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When I open a bag of Lapsang Souchong tea, it has an overpowering aroma of pine smoke. After brewing, there is still a smokiness in my drink but it is far more subtle, and in particular seems to vary fairly widely from cup to cup.

I wonder what factors would cause this inconsistent extraction, and, more to the point, how I could focus my efforts to tweak the final product. For example, if I steep hotter, or cooler, or longer, or shorter, or covered, or stirred, etc.

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How are you currently steeping it? Personally, I steep Lapsang in boiled water for 5min. –  derobert May 7 '12 at 20:04
    
Wiki says Formosan (Taiwanese) lapsang has the smokiest flavour, perhaps you could find some? –  ElendilTheTall May 7 '12 at 20:44
    
@ElendilTheTall, that is good to know, but I am interested from a process perspective. –  Ray May 7 '12 at 22:36
    
Perhaps the best thing would be an experiment or two. Use the same amount of tea and water and steep three cups for three different times etc –  ElendilTheTall May 8 '12 at 5:58
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1 Answer

For overall full-flavor, these instructions produce the best cup:

Use a teapot and cup made from glass, or other material like porcelain. Use soft water for preparation of tea. This is suitable to effectively extract most of the substances from the tea leaves. Hard water is not suitable because it contains higher levels of mineral ions which suppress extraction of substances from leaves, subsequently, the taste become very flat and thin. Besides, mineral ions react with polyphenols substances which will give a dark brown color. Use fresh water which has not boiled before. Bring the cold water to boil, and then pour in boiling water that has been freshly drawn which the temperature is > 95˚C.=Boiling Temparature. Warm the teapot and cups well by rinsing it out with boiling water. This should be done just before adding the tea leaves, so that the leaves benefit from a gentle humid heat. For black tea, the main component is tannin which required high temperature for efficacious extraction. It is necessary to keep container warm in order to maintain* adequate temperature in brewing water.

Got that off this site promoting their LS tea from the Wuyi Mountain area of Fujian where I have toured and sampled: http://hojotea.com/item_e/b02e.htm The part about only boiling once should not be underestimated: tea needs the oxygen to react and release those magical substances.

Have you experimented with second brewing? Drink the first cuppa after a short brew and cover with water again and see if that is indeed smokier.

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