Lapsang Souchong is reputed to be one of the first ever black teas.
The legend started in a small town called Tong-mu-gong in the Fujian that dates back to the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644).
Within the town of Tong-mu-gong was a tea factory that cultivated traditional Chinese teas in accordance to local customs. One other popular tea that comes from Tong-mu-gong is Gong fu tea.
During the Ming dynasty there was some political tension and a marching army one day decided to base camp in this tea factory. Due to this un-welcomed visit from the army, the tea process was interrupted and many of the tea leaves that were undergoing the drying stage had to be moved in order to accommodate for the soldiers.
When the army left the next morning, the tea leaves had to be dried quickly so the tea farmers threw the partly dried leaves over a pinewood fire and the end result was a smoky characteristic that eventually went on to being sold to the rest of the Chinese market.
The real story is that the Chinese had to develop new methods for producing their teas as when they were transported over to Europe, teas such as the likes of Green quickly spoilt. One of the methods to preserve the tea for longer involved changing the drying process that meant spreading the leaves on bamboo baskets, placed on racks in a large drying room. Underneath the room was a large oven filled with pinewood to ignite the flames causing the smoke to travel through the air vented ceilings and then infused into the tea leaves.
Lapsang Souchong was very popular with the Dutch as it was used for medicinal purposes. The dutch dominated this market until the English brought Lapsang Souchong on a commercial scale.
- The Chinese market prefer their Lapsang Souchong less smokey so the tea leaves are smoked over young pinewood. As for the international market, there is a demand for a more smokier taste so the leaves are smoked over aged pine which have a higher content of aromatic oils.
- Lapsang souchong is known as “the tea for Westerners” outside China.