The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Lapsang Souchong-Strong and Smoky Tea
From its birthplace in China's Wuyi Mountains in the northern Fujian Province,
Lapsang Souchong, or Tarry Lapsang as it's called in the West is a black tea in-
fused with pine smoke to give it a strong, smoky flavor all its own.  This is a tea
you'll either love or hate, with no middle ground.
Also known as Russian Car-
avan in the West, it has a
huge following of devoted fans that enjoy
drinking the brew straight up, without con-
diments of lemon, milk, or sweeteners of any
kind.

There are two methods of production for
Lapsang Souchong tea.  One is the ancient,
limited production and authentic artisan
method called Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong.

The other is the much larger production of
finished/manufactured
black tea that is
transported to the smoking sheds of Zen
Shan, to receive a heavy smoking before
being shipped around the world to waiting
buyers.
Lapsang Souchong starts out as a finished black tea, manufactured in
the large tea producing region of Wuyi Shan and surrounding area.  From
there it is shipped to the smoking sheds located deep in the Wuyi moun-
tains.  

Once there, the tea receives a hard, hot smoke, imbuing it with the desir-
ed amount of smokiness requested by the buyer it will eventually go to.

The smoking shed is three levels high and open in the front, with the top
and middle sections comprised of loosely woven wood slats, allowing the
smoke to rise from the ground level to the top.  This open arrangement allows the smoke to
circulate through all three floors, giving all levels an even smoking.

The fully manufactured
black tea is laid
out on mats on the floors, where it begins
to absorb the first faint, slightly moist
aroma of wood smoke.

From that point, the more supple tea is
moved downstairs to a different area,
placed in baskets and hung in the smok-
ing chamber for as long as twelve hours.

Lapsang Souchong is only exposed to in-
direct wood smoke, never placed in direct
heat or flame.  Specially designed troughs
          in the floor, direct and circulate the
          moist smoke into the smoking
          rooms from large fireplaces located
          outside the building.  Once the
          smoking is finished it's sent to be dried again in tumbler-dryers to "fix" the finished tea.

          When buying Lapsang Souchong teas, you'll find two styles; the heavy, strong
          
Taiwanese style, and the original lighter, more mild Fujian style.  You'll find that the lesser
                                                             Lapsang Souchong teas will have a stronger, almost
                                                             burnt taste.  The better teas have a wonderful sweet,
                                                             smoky aroma, along with a milder, more subtle flavor of
                                                             fruit and spice.  

                                                             In lesser quality teas this mild spice and fruit flavor is
                                                             replaced by a strong meaty smell, such as that of smok-
                                                             ed bacon or meats, and the strong smell of tar.

          Whichever you choose, be ready for a tea that makes a statement about what it is.
          
Enjoy
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