Lapsang Souchong originates from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian, China. The Fukienese word ‘souchong’ literally means ‘little variety’ or subvariety.
Legend claims that the smoking process was discovered by accident. During the Qing Dynasty, an army unit passing through Xingcu (Star Village) camped in a tea factory filled with fresh leaves awaiting processing. When the soldiers left and the workers could get back into the premises, they realized that to arrive at market in time, it was too late to dry the leaves the ususal way. So they lit open fires of pine wood to hasten the drying. Not only did the tea reach the market in time, but the smoked pine flavor created a sensation a new product was born.
The leaves are first withered over fires of pine or cypress wood. After panfrying and rolling, they are pressed into wooden barrels and covered with cloth to ferment until they give off a pleasant fragrance. The leaves are fried again and rolled into taut strips. Then they are placed in bamboo baskets and hung on wooden racks over smoking pine fires to dry and absorb the smoke flavor. When finished they are thick, glossy black strips, and produce a dark red beverage with a uniuqe aroma.
This production lot was grown at high elevation in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province. It was not blended with lesser teas from other regions as is the custom. These plants are older and more care is taken with the smoking process. This results in a tea that is far more subtle and refined than most. Some call this the origin of red tea, or black as it’s known in the west. The leaves are first withered over fire and rolled, then lightly smoked in bamboo trays over a wood fire.
The flavor is very assertive and appeals to those looking for a bold cup of tea. In recent years, Lapsang-Souchong has begun to grow in popularity and has become the favorite tea of many who also appreciate single-malt Scotch whisky and fine cigars. It was once known as a man’s tea but more and more women are drinking it as well. You may also wish to try adding a pinch of Lapsang-Souchong to a cup of English Breakfast blend to add a whole new layer of flavor notes to savor.