Why Lapsang Souchong is the Perfect Drink for Autumn

Lapsang Souchong. Heard of it? Possibly also known to many people from the UK as ‘Urgh the smokey tea’. That one!

I’ll be honest, I too was a bit scared of it. I had only actually tried it for the first time about 3 years ago. I wasn’t blown away wth but I didn’t think it was completely awful. But it opened my eyes to tea being something that can create discussion.

The tea originally comes from the Wuyi Mountain area in the Fujian Province in China. There is a mixed history about Lapsang Souchong about how it actually came to be invented. The one I like the best is that in the Wuyi mountain region there were lots of young pines growing, which needed to be burned to dry out the tea. However due to them being so young they were very sappy and produced a lot of smoke. This gave the tea that iconic and distinct flavour. But the producers didn’t like this new veriaty so sold it quite cheaply to travellers. Those travellers came back a while later asking for more and so the tea became official. There are other stories about they needed to speed up tea production due to disruption from the Qing Era armies coming through the area.    However it happened, customers enjoyed the blend and demand for it increases so production carried on. But it is clear that it wasn’t made specifically for the elite but as a creative response to a situation. 

Now I am not expert but an enthusiast so if I have any information wrong please do let me know. As far as my reading goes the word Souchong is often refers to as sub-variety and refers to the fourth and fifth leaves from the tea bud. These leaves are slightly less valuable to be produced with their own flavours but also are more hardy, able to take being smoked. Lapsang  comes from the Fuzhou (a city in the Fujian Province) dialect meaning smoked by pinewood. So the translation is a fairly comprehensive one. 

At the tea sommelier course we had tried some which made me curious to try more so as I already have said I did buy some from Postcard Teas which came in a very pretty little caddy. I have been holding off writing a blog post about it so when this blend came in from Bohea Teas, I was very eager to try it first & I haven’t been disappointed.

Bohea Tea and I started talking on Instagram and Chris suggested that we might be able to do something together. The company is a husband & wife team who source directly from farmers across the world with whom he builds strong relationships with. Chris tries hundreds of different blends to choose the right teas. They’ve been amazing & sent me a packet of Lapsang Souchong, a spiced chai & a Hojicha. This blend is a Taiwanese black tea smoked with pine with a sweet & smokey flavour.

I boiled my water to 90 degrees & put one heaped teaspoon plus a little extra for a pot for 3 cups. I’ve tried brewing for different times but for this post I did as recommended and brewed for only one minute. 

The dry leaves are a beautiful charcoal grey colour of small twisted leaves almost like small dragons sleeping in the remains of their fires. The smell conjures that image with it too, with the strong wood fire scent bring images of yesterdays bonfire lingering in a woollen scarf as you go for a walk on a cold brisk winter morning, the memory of the fire giving your face a rosy glow.  The smell isn’t over powering so that you get burnt, bittoer or sour notes but its bright and interesting.

The wet leaves have mellowed in scent, with a lovely black tea nose emerging with hints of the smokiness.  It almost has a light burnt sugar smell, like a Ceylon or the Formosa Oolong but just mildly which does balance the smokiness beautifully. The colour has brightened to a dark earthy copper colour and the leaves have unfurled to shiny broken leaves. In their pile from the strainer, I am reminded again of the day after a bonfire where perhaps its rained in the night, the small mound is wet but still has the smell of something distinct and has great memories from the night before.

The liquor is a bright clear golden colour like honey. The smokey smell hasn’t gone, but has mellowed slightly since brewing. This is in the taste too but the tea flavours have emerged too with the sweetness that balances it making it really delicious. Its like smokey bacon or marshmallows toasted over a fire, its complex but not too so that you can’t enjoy it.

It really is an underrated tea I want to encourage more people to try! It’s doesn’t taste ‘burnt’ or like ash in a cup. It’s got depth, amazing mouth feel & such a delicious flavour for the colder months. It’s still tea but with an added boost. I don’t have enough experiences with this blend to compare for flavour but this one is certainly something to remember, I love the dark sugary notes & only infusing for 1 minute doesn’t overpower it too much.

I’d love to pair this with a light smoked salmon, scrambled egg & toast. Or I’ve seen a recommendation for pairing of cheese & truffle honey on ciabatta, which I do like the sound of.

Please please if you ever get the chance to try a loose leaf Lapsang Souchong, do! It’s  such an exciting flavour that really should be given a fair chance!
Happy sipping!


4 thoughts on “Why Lapsang Souchong is the Perfect Drink for Autumn

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