Lapsang Souchong selected by G&S; is a richly smoked Fujian black tea. Lapsang Souchong is quite possibly the most famous "undrunk" black tea in existence! And many people would ask why it still exists at all! Yet it is revered by statesmen and admired by characters of fiction. It is a tea that has acquired 'intellectual' qualities. Nevertheless, its virtues bewilder a great number of dedicated tea drinkers, equally delighting those who take pleasure in its robustness and somewhat harsh character. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong means Zheng Mountain small tea variety. This name was anglicised to Lapsang Souchong some time in the early years of the nineteenth century.Lapsang is a marvellous accompaniment to a rich peaty single malt whisky from Islay!!
The tea evolved from the smoky off-flavours that accompanied wood-fired wok roasting of black and oolong teas of the period. At the request of English merchants this smoking was to a large extent managed & refined. Very little has changed in the manufacture of Lapsang. The initial processing follows procedures common to other Chinese black teas. The leaf is allowed to achieve a lengthy oxidation before roasting, rolling and drying. Much of the work is still performed by hand. In the smokehouse Lapsang blacks are hung from bamboo baskets above smouldering pine-wood ash: a process that takes several hours & needs constant attention. Originally made from a Fujian oolong tea clone, today Lapsangs are manufactured in several of China's black tea regions. Lapsang was made for the British markets & supplied in increasing amounts after the 1840s for use in blending. The export of Lapsang to Britain peaked around 1870 when increasing volumes of British Indian teas started to dominate the trade in black tea. Tastes changed and the coarseness of Lapsang was resigned to history. These days it is possible to find high quality Lapsang made from fine oolong leaf, which has been smoked properly & carefully stored. Such teas are very, very rare!