I have been proposing for several years a smoked black tea from Shimada in Shizuoka by Mr. Matsumoto who was the first in Japan to try this experiment.
Its flagship product is the one I was proposing, smoked with wood chips from barrels containing Japanese whiskey. The concept Japanese black tea + Japanese whiskey was seductive, in addition to this, the result was also quite interesting, very different from Chinese smoked black teas made with pinewood.
But in fact, this producer has multiplied the experiments with other woods. Pin, of course, but also sakura, apple, cedar, and even recently bergamot wood. Among the ones of this year in any case, the sakura gives the least frank result, the cedar gives an incredible perfume to the dry leaves which is unfortunately little in the infusion, and the bergamot wood gives a result that personally seemed to me a bit odd (the latter is still in the experimental stage).
Thus remains the whiskey (oak), the pine and the apple tree. Each giving a clearly different tea, here they are now in a set on Thés du Japon, 30g of each.
With this black tea smoked with whiskey barrels wood chips, more than smoke, it is a fragrance of peat and whiskey that appears clearly, with an impression of sweetness. One would expect to feel the alcohol in the mouth. Of course it is not, but the sensation in the mouth surprises by its richness. Together with the peat flavors, this is accompanied by sweet fruit aromas, a hint of astringency, and more clearly a smoky aroma. But this smoke remains very tender, and the overall impression is balanced, and finally, this tea is the less typical of the three while being very original because of its “taste of whiskey”.
With the black tea smoked with pinewood, the opening of the bag gives immediately a stronger smoky impression, without this fragrance taking too strongly the nose.
After infusion, in the nose, the perfume of wood fire appears dominant. But this perfume, with softness, nevertheless provides a velvety sensation of calm. This impression continues in the mouth, and despite the pronounced taste of smoked, the liquor also seems very refreshing. While cooling, a sweet flavor comes to round off the overall.
Smoked with pine, it is naturally the one that offers the greatest similarity with the Chinese lachsang souchong. And it is also finally the one that I appreciate the most (at this moment in any case).
Do not rely on the clear color of the infusion of this black tea smoked with applewood. It is the strongest of the three.
The fragrance of smoked here is the most rough, with a strong impression of wood fire. At the same time, this perfume is very rich and complex, with also something reminiscent of peat, leather and vanilla.
On the palate, the attack contrasts with the diversity of aromas of the perfume, because the smoky impression is very dominant, although it seems softer in the after-taste than with the pine.
These three teas all offer something very different in the same area of smoked tea. Difficult to say which is the best according to the tastes of each one but also the moment and the mood, the choice will vary.
I see the “whiskey” rather in the evening, in a moment of relaxation as an aperitif, while the “apple tree” can provide a sensation of awakening in the morning, strong brew with why not a cloud of milk. The finesse and freshness of the “pine” makes it perfect for me for the day, after lunch for example.
It is a set that I want to recommend very strongly but it remains true that the smoked tea is a rather special thing, and that apart from the “whiskey”, these teas will not reconcile with the smoked tea those who hates it anyway.