tead off
November 12, 2008 4:37 PM   Subscribe

I started with Earl Grey, and drank it for years with milk, until I tried better quality teas and gave up the milk. Then oolong, which was too weak and subtle for me. Now I've moved on to Lapsang Souchong and a malty golden-tipped Guangxi black called Golden Downy. I like strong teas, with no herbal additives; can anyone suggest other teas as strong as the Lapsang, smoky or not?

After a recent heart attack my cardiologist, a researcher, suggested I start drinking 4 cups of black tea every day, and that the health benefits - for my heart, at least - might rival even those of green tea. So, now I'm looking for a bit more variety.
posted by luriete to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
If you see a "Russian Caravan" blend, those are generally unbearable (IMO). Twinings used to have one but no more, but some other tea merchants still put out a knock-off. Also, I find Twining's "Prince of Wales" to be pretty robust. Their Irish Breakfast is a bit lighter and more palatable to me although still stronger than their English Breakfast.

The Twinings website claims Prince of Wales is "velvety and mild" but not to me at least. Also, strangely, they only appear to sell it in Canada. Pity.

My personal preference is for single-estate Assams. Any decent tea shop will have one or more. Feel free to oversteep them if you like it stronger.
posted by GuyZero at 4:54 PM on November 12, 2008

I like Assams, and Upton Tea Imports' various "Bond Street" blends.
posted by ifjuly at 5:03 PM on November 12, 2008

And just as a reminder: if you plan to drink that much strong black tea a day, you might want to consider cutting it with some good milk or cream. Chronically drinking lots of tea straight has a correlation with esophageal cancer; this is a problem in Asia, but not in the UK because the Europeans drink theirs with milk or cream.
posted by ifjuly at 5:05 PM on November 12, 2008

I had a 'Russian Blend' that I used to drink. It was as smoky and full-flavoured as a Lapsang but had bergamot oil in it as well.

Keemun is another variety that is fairly bold and full flavored.
posted by urbanette at 5:06 PM on November 12, 2008

Sorry - I should clarify - by unbearable, I meant that it's too strong for my tastes but that you might like it.
posted by GuyZero at 5:09 PM on November 12, 2008

Check out a pu-erh (sometimes "puer") tea. Technically it's not quite a black tea, more between black and green, but it's a very nice cup of smoky/earthy tea. Make it with hotter water (actually boiling) than black or green tea.
posted by Ookseer at 6:01 PM on November 12, 2008

Lapsang is all I drink anymore (when it's available). But there are some nice Lapsang blends, like Harney's Russian Country (not Caravan).
posted by booth at 6:02 PM on November 12, 2008

ifjuly: Unfortunately, adding milk or cream also negates the health benefits of tea (at least the cardiovascular aspect). Not drinking the tea too hot might help, as I vaguely recall (but cannot cite) a report that esophageal and throat cancer is correlated with drinking very hot liquids frequently, damaging and stressing the cells.

May I recommend Pu'er tea? It can get pricey, but the tea cakes can be stored for indefinite periods of time under the right conditions, and the tea is very rich tasting. I find it too strong for my taste, preferring wulong teas. One variant of it is known as Tuocha, which is almost medicinally bitter to me, but some research has been done on its health benefits, especially for blood lipids (as to how authoritative the research is, I leave to your judgment. I would say the Chinese, especially the Yunnan authorities, are not unbiased towards tea).

Also, not all wulongs are created equal. There are very robust wulongs such as Da Hong Pao (Red Robes), and Rou Gui (Cinnamon). Slightly lighter is the Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy), which is quite light and flowery currently, but traditionally heavily roasted and very robust (look under Varieties in the Wikipedia link).

Apologies for the Wikipedia entries, I haven't tried the online tea shops, so I can't really give many recommendations except for this one, which I frequent in person.
posted by Alnedra at 6:12 PM on November 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Apologies to Ookseer. I was checking links and didn't see your answer till I posted.
posted by Alnedra at 6:14 PM on November 12, 2008

Sorry if this is just noise - you stated a preference for teas without additives - but I really have to recommend (masala) chai.

It's a black, spiced tea, and it is deeply, deeply wonderful. I drink it when I'm out of Lapsang Souchong, and vice versa.
posted by Hermione Dies at 6:37 PM on November 12, 2008

I used to drink an Assam tea briefly that was so rich and robust and reeeally malty. It was excellent and went really well with milk. Sadly, years later, I can't remember the brand! You could try a few of those. Irish Breakfast is typically made with mostly Assam tea and is usually pretty easy to find.

The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State says (secondhandly) that those early correlations between black tea and heightened risk of esophageal cancer were later found to be due to the high temperature at which some populations drank it. The ones who put something in it lowered its temperature and had lower risk. You could just let it cool a bit on its own instead.
posted by Askr at 6:44 PM on November 12, 2008

Get a book on tea that has a map of regions in it (or get a flier from a high-end tea store that has a map), find where the ones you like are grown, and try regions near there. That's how I got from Ceylon (which may be milder than you're looking for) and Yunnan (give a Yunnan Gold a try!) to the Assam region, which is what I'm sipping my way around now.
posted by dws at 6:46 PM on November 12, 2008

I am a fan of heavily steeped Darjeeling tea, myself.
posted by OrangeDrink at 6:56 PM on November 12, 2008

Try tea with ginger pieces... should be available in most loose leaf tea shops.

It's not smoky or black but it's a distinct flavour.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:28 PM on November 12, 2008

I was addicted to this sadaf blend a while ago...if i still had some i probably would still be addicted. It is a black tea with cardamon flavor.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 7:44 PM on November 12, 2008

Make homemade chai, experimenting with different spices to your liking. I make mine with more ginger and cardomom than usual and it is very satisfying in the winter.

And pu-er.

I know you don't like herbal additives, but I can't help but recommend adding egyptian licorice to irish breakfast for something very rich.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 7:45 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by clockwork at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for these EXCELLENT recommendations. I do tend to let is cool down to just a bit warmer than tepid before drinking, so no risk of burning (and no increased risk of cancer, either, if that research is correct). And yes, I knew that the fats in milk and cream would negate the benefits of the tea.

I will pick up several new teas based on these recommendations. There's enough here to keep me trying new stuff for the next year or two. Thank you everybody!
posted by luriete at 8:02 PM on November 12, 2008

Kusmi tea is a Russian company makes some interesting black tea blends, I have the Kashmir Tchai from there, it is very good - very spicy and strong!

Also Mariage Freres tea, I see they have a Lapsang, pretty much any blend is going to be delicious. You can get either one at a Dean & Deluca and several other absurdly overpriced gourmet stores (Whole Foods does not have them).. not cheap ($16-$19 a tin).. but then, it's loose tea, one tin will last quite a while.
posted by citron at 8:11 PM on November 12, 2008

I'll second cranberrymonger's suggestion of black tea (preferable Assam) with ginger. It's so good on a cold day.

Also, this might seem like an out-of-left field suggestion because you're looking for black teas, but try Kapchorua Estate green tea. It's really robust, unlike any other green teas I've tried.
posted by thisjax at 1:54 AM on November 13, 2008

I've always been partial to Poonee (sp?); buy it in cake form for best strength. Very strong smoky flavor. It's got another name as well, I can't remember it (anyone?), and I've only ever found it in various Chinatown markets (Chicago, SF, NYC) never in outlier Asian markets or tea shops.
posted by nax at 5:23 AM on November 13, 2008

Definitely try some pu-erh, the older and darker the better. For my money no other style of tea has quite the same depth of flavor. Rishi makes a really bracing pu-erh with ginger which you can almost slug back like a shot of booze. Good stuff.
posted by Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific at 6:00 AM on November 13, 2008

Nthing Pu-erh and a good Russian blend.
Scotch Breakfast is another one I'm quite fond of, but it is rare.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 7:12 AM on November 13, 2008

Nthing Tibetan Pu-erh.
My friend calls it "yak blood tea" because of the strong flavor.
posted by softsantear at 8:26 AM on November 13, 2008

i'm also a fan of upton tea. i love their irish breakfast blend, but i take it with milk.

upton (like most online tea sellers) sells sample packs of tea with just enough for a few cups. buy a bunch of those and try them out.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:35 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you like strong tea, try Bewley's. I don't know where to find it online, I have to order via snail mail. I'll check at home for the address. (MefiMail me if I forget to post again.)

OrangeDrink - I always thought darjeeling was a fairly light tea. But then, I've not experimented heavily.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:05 AM on November 13, 2008

Here's the address:
Bewley Irish Imports
1130 Greenhill Road
West Chester, PA 19380

Try the Clipper Gold or Finest Regency.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:42 PM on November 13, 2008

I second Russian Caravan! I really liek the kind put out by St James Teas.

Also, check out adagio.com for tea. I like a lot of their stuff and they got some new kinds of (smokey and strong sounding) black teas in that I am dying to try.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 9:40 AM on November 14, 2008

I'd agree with the recommendations to try Yunnan and Assam teas. Upton Tea (which I also recommend) has a good selection of both. As for pu-erh teas, I'd say they're a bit of an acquired taste (one that I haven't acquired myself, in fact), but they're probably worth trying to see if you like them.
posted by klausness at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2008

Wuyi Oolong. It isn't floral like the Taiwanese/Formosa teas, it's earthy and my favorite. Sometimes sellers will call it Wuyi Rock or Mountain tea. Get the loose leaf, all of the bags I've tried have sucked. Another one I really liked was a black tea variously called 9 bend back tea/9 river tea/9 dragon tea/etc. I just looked it up and it comes from Wuyi, as well.

I remember reading somewhere that the reason black tea is good for your heart is that it enhances the absorption of copper. It might be something to look into.
posted by stavrogin at 1:50 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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