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|Other names:||正山小种 (pinyin: zhèngshān xiǎozhǒng)|
|Origin:||Mount Wuyi, Fujian Province, China|
|Quick description:||Souchong smoked over pine fire, smoky taste.|
|Temperature:||boiling water (100°C or 212 F)|
Lapsang souchong (/ /; Chinese: 正山小種/立山小種; pinyin: zhengshān xiǎozhǒng; literally: "sub-variety from Lapu Mountain"; Cantonese: lap sàan síu júng) is a black tea (Camellia sinensis) originally from the Wuyi region of the Chinese province of Fujian. It is more commonly named 正山小种 in Simplified Chinese characters (Mandarin zhèng shān xiǎo zhǒng) and 正山小種 in traditional Chinese characters or Japanese kanji (Japanese seisanshōshu). It is sometimes referred to as smoked tea (熏茶). Lapsang is distinct from all other types of tea because lapsang leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, taking on a distinctive smoky flavour.
Xiǎozhǒng (小種) means "sub-variety". Lapsang souchong is a member of the Bohea family of teas ("Bohea" is the pronunciation in Minnan dialect for Wuyi Mountains, which is the mountain area producing a large family of tea in South-East China).
Lapsang souchong from the original source is increasingly expensive, as Wuyi is a small area and there is increasing demand for this variety of tea.
According to some sources, Lapsang souchong is the first black tea in history, even earlier than Keemun tea. After the lapsang souchong tea was used for producing black tea called Min Hong (meaning "Black tea produced in Fujian"), people started to move the tea bush to different places like Keemun, India and Ceylon.
The story goes that the tea was created during the Qing era when the passage of armies delayed the annual drying of the tea leaves in the Wuyi Mountain. Eager to satisfy demand, the tea producers sped up the drying process by having their workers dry the tea leaves over fires made from local pines.
"Souchong" refers to the fourth and fifth leaves of the tea plant, further away from the more highly prized bud (pekoe) of the tea plant. These leaves are coarser than the leaves closer to the bud, and have less aromatic compounds. Smoking provides a way to create a marketable product from these less desirable leaves.
The leaves are roasted in a bamboo basket called a honglong (烘笼), which is heated over burning firewood which contributes to the dried longan aroma and smoky flavour. Pine wood is used as the firewood for lapsang souchong and contains the characteristic resin aroma and taste.
The aroma of lapsang souchong is due to a variety of chemical compounds. The two most abundant constituents of the aroma are longifolene and α-terpineol. Many of the compounds making up the aroma of lapsang souchong, including longifolene, originate only in the pine smoke, and are not found in other kinds of tea.
Flavour and aroma
Tea merchants marketing to Westerners note that this variety of tea generally produces a strong reaction, with most online reviews extremely positive or strongly negative.
Tea connoisseurs often note that Formosan lapsang souchong typically has a stronger flavour and aroma, the most extreme being tarry souchong (smoked, as the name implies, over burning pine tar).
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