Lapsang Souchong The Legend Behind the Tea

Like the discovery of tea itself, the creation of Lapsang Souchong tea (also known as Russian
Caravan tea) happened quite by accident.  The story and a bit of history behind how this dark,
smoky black tea came to be is an interesting one I think you’ll enjoy.
Lapsang Souchong tea is grown
in China in the Wuyi Shan Moun-
tains, in 
Fujian Province.
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-
1911) a young emperor named Shunzhi ruled.
Emperor Shunzhi’s uncle, Dorghon, controlled the
affairs of state for his nephew, and it was Dorghon’s
desire to consolidate the provinces of Zheijang,
Fujian, and Canton, (which is now Guangdon) and
bring them all together under Manchu rule.
An Accidental Creation
Dorghan ordered the Qing army to invade the area
of Wuyi Shan, causing the terrified villagers to flee
for their lives.  A few who had learned in advance of the invasion quickly hid their tea.  But to
prevent it from rotting, it first needed to be quickly dried.  With no time to waste the villagers had
no choice but to dry their tea with whatever was close at hand, which turned out to be freshly
cut pine boughs from the surrounding mountainside forest.
When the villagers returned to retrieve
their tea after the invasions, what they
dug up greatly disappointed them.  The
tea was dark and smelled of wood smoke,
and at first glance appeared to be ruined.

Dutch traders had been

buying tea from
the Chinese for several years and bringing
it back to Europe.  Most of the tea bought
was likely an early version of 
oolong tea
that came down the river from Wuyi Shan
in Fujian, so the Chinese decided to offer
their “ruined” tea to the Dutch, calling it a
new tea they had created.
To the surprise of the Chinese, the Dutch
traders loved the new, smoky flavored dark tea,
and even returned a year later looking to buy more.
It’s said the Dutch loved this new tea so much they
even offered to pay twice as much money for it.

And so, a new tea called “bohea” was born out of a disaster.

The term “black tea” was not yet in use, so the term bohea was
used to describe all high-quality dark and leafy teas coming from
the Wuyi Shan area at that time.

Eventually this new smoky tea became known in local Fuzhou
dialect as La (pine) Sang (wood) or lapsang.  The term “bohea”
began to be used more and more to describe large, dark leaved
teas, and it eventually became too generic.  So many of the higher-
quality teas from Fujian were renamed.

Souchong was used to describe high quality large-leaf

black teas
from this region and so Lapsang Souchong became the new name
for this tea.
Today Lapsang Souchong is enjoyed by millions worldwide, renown-
ed for its distinctive characteristics and smoky flavor.