Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lapsang Souchong

Lapsang Souchong, Zhengshan Xiaozhong
This has to be a tea that's distinctly different from anything else I've tried. It's a Chinese black tea, but instead of being rolled and oxidized, it's dried over pine fires. This isn't the Rauchbier of teas, though, since the distinct way the tea is dried doesn't make it taste like liquid bacon. Instead, it smells like a campfire, but tastes like black tea with pine notes.

The tea starts off with a little bit of smoke, and then melds into tannins and pine. The finish is a little bitter (because of the tannins) with the pine notes lingering on.

The best words to describe Lapsang Souchong's scent are savory and smoky-fragrant. It has a smoky scent (which lingers in the cup and dregs) and a pine resin smell.

I've tried about half a pound of two different brands, and this type of tea isn't very finicky, although if you use just warm water and not enough steeping time, you'll end up with a tea that only tastes of pine. Steeping it for too long doesn't result in an incredibly bitter black tea that requires tea and milk to be palatable. Use a full boil and steep for about 5 minutes to extract the flavor.

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