I'm learning to write like a journalist, am I not? Despite the flashy title of this post, the comparison is going to be rather small... And I'll write off one of the three at the beginning and from the other two, only one is "real" Lapsang Souchong (LS). This is the way of journalists, it seems... take a flashing title with a distant connection to reality and print it in big letters. Anyway, back to tea.
The three competitors are:
Premium Lapsang Souchong from thechineseteashop; $24.95 per 100g: available here
And my previous notes: here
Waishan Xiaozhong AA from Chawangshop; $8 per 100g: available here
My previous notes: here
And Hster mentioned it: here
Premium Lapsang Souchong from jingteashop; $23.50 per 100g: available here
I haven't had this one before so there are no notes. There are Yoda's notes in Czech.
With pleasure, I would like to add that Longfeng sells this tea for $22 per 100g, well done! The Czech description states AA grade, like the Waishan Xiaozhong above. It's not in the "official" Jingteashop description so I'm not sure how much is the grade rooted in reality. These A* ratings are only approximate anyway. They probably make sense when considered in one maker, but I don't think it is always true that an AAA tea has to be better than another AA tea.
Now, although the LS from the thechineseteashop is a "proper" LS, it lacks sweetness of the latter two and is somewhat coarser, therefore it gains today's bronze medal and goes back home.
We're left with the Waishan and Zhengshan, seemingly incomparable as the latter is three times as expensive. However, a tasting reveals these teas to be surprisingly comparable. When I had these two teas prepared in gaiwan, having multiple steepings (LS is often good when prepared using only one big steeping), after one another, I had a really hard time pinpointing the difference. Today, I put them side by side, preparing them in an entirely identical way, in identical bowls.
Pictures first (Waishan on the top):
The Waishan has a bit larger leaves (though they stil are definitely xiao) and less golden tips.
The Waishan (to the left) has somewhat darker liquor.
How do these teas compare then? Both are good LS, a mixture of dried fruit, smoke, lychee and cocoa. Both have a good aftertaste and similar stamina. However, they approach their actual taste from different directions. I summarized their development (dry leaves->liquor aroma->taste) in the diagram below:
Therefore, although the Zhengshan seems to be a lot smokier than the Waishan before one actually tastes these teas, both of them ultimately reach the good balance between smoke and dried fruit. The largest difference is probably in amount of lychee, which is stronger in the Waishan. The Zhengshan maybe tastes a touch more spicy. While the Zhengshan starts with a bit of the smoke right away, the Waishan starts lighter, with less smoke and more fruit and the smoke appears gradually, it basically baths and complements the aftertaste. I like the development of Waishan more, but it may be just that I'm more used to it.
Both teas are lovely, sweet Lapsang Souchongs with a good balance of smoke and non-smoke components. I can not say I'd consider one better than another. However, the price makes the choice quite easy to me.
Nevertheless, if you are Czech, you do not know Lapsang Souchong and you are not willing to order from abroad (or you would order just the Lapsang, therefore paying a hefty shipping fee), I can surely recommend the LS from Longfeng too (if it is still available) - it is also a very nice tea.