For centuries, people have been drinking black tea and love the kind of flavors it comes with. Earthy in flavor and dark in color, black tea makes the beverage sessions quite refreshing and elevates the whole experience. But an entirely different take on the idea of black tea is the Lapsang Souchong that seems to combine the flavors of tobacco, whiskey, and campfire smoke in one single blend.
Here’s a complete guide on Lapsang Souchong tea that takes you through everything you need to know about this non-traditional tea.
What is Lapsang Souchong Tea?
Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese black tea that gets its name from the area around the village where it was first made. Everything about this tea, ranging from the origins, the aroma, and the flavor is totally unique.
While the word Souchong comes from the kind of tea leaves that are selected to make this tea. Unlike most other teas that are made using the first two leaves and the buds, Lapsang Souchong is crafted using the larger and older, fourth and fifth leaves. Apart from being larger, these leaves differ from other leaves in terms of their chemical composition too.
Lapsang Souchong is sometimes also called as the “Smoked Tea” as the tea leaves are dried by treating with pinewood fire smoke. Dark and large twisted leaves form this amazing tea, while also making it stand out from all other blends when it comes to the smoky fragrance and taste. What gives Lapsang Souchong that unique touch is a special step performed during the production of the same.
Lapsang Souchong Tea History
Native to the Wuyi mountains, Fujian, Lapsang Souchong Tea is a strong Chinese black tea that is associated with different stories when it comes to its very first production.
The Wuyi mountainous region was famous for making oolong teas in the Qing era. When the tea production was delayed by the passing army, farmers wanted to find out a way to speed up the whole process of production and not lose the crop. They chose to dry the leaves artificially by placing them over pinewood fires. They were surprised by what the new process ended up in! It was a smoked tea that featured a great taste and fragrance by absorbing the firewood smoke.
Some people also say that the quick-drying technique was adopted by the farmers as the area was invaded by the army. The farmers did that to be able to move the tea and prevent it from getting stolen.
Lapsang Souchong was one of the very first black teas ever crafted, stealing loads of appreciation from the Westerners. Mostly cherished at breakfast, this strong and healthy tea is produced and exported around the globe today.
Lapsang Souchong Tea Production
In order to achieve the historical flavors first discovered during the 17th century, the production of Lapsang Souchong includes a number of steps performed by tea planters.
During the second week of May, farmers pluck large tea leaves that are larger and more mature, i.e. the fourth and fifth leaves.
2. Withering and Rolling
The next step is to wither the leaves by heating over burning pine firewood. They are rolled to form tight strips when they lose their luster and become soft.
The process of oxidation turns the leaves into black tea leaves. To make that happen, the rolled leaves are placed in wooden barrels.
A final drying stage is carried out for most other black teas out there, further sending to get sorted and packaged. However, Lapsang Souchong tea leaves are pan-fried to bring the oxidation to a halt.
5. Second Rolling
Once they get their unique aroma by pan frying, they are rolled yet again, thereby allowing them to release any juices trapped within.
The last stage is to dry the leaves, which also brings out the smokiness to Lapsang Souchong. The leaves are allowed dry in bamboo baskets over pine firewood that contains pine resin. Once the leaves look dry, the fire is smothered to achieve an amber smoke, finally sending the leaves for packaging.
What gives Lapsang Souchong its Unique Flavor?
The smoky flavor of Lapsang Souchong comes from the various chemical compounds present in the pine fire smoke. Not found in any other kind of tea, this unique black tea contains longifolene and a-terpineol. The smoky aroma with a lovely evaporating finish is all thanks to the action of pinewood fires used at the time of drying the leaves.
The piney fragrance of this light bodied blend makes it just perfect for those who love roasted, warm and piney flavors. The taste is quite reminiscent of pine resin, peated whiskey, and smoked paprika. And that’s why Lapsang Souchong works as the perfect accompaniment to broiled meats and other meals. Right from the very first sip to the last drop in the cup, this black tea is straight fire. Having this great blend during winters is simply comforting!
Types of Lapsang Souchong Tea
The increased popularity of Lapsang Souchong tea has led to tea experts around the globe craft their very own versions of the same, Two major varieties of the blend include:
Chinese Lapsang Souchong
This variety is grown in the Tong Mu village and is known to be a superior grade tea. The shiny tea leaves sport a dried Logan aroma while featuring a reddish black hue. What makes the tea relatively more expensive is the fact that it’s quite rare and is harvested for a short period. Also, this take on the blend is less sweet and comes with a less smoky flavor.
Grown in Taiwan, Tarry Souchong features the strongest levels of smokiness found in this tea. The final drying of this tea is carried out using some burning pine tar, which in turn, brings out that strong aroma and flavor to the tea.
Lapsang Souchong Health Benefits
The great smoky taste is not the only thing that steals this tea so much appreciation. The great nutritional value, anti-cancer properties, and a range of chemical compounds present in Lapsang Souchong demonstrate numerous health benefits on consumption.
1. Rich in Antioxidants
The credit for a whole bunch of health benefits linked with Lapsang Souchong tea goes to the antioxidants present in the blend. The tea is rich in polyphenols, including thearubigins and theaflavins, along with catechins. These components work towards repressing the production of free radicals as well as fighting them and defending the cells against damage.
2. Improves Cardiovascular Health
The plenty of flavonoids in Lapsang Souchong reduce the risk of heart diseases by reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and minimizing damage in the artery walls and the bloodstream. The flavonoids not only reduce blood clots but also improve coronary vasodilation. Even manganese present in the tea reduces the risk of heart problems by improving your cardiac muscles.
3. Improves Digestion
Regular consumption of Lapsang Souchong helps in streamlining the process of digestion and relieving digestive problems. It inhibits the growth of bacteria that create ulcers as well as helps to relieve diarrhea. The astringent influence of the constituting tannins decreases bad bowel movements.
4. Helps in Weight Loss
Quite similar to green teas, Lapsang Souchong is a black tea that does not undergo any alterations, thereby constituting a huge amount of antioxidants. Combined with the caffeine content, these antioxidants boost the metabolism of your body, which in turn, allows you to run faster or workout more efficiently. The tea reduces the levels of visceral fat and triglycerides. Apart from helping in weight loss, it deters obesity induced by inflammation.
5. Improves the Immune System
The antioxidants present in improves the immune system by preventing DNA damage by fighting the action of free radicals. Several studies have shown that the Lapsang Souchong works wonders in fighting viruses that cause flu, hepatitis, and dysentery as the tea is rich in tannins. Lastly, the alkylamine antigens also support the immune responses of the body.
6. Nourishes Skin
The presence of vitamin C, E, and B2, along with minerals like zinc, potassium, magnesium makes Lapsang Souchong nourish your skin. Plus, tannins and essential polyphenols add to the action of the aforesaid even better. According to research, this tea decreases several signs of early aging, including wrinkles. Several chemical components and caffeine present in the blend kill oral infections and viruses, while also preventing pimples and skin problems.
7. Improves Focus
Although Lapsang Souchong contains less caffeine than most other black teas, the amount is just right to make the tea help you feel so much more energetic in the morning. The constituting caffeine is transported into the bloodstream at a rate slower than that of coffee, but it comes with long-lasting effects. The tea keeps you focused and sharp for a longer period of time. Additionally, amino acids present in the blend increase the brain’s alpha activity, in turn, improving alertness and focus.
8. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the chief causes of numerous modern day diseases, and Lapsang Souchong is very efficient in combating inflammation. The antioxidants present in this tea stabilize the body and prevent damages that lead to inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects benefit illnesses, including IBS, prostate cancer and more.
9. Reduces Blood Pressure
The astringent tannic acids present in lapsang souchong help staunch bleeding and shrink swollen tissues. Polyphenols kill cavity-causing bacteria and stop the growth of bacterial enzymes that lead to the formation of plaque on the teeth. In fact, pressing wet black tea bags on the gums heals swollen gums, while going for a mouthwash of Lapsang Souchong improves gum health.
10. Reduces Caffeine Intake
Having too much caffeine is associated with a number of negative effects, including jitters, nervousness, and heart palpitations. Lapsang Souchong often has half the caffeine as present in coffee, and that’s why it’s a great option for those who want to reduce their caffeine intake. When consumed in controlled amounts, it delivers enough of a required boost, that too without harmful side effects.
Lapsang Souchong Side Effects
As stated above, the tea comes with moderate amounts of caffeine. However, consuming more than 1000 mg caffeine per day can lead to several side effects. Excessive consumption of the tea may lead to conception problems, increased episodes of heartburn, conception problems, changes in bowel movement, and increased blood pressure.
How to Brew Lapsang Souchong Black Tea
The wonderful smoky tea works best for those who love bold flavors. Lapsang Souchong packs a piney punch that you come across right from the moment you open the tea bag. When going for a tea bag to prepare the blend, all you need to do is add boiling water to the same and voila! However, below is the detailed process of making lapsang souchong at home if you want to brew it from scratch.
Prepare the Tea Leaves
Choose some good quality earthy tea leaves, preferably going for loose leaf tea as it contains full tea leaves and comes with greater health benefits. Whereas, tea bags have got broken leaves, dust and fannings that alter the overall flavor. For every 8 ounces of water, you need to use about 5 grams of tea leaves.
Step 1: Boil Water
Lapsang Souchong is brewed amazingly well using filtered or spring boiling water. However, avoid using distilled water or tap water for brewing the tea as it will hamper the development of the true flavors. Boil water on the stove or kettle, or set 212 degrees Fahrenheit on a temperature controlled kettle. Once the water boils, pour it into the cup.
Step 2: Steep Tea Leaves
1-5 minutes is the recommended time to steep Lapsang Souchong tea leaves. After the initial first minute, taste it every 30 seconds until it reaches your desired flavor. Generally, the sweet spot for this tea is 2.5 minutes, whole longer brewing leads to more bold and bitter blends. Brewing for short durations offers less balance between the smoky touch and the earthy notes of the tea.
Step 3: Adding Extra Flavours
Although most people consume this amazing black tea as is, you can always go for some additional flavors. to enhance that smoky profile of the tea, you can add a dash of honey or vanilla. Another option is to add a slice of lemon to the blend.
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