The name Souchong refers to the fourth and fifth leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, farther removed from the prized flowery pekoe bud at the tip (which is followed by orange pekoe and then pekoe leaves). These lower leaves are considered inferior in quality, so it is perhaps not surprising that they were used by the Chinese growers in the Wuyi mountains of the Fujian province of China to create an intensely smoky tea.
The true story of how and when the Chinese began smoking these Souchong leaves is unclear. A popular legend has it that it was created by accident during the 17th century when the leaves were burned during a raid, or that war caused tea growers to abandon the usual drying process and later use smoke to speedily up dry the tea for market. Whatever the true origins of this pine smoked tea, by the mid-1800s it had become popular in European tea rooms.
And yet, for all its popularity in the West, the Chinese do not drink smoked tea. In New Tea Lovers Treasury: The Classic True Story of Tea, James Norwood Pratt eschews the controversy surrounding the history of Lapsang, and offers instead that “disbelieving Chinese friends have sworn to me that a barbarity like smoking tea could never be practiced in China, where Lapsang Souchong is apparently all but unheard of.” It is said that Winston Churchill liked Lapsang Souchong, unsurprising since this great statesman also loved a good cigar and strong whisky.
Lapsang Souchong is not for the faint of heart; tea drinkers either love it or can’t imagine drinking it. A cup of a well-balanced Lapsang, with its earthy aroma, intense smoky flavor and hint of sweetness, is as comforting as curling up by a warm campfire on a chilly evening. Enjoy our deliciously balanced Organic Lapsang Souchong with or without milk any time of day.