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The History, Preparation and Characteristics that Make this Chinese Tea Special
You may have heard of Lapsang Souchong tea, a unique variety of black tea that originated in China. This tea is known for the smoky flavor that makes it pleasantly different from other teas. How did this tea come to be, and where can you find it today?
Origins and History
Like many types of tea, the true history of the smoked variety of Souchong is tangled up in legends. Many claim that all black tea originated in Tongmu Village in the Wuyishan Mountains of Fujian province in China. The story goes that, once upon a time, all the tea produced in Tongmu was green tea, which was traded with Europeans. One year, soldiers moved through the area, occupying the village of Tongmu during tea harvesting time. Recently harvested tea wound up sitting and oxidizing, thus becoming black tea. After the soldiers moved out, the villagers returned and were devastated to find that their tea had been “ruined.” One of them suggested trying to revive the tea by smoking it to remove the unpleasant odor left behind by the army. The result was a smoky, unusual brew.
Another legend states that soldiers moving through Tongmu set fire to pine sheds where tea was drying, and this is what created the smoke flavor. Either way, the strange new variety of tea was well liked by the Europeans, who asked for more. To continue creating this tea, the Chinese harvested and withered the leaves, pan-fried them and rolled them, then allowed them to ferment before smoke-drying them over a smoldering pine fire.
Finding Smoky Souchong Today
Interestingly enough, little smoked Souchong tea is actually produced in Tongmu these days. Another tea type, Jin Jun Mei, is more profitable, making Souchong a less attractive choice for tea growers and processors. However, many companies in other places follow the traditional smoking method to produce a delicious black tea with the authentic flavor that people have come to enjoy. These teas can be found at online tea stores and in tea shops.
Brewing and Enjoying Unique Souchong Tea
The brewing method for smoked Souchong teas is similar to that of other black tea types. Add loose tea to an infuser inside a cup or pot, or place tea bags in the vessel of your choice. Pour boiling water over the top and steep for three to five minutes. Since the smoky flavor of this tea can be quite strong, it’s best to start with a shorter brewing time and taste it to see what you think. After a bit of trial and error, you’ll find the strength that you like best.
At Tea Forte, you can get Lapsang Souchong loose or in our handcrafted pyramid infuser to be enjoyed any time you like. Follow the steeping instructions to get a flavorful cup without any hint of bitterness and experience the difference that the unique smoke-drying process makes.