|"Lapsang Souchong is not for everyone. You are guaranteed to either love this tea or absolutely hate it. I personally find it intoxicating, and would savor it as a rare treat."|
There’s a scene at the beginning of Gremlins where Hoyt Axton (trivia side note: he wrote the song Joy to the World, made famous by Three Dog Night!) goes into a shop in Chinatown to search for a gift for his son Billy. Everybody on the planet knows what that gift was, and the mayhem that ensued thereafter. However, that opening scene has a very darkly lit feel. A rainy night in a mysterious shop in Chinatown. An old Chinese man with a glass eye stands behind the counter, puffing on a pipe. Trinkets and oddities and beautiful Chinese handicrafts fill the room. This tea is the very essence of that scene.
Lapsang Souchong evokes a truly exotic aura – the sounds of pan flutes and images of misty covered mountaintops practically fill your mind with just a whiff of this tea. It’s really one of the most unique teas out there. The reasoning for it is that the leaves are rolled, placed in wooden barrels, and then hung in bamboo baskets over pinewood fires, thus adapting a very smoky, woody flavor and aroma.
As a dumb kid, I used to go camping and stick the ends of these reed-like stalks into the fire, then blow them out. I’d then suck on the non-lit end to breathe in the smoke. Strangely enough, it was a very pleasant taste (but who knows what havoc it had wreaked on my premature lungs!), and it reminds me distinctly of this tea. To whit, this tea apparently has become popular with cigar smokers and fans of single-malt Scotch. I can certainly picture sipping on a cup of this fine tea while puffing on a nice, smooth cigar and nibbling on a pungent gourmet cheese slice. Or a heaping plate of southern barbecue. It just screams to be paired with savory foods.
I like to brew this tea at a full boil for 3-4 minutes, as that seems to extract the perfect balance of smoky flavor from the leaves. The leaves are a deep blackish mahogany color, and remain tightly rolled through the brew. The aroma of the cup gives 99% of a hint at the flavor inside. The liquor is a deep, rich color, not unlike certain darker spirits.
One recommendation Stash gives is to add a pinch of this tea to an English Breakfast for a whole new twist. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m anxious to mix a pinch of this tea in with various rich, black teas to play with some flavors a bit.
It is inherently obvious that Lapsang Souchong is not for everyone. You are guaranteed to either love this tea or absolutely hate it. “Subtle” is not a word to be used in the same sentence as this tea. I personally find it intoxicating, and would savor it as a rare treat.
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