Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lapsang Souchong tea review

pinetreeside; source:www.adigitaldreamer.comWe have seen now different kinds of teas, some pure, some flavored. The pure ones derive their taste from their very own qualities plus some processing while the flavored ones generally get theirs from added elements such as fruits, petals or essential oils. One can still find a midway category between these two and here are those teas whose flavors are brought up by a moderate alteration of their nature. One example is the hoji-cha which was born when someone, either by insight or accident, roasted green tea leaves. Another, arguably, is the Puerh which is left to ferment. And another yet is the Lapsang Souchong of which will be talking today.

The Lapsang Souchong is a black tea from China that has the peculiarity of being smoked. It's discovery, no less, has been a boon to many.

This tea is probably the oldest member of my tea shelf and I inherited it, so to speak, from my dad who had tasted it once and bought some in London. The original batch was a Fortnum & Mason tin of whole leaf. It had stood there for over 20 years and when I finally began brewing some of it, I found that it had weathered the intervening years very well. When this ran out, we bought some more from the same company, these time in tea bags, and found that, well sure, the flavor was more pronounced, but it still was essentially the same.

The Lapsang Souchong teas are smoked by drying the larger Lapsang tea leaves over pinewood fire. The resulting smoky flavor is not quite like those found in hams or salmon. It rather has its own distinctive taste. Nowadays, having run out of all Fortnum leaf, I brew from that of my local provider and with this even the taste of sap is clearly present.

The Lapsang flavor is intense and can even be too powerful for some. Thus, brewing time is an important aspect to watch for.  Unless you really, really love smokiness, an overbrewed Lapsang can be unpleasant, even undrinkable. I'd say experimenting with shorter infusion times is the right way start for newcomers. It can also be an interesting ingredient for those who prepare their own household blends as a relatively small amount of leaf can lend a touch of smokiness to a base mix or even add piquancy to otherwise flat brews.

On a few occasions I've prepared some as iced tea and, though good, it generates some  dissonance as one's mind tries to harmonize the flavor with the drink's temperature.

I also think that it can be a very agreeable companion to those who have or like to stay up late. For the way ahead preparing a cup or pot in early evening can provide a warm feeling for a prolonged time. In regards to food, it pairs well with spicy cuisines, sausages, meats and more, and can even be accompanied with regular meals, but it will very likely overpower blander dishes.

In closing, Lapsang may not be for everyone, but for a great many it can bring joy and comfort and it is a fine example of what of what can be achieved tastewise with tea with just one step. 


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