Lapsang souchong tea is a black tea, grown in the Fuijian region of China. It is sometimes known as 'smoked tea' which rather gives the game away because it is the smoking of the leaves over pinewood that gives the tea it's distinctive flavour and aroma. It really is like drinking a bonfire!
The tea is made from the older, larger leaves of the tea plant, which is where the word 'souchong' comes in. Tea made from the younger tips is generally known as pekoe. Tradition has it that the usual way of drying the leaves was interrupted by the Emporer's armies passing through the region during the Qing era, and so to speed up the drying process and meet demand, locals spread out the leaves to dry over pine fires. Today the tea is becomming increasingly expensive as the region is a small one and demand is growing.
Lapsang souchong is a bit like Marmite - you either love it or hate it! Winston Churchill loved it, and so do I.
It's not that common to see in smaller supermarkets, but there are some online suppliers and a couple of well known brands who offer the tea loose and in bags:
- Twinings have both a Smoky Lapsang and a traditional Lapsang souchong in packs of 50 bags
- Waitrose do a very reasonable box of 50 bags for around £1.90, as well as loose leaf
- Whittard of Chelsea offer loose leaf Lapsang souchong, and also for those not over keen on the smokey sensation, they have a blend called Russian Caravan which has just a hint if camp fires.