Lapsang Souchong, smoky delicious!
Black tea is dark in color and usually characterized by an earthy or roasted taste.
To the experienced tea drinker, the differences may seem obvious, but for many tea drinkers it is difficult to tell the difference between black tea. Ceylon, Assam, Keemun... at first glance they look a lot alike. And frankly, the differences are sometimes quite subtle.
This is not the case with Lapsang Souchong. If there has ever been a black tea with a very distinct taste and smell, it is Lapsang Souchong!
The non-traditional taste can best be described as rough and robust with a pronounced smokiness and hints of whiskey, wood and tobacco.
Originally, Lapsang Souchong comes from the Wuyi Mountains in northern Fujian Province, China. The tea gardens in this mountain are located between 1000 and 1500 meters above sea level. The optimum height for quality teas. Due to the height, the tea plants produce less theine and tannin, the natural pesticides of the tea plant. This gives the leaves more aromatic notes and a fuller taste.
What does Lapsang Souchong mean?
In the tea shop we are often asked what Lapsang Souchong means. The name is twofold: "Lapsang", means "smoked variety" - in the Fuzhou dialect.
"Souchong" refers to the fourth or fifth leaf of the Camellia Sinensis (tea plant), which is used in making the Lapsang Souchong. These leaves are coarser and have less aromatic notes than the leaves closer to the bud (Orange Pekoe). Locally, the tea is also known as "Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong." So literally, Lapsang Souchong means smoked fourth or fifth leaf.
To create the unique Lapsang Souchong flavour, the leaves are dried not by wilting in the open air or with warm air, but by smoking them in bamboo baskets over pine or cypress fires. The result is a light tea with a remarkably smoky character.
History of Lapsang Souchong
According to legend, the smoking process of Lapsang Souchong was discovered by accident. During the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), an army unit stayed overnight in a tea factory filled with fresh leaves awaiting processing.
When the soldiers left and the workers were able to re-enter the site, they realized that there was not enough time to dry the tea in the traditional way and then offer it on the market. As a result, they lit open fires of pine wood to hasten the drying process. Not only did the tea hit the market on time, the taste of smoked pine also caused a sensation.
The special taste of Lapsang Souchong was soon picked up by traders of the V.O.C. (United East India Company) and throughout the rest of the world. Lapsang Souchong is one of the most popular black teas in our tea shop.
Today, Lapsang Souchong tea is produced exactly as it was thousands of years ago.
How to brew Lapsang Souchong?
Personally, I really like this contrarian tea. The warm, roasted notes contrast nicely with the generally sweet teas in my tea collection.
The spicy yet undeniably classic character of the Lapsang Souchong is something I like to drink in the fall and winter.
You can brew Lapsang Souchong in the same way as black tea. Use one teaspoon for 1 cup of tea. Or 6 teaspoons for a pot of tea. Then you put this in a tea filter or tea infuser. Then pour 100ºC water over the tea and let it sit for about 3 minutes. I usually don't let the tea steep for more than 5 minutes. By experimenting with the amount of tea, temperature of the water and the duration of the infusion, you will get more or less smoky flavour, sweet or malty notes.
The infusion has a red, amber brown color. In principle, you could infuse one more time.
The great thing about this tea is that unlike other teas, it does not become bitter if you leave it for too long. Many of our customers drink this tea with a splash of milk or a little honey. Although the combination of smoke flavour and milk might seems a bit strange. Personally, I drink it plain.
Lapsang Souchong can also be used as an ingredient in combination with salmon or chicken from the oven. Maybe I'll blog about that later.
For me, Lapsang Souchong is a delicious tea that suits those beautiful autumn and winter days that you spend with a book and a blanket on the couch.
Tea Shop The Smallest House
In our tea shop we also sell the Tarry Lapsang Souchong. This tea is even stronger in taste than the traditional Lapsang Souchong. Or what about Earl Gray with Lapsang Souchong or the Russian Caravan? We also sell a local blend 'The Best Caddy of the Emperor'. This blend contains top teas such as Assam and Ceylon, combined with Lapsang Souchong. We even sell a beer, Drinkebroeder, with our Lapsang Souchong in it! Brewed by our neighbor Frans.
Would you like to try our Lapsang Souchong? You can order it online or buy it in our tea shop Het Kleinste Huis in Amsterdam.
For a large part of her life Kirsten has had a passion for entrepreneurship and tea. Since 2014, she has been combining this with her husband, Niels, in the tea specialty store Het Kleinste Huis (The Smallest House in Amsterdam). Kirsten likes to write about things that keep her busy (this doesn't have to be just tea!).