heaviness and excessive sweetness that I dislike in many Japanese black teas. This tea flows smoothly into the throat, unlike a lot of Japanese black teas.
We can do two infusions, using the same method. The smoky flavor is still here.

Another solution: 4 g in 150 ml of hot water for 100 seconds.

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I think I’ve got the classic Western settings for black tea (?).
The results are not radically different from the first method, except that we are left with a less stratified taste, where different flavors appear simultaneously. The overall result is lighter, rounded, smooth and harmonious. For daily use it is a good solution. Deep flavors, no heaviness.

The producer, Mr. Matsumoto, recommends cold brewing. I tried it, keeping the same 4 g for 150 ml, but with cold water. I do not know how long I let it infuse exactly: about 15 minutes.

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According to the producer, the aim is precisely not to enhance the smoky flavours too much, since they might overwhelm some people, but the result in the fragrance is still pretty smoky. Certainly, it is lighter, appearing as a component of a light and spicy fragrance. Also, the sweet aromas seem quite tamed, and, in a completely different way than with hot brew, we obtain a very balanced flavor, something very “aromatic,” more “feminine” maybe.
With this steeping time, the liquor is still very light. There is of course no astringency. Very slightly spicy, subtly floral, and again in the aftertaste, smoky flavors.

With a cold brew, I was afraid to get too much of the sweetness that makes me dislike many Japanese black teas. To my surprise, I did not. The liquor flows down the throat very well, and this tea is very pleasant to drink as well.
It seems to me that the smoking process does not come to hide the defects of black tea. Using a second harvest (summer) for black tea is a good choice, since the tea’s characteristics and the smoky flavors match and complement each other pretty well. It is basically a surprising tea, really nice (of course, do not compare it to Chinese Souchong !) …… but of course those who do not appreciate smoky aromas will pass it by.

I also tasted two other smoked teas, one smoked with apple wood, and the other with Japanese cherry wood (Sakura). The first has an extremely strong smoky flavour and the second is very light and round, not very interesting to me.

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Categories: Reviews

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5 replies

  1. After reading this . . . I had to buy it. You had me at whiskey-smoked.

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