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Sourced from the beautiful Wuyi Mountain region of China's Fujian Province, this fine black tea has a distinct smoky aroma and taste, created from methods used during the drying process. Leaves are dried over pine wood fires to develop complex woody notes, complementing their natural flavours, and resulting in a delicious, well-balanced and robust tea. Lapsang Souchong can be served on its own, with lemon, or milk and sugar to taste.
Want to learn more about Lapsang Souchong? Read our article Lapsang Souchong Tea - Smoky, Rich and Unique.
Also available: Lapsang Souchong Tea Bag Bundle, containing 2x 125g bags of Lapsang Souchong and 100x Fill-Your-Own tea bags.
Southern Black China Tea
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Your Guide to Lapsang Souchong Tea
Lapsang Souchong is a luxury black tea from China known for its distinctive smoky flavour and aroma. It’s been around for hundreds of years and is one of the most popular black teas in the world. Its name is derived from ‘lapsang’ meaning ‘smoky’ and ‘souchong’ referring to the older, larger leaves that grow two or three leaves down from the bud and smaller ‘pekoe’ leaves of the tea plant. Lapsang Souchong tea leaves come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis) as other black teas, but are processed differently, being dried over pine wood fires to achieve their unique characteristics. Its smoky taste and aroma are derived from chemical compounds, longifolene and a-terpineol, that are released when pine wood is burned.
The History of Lapsang Souchong Tea
There are different stories as to how this smoke dried Chinese black tea first came about, but the general belief is that Lapsang Souchong was created more by accident than design. The tale most often told is that during the Qing Dynasty, a passing army set up camp in an area of the Wuyi Mountains of China’s Fujian Province, where Oolong tea was being produced. Its arrival caused such disruption that it delayed the leaf drying process and risked the crop being ruined. To speed up the process, the tea workers dried the leaves over pine wood fires, whereby they became darker in appearance and took on an intense smoky scent and taste. The new flavour was liked by the Dutch tea traders who had been supplying Oolong tea to Europe, and the smoking process became part of production. Lapsang Souchong became popular in Britain in the 17th century, partly due to Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II, who introduced the custom of drinking tea in the English courts, and apparently loved Lapsang Souchong tea. It’s also said to have been a favourite of Sir Winston Churchill.
When it was first imported to Europe, Lapsang Souchong was used for medical purposes and sold in pharmacies. Like many teas, it has health-promoting properties in the way of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It also contains theanine, an amino acid known for its relaxing and stress-reducing effects.
How Lapsang Souchong is Produced
Tea leaves used to make Lapsang Souchong are plucked by hand and usually harvested in early May. The larger, older leaves chosen are coarser in texture and more suited to absorb the smokiness from the pine wood. The leaves are withered, either outside in the sun or in a heating room, laid out on bamboo matting placed on slatted racks, with pine wood fires burning beneath them. Next, a rolling process helps to release the oils in the leaves and starts the oxidation process. After several hours of oxidation, they are pan-fired and then rolled a second time to extract residual moisture. They are then dried in bamboo sieves over smouldering pine wood fires. Dried Lapsang Souchong tea leaves are quite large, dark, long and twisted, and glossy in appearance. There is less caffeine in this tea than most other black tea varieties. Although it is classed as a black tea, in China Lapsang Souchong is known as a red tea, because the liquor it produces when infused is amber red in colour.
Types of Lapsang Souchong Tea
Lapsang Souchong tea may also be known as Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, Smoky Souchong, or Tarry Souchong. Although it originates from China and is mainly produced there, different varieties are now produced in other countries. Taiwanese Lapsang Souchong tea is likely to have more pungent smoky, or tarry, characteristics than Chinese Lapsang Souchong because of a different smoking process used; Formosa Lapsang Souchong Tea is one such example. Lapsang Souchong works well in tea blends, such as Russian Caravan Tea, a blend named after the camel caravans that once traversed the Ancient Tea Horse Road on a long journey transporting tea from China to Europe, during which the tea absorbed the smoke from campfires.
Reviews of Lapsang Souchong
Here’s what some of our customers are saying about the unique characteristics of Lapsang Souchong teas:
Sourced from the beautiful Wuyi Mountain region of China’s Fujian Province, Lapsang Souchong is a fine black tea with a distinctive smoky aroma and flavour, and complex woody notes. Robust and well-balanced, it’s perfect served on its own, with lemon, or milk and sugar if desired.
“My favourite smoky tea - lovely large leaves.”
Anna M. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“My favourite tea to have for cream tea. Rich, deep flavour and exceptional quality. Smokey, but not burnt. First class.”
Danuta F. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Excellent smoky flavour, great quality tea with obvious leaves. Brews to make a beautiful tea with a lovely taste.”
Samantha E. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Large leaves of delicious, delicate smokey tea - in a large quantity. What's not to love?”
Tiffany S. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Great Lapsang. Decent size leaves, lovely smoky flavour. I’ve been to Wuyishan to get Lapsang direct from the source before, but the language barrier was tricky, and now I don’t need to!”
Freddy R. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Excellent taste, colour, and bouquet. The smell of smoke makes me think of wood cabins, open log fires, and kippers for breakfast. A refreshing brew that I drink at mindful moments. If you like smoked food I'd recommend you try this tea without hesitation.”
Mitch L. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Another luxury black tea from China’s Fujian Province, Lapsang Souchong Butterfly Tea is grown at high altitudes in the soaring mountains and evergreen forest areas that provide the ideal climate for producing the best quality tea leaves. When dried over wood fires, the leaves reveal aromas of pine and oak, and smooth, crisp, smoky flavours.
Margaret T. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Grown in Nantou County, Taiwan, Formosa Lapsang Souchong is stronger than the Chinese variety of this distinctive flavoured, luxury black tea, due to a different smoking method being used. It has the traditional smoky taste but with more earthy characteristics, and is thought to have energising, as well as relaxing effects.
“I have been drinking a variety of Lapsang Souchong teas for many years and some are too bold and others far too mild. This one is delicate but with the right amount of smokiness. An excellent tea.”
Andrew T. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
What does Lapsang Souchong taste like?
It has to be said that Lapsang Souchong is a bold, distinctive-flavoured beverage that may be not be everyone’s cup of tea (no pun intended). It may be an acquired taste, but those who love smoky flavours, wood smoke aromas and piney notes are likely to enjoy it. It has also been described as having flavours reminiscent of dried longan, peaty whisky and smoked paprika. These smoky characteristics make Lapsang Souchong a suitable ingredient to use in all sorts of culinary dishes. It can be used as a dry rub for meat and fish, and a flavouring to add to sauces, stews or casseroles.
How should I prepare Lapsang Souchong loose leaf tea?
As with other black teas, Lapsang Souchong should be prepared using freshly boiled water; filtered tap water or bottled spring water are the best options. Using one teaspoon (5 ml) of loose-leaf tea for every 8 oz (230 ml) of water, leaves should be steeped for 2-5 minutes at 203°F (95°C). Leaves can be steeped more than once without becoming bitter. Lapsang Souchong is traditionally served on its own, but milk and sugar can be added if desired. And it doesn’t just have to be served hot; a Lapsang Souchong iced tea or cold-brew are great alternatives, and it also works well in cocktails, particularly those containing whisky.
Where can I buy the best Lapsang Souchong tea?
If you’re looking for the best Lapsang Souchong loose tea, Tea-Direct has some fine, high quality China Lapsang Souchong and Formosa Lapsang Souchong varieties, with fabulous smoky tea flavours for those with a penchant for smoked tea.