Lapsang Souchong, The Smoked Tea
Lapsang Souchong, sometimes called ‘smoked tea’ is originally from the Chinese Wuyi region in the province of Fujian.
It’s thought to be the oldest black tea in history. It’s also one of the first teas the English drank when tea became popular, and one of the teas that was tossed overboard during the Boston Tea Party.
Lapsang, with its very unique scent and taste, has remained a constant over the centuries, and was one of the black teas common in the Victorian era.
What sets Lapsang apart from other black teas, is the heady smoke aroma that comes from a process that strays from most black tea production. Instead of naturally withering it’s roasted in a bamboo basket, usually over a fire of pinewood, and then later re-fired, over smoky wood again, towards the end of the process.
The Lapsang Souchong Legend
Legend has it that Lapsang Souchong originated by happy accident.
During the Qing Dynasty, Chinese soldiers stayed the night in a small village, and were hosted in a tea factory. Due to their unexpected ‘guests,’ the tea makers had to make up processing time in order to get their tea to market.
As you may have guessed, they tried to speed up the process by putting the leaves over heat, in this case a pinewood fire – and the rest is smoke-infused history.
An Acquired Taste
Lapsang is an acquired taste.
And if you’ve had Laphroaig Scottish Whisky, the scent will be familiar. In both cases, the aroma will tell you what you’re getting into. Both are smoked and reminiscent of a smoldering campfire with creosote undertones.
Doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you say? Try it as a blend.
Another way to drink Lapsang, is to blend it with an alternate, less pungent, black tea. It smooths the flavor but enhances your cup with just a bit of smoky character.
So, in conclusion – if you like Laphroaig Whisky, then Lapsang’s your tea.
But if you prefer your tea a little less smoked, then use it as an accent. Kind of like a pinch of Chipotle powder will enhance a steak, Lapsang Souchong can be enjoyed in small doses too.
And if you happen to have a bottle of Laphroaig on hand, pour a drop in your tea. Especially good on an Autumn night, when the smell of chimney smoke mingles with the crunch of Fall leaves…or in this case, tea leaves.
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