I’ve written about smoky teas a number of times in these pages, mostly discoursing about how much I didn’t like them. My latest opus on this topic is here. Once upon a time you would not have heard a good word pass from my lips about smoky teas. Not that it was for lack of trying them. I sampled various blends over and over again and always came to exactly the same conclusion – an enthusiastic thumbs down.

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Then things started to change – just a little bit and very gradually, mind you. For the most part I owe it to Keemun, a Chinese black tea that often has smoky notes, ranging from barely imperceptible to moderately intense. While I don’t care much for the latter and I don’t know if I’ll ever make peace with Lapsang Souchong, a tea I’ve always found to be quite smoky, I find some of the milder varieties of Keemun to be tolerable and some even a little bit likable.

These days I’d stop far short of calling myself a fan of smoky teas. I certainly don’t seek them out but I can put up with certain ones, at least to some small extent. What I’ve found recently, in the course of the past few weeks or so, is that I’ve been using the smoky stuff to “save” other teas. I’ve written about this practice before and to summarize, it consists of taking a tea that’s not quite bad, but mostly just lackluster, and mixing it with a better quality tea to make the latter go further.

I’ve found myself doing this a lot lately with a tea that I received a rather large sample of a while back. After taking one sniff of it I looked around to see if someone had lit a campfire. Then I realized that smell was the tea. I put it aside, assuming I’d probably end up giving it to someone at some point. It’s not a tea that I could ever imagine drinking straight unless my tastes drastically change. But lately I’ve but using it to salvage a few black teas that I wasn’t quite in love with ut that were made quite palatable with the addition of just a bit of smoke.

Who knew?

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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