Posted in Kafevend Blog

Too strong souchong

Last weekend's celebrations up and down the country, in honour of the Queen's 90th birthday, lent themselves nicely to an appropriately themed blog, so we decided to take the same approach this Monday and see what could be sparked by Father's Day yesterday.

Tea for men

Now, it occurred to us that the greetings card industry produce a range of masculine themed cards to send to dads young and old, everything from fishing to fast cars. Similarly, men's toiletries tend to have strong sounding names like Extreme, Ultimate Sport and Amazon. And of course there's a tea that fits beautifully into this apparent masculine ideal; we're talking about none other than lapsang souchong!

Some of you will be grimacing at the thought of it, others will smile wistfully; it's that kind of Marmite, love it or loathe it type of product. Nevertheless, for anyone who's left scratching their head let us enlighten you before we go any further with today's theme.

Lapsang souchong is a black tea which is smoked during processing to produce a bonfire flavoured drink; you can often tell if you're going to like it or not just by opening the packet and having a cautious sniff. The addition of boiling water really won't dampen the aroma or the taste. It could be a very good contender for what to buy for the man in your life if he enjoys presiding over the barbecue all summer, and bonfires in the autumn.

The beginnings of lapsang souchong

Lapsang souchong originates from the Wuyi mountain range in the north of China's Fujian province, which is situated along the country's south eastern coast, although these days it's grown in other locations too, such as Taiwan. Its inception is shrouded in myth and mystery. In one story locals are said to have needed to hide their tea quickly from an invading army. In order to speed up the drying process after harvesting they placed the leaves over smoking pinewood. The resulting tea retained the smokiness and they feared the crop was totally ruined. Nevertheless, Dutch traders who they regularly did business with happened to enjoy the tea and paid a higher price than usual for it. Whatever the true circumstances surrounding the creation of lapsang souchong, there certainly seems to be more than a whiff of truth about its initial accidental appearance on the tea scene.

Lapsang souchong has always been a tea that enjoys greater popularity abroad than at home. When the Chinese do drink it they go for a more subtle, lightly smoked version, which sounds entirely sensible to those of us who don't appreciate its usual bold smoky punch. While the very best black teas are generally produced from just the bud and first two leaves, lapsang souchong is generally made from leaves lower down the tea plant; the smoking process hides their inferior quality. Higher quality lapsang souchong can be produced from the smaller leaves, but is far rarer; in fact these days much of the lapsang souchong on the market has been grown far from the Wuyi mountains, which just don't have enough space to meet the increase in global demand.

So, bear lapsang souchong in mind if you can't think of an alternative to socks next time you're buying a male relative a present, but remember that it's as likely to produce a scowl as a smile!


Origin of Lapsang Souchong
Lapsang Souchong

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