There are some three thousand varieties of tea in the world that come from the actual Camellia Sinensis plant. The Camellia Sinensis plant/bush is considered native to China.
I am consistently asked about the black tea variety of Lapsang Souchong. Most of the questions border on what is Lapsang Souchong? To answer the questions of the curious, let’s start with a tiny bit of history.
Lapsang Souchong is a strong smoked tea from China. It is a black tea that is grown in the Fujian Province. The location of the province is in high elevation, low temperatures, and with sufficient rainfall creates the perfect environment for the growth and cultivation of Lapsang Souchong. This tea has a distinct flavor. Its drying process is that of “smoking” the tea leaves over a pinewood fire. Lapsang Souchong is in the family of Wuyi Bohea tea. It is aptly named for the Wuyi hills region from which the black tea originated. The Chinese given name of Lapsang Souchong actually means “smoky variety”. It is considered a sub-variety of black tea.
Chinese teas coincide with the culture and history of China. China’s history is rich with distinctive eras and dynasties. One such era was the Qing Era. This is when the historians believe that Lapsang Souchong was created. During the Qing Era the armies used the Wuyi Hills region for passage. It is said that the armies passing through would delay the tea leaf drying but were paid well so then to hasten that drying time the tea workers would then simply dry leaves over the open campfires. The campfires were made with fire from the local pine forest trees.
Lapsang Souchong has a rich reddish brown color and flavor is strong and smoky. Today this black tea is still smoked, but the tea is rolled and then smoked in special large baskets made of bamboo. The fires are made with the pine bark chips. This tea can also be known by the name of Zhen Shan Souchong, which means “Original Mountain”.
Some enjoy the taste of the rich full-bodied tea. Some proclaim that the tea has sweetness, while others contest that the aftertaste leaves them with coolness on the tongue. Some feel that this black tea is an acquired taste. Lapsang Souchang is extremely popular in European countries. They are notorious for enjoying super strong teas like those of Russia. Often times Lapsang Souchong is nicknamed “Russian Tea” or “Russian Caravan” for its likeness to the Russian-type teas.
This tea is also considered an aromatic and can be smelled by others around the tea drinker as well. It is noted that some will ask the drinker “is something burning?” Most tea enthusiasts will enjoy Lapsang Souchong as an early morning pick-me-up.
Lapsang Souchong is available as loose leaf, bagged, and blended varieties. The tea can be bought in mass supermarkets, on-line, and in major tea house across the United States. Lapsang Souchong is also widely available in Europe.
So this tea may be new to you but worth a try. And you may never know you may be “pining” for it in the end!