Lapsang Souchong Tea
Accidents happen. We’re all guilty of them. But how often can our accidents be perceived as historic triumphs? Lapsang Souchong Tea is one such example. It could have been a catastrophic mistake but turned out to be quite the opposite.
Today, there is no mistaking Lapsang Tea’s unique, smoky flavour and enticing aroma, which has survived the test of time. Despite its shaky origins, it has risen through the ranks to become one of the most popular Flavoured Black Teas currently available on the market.
But how has this beverage come to inspire Tea connoisseurs around the world? Lapsang Souchong Health Benefits have a tremendous part to play, but is that all? In this blog, we shall answer some of your burning questions, including: “Is Lapsang Souchong good for you?”; “how much caffeine in Lapsang Souchong Tea?”; and “Where to Buy Lapsang Souchong?”.
Read on and find out more!
What is Lapsang Souchong Tea?
Lapsang Souchong Tea is native to the Wuyi Mountains of the Fujian Province, China. In fact, to this day, Lapsang Tea is still grown and produced in this area. The province itself boasts ancient, unearthly landscapes scattered with a maze of stunning gorges, unexplored caves, and breathtaking forests. Nevertheless, its heart lies in Tea.
The name “Lapsang Souchong” is twofold. “Lapsang” originates from the village of Tong Mu Guan, the original home of this Tea. It means “smoky variety”, or sometimes “smoky sub-variety”. Souchong, on the other hand, refers to the fourth or fifth leaf used from the Camellia sinensis (Tea) plant when making Lapsang. In its native China, meanwhile, Lapsang Souchong Tea goes by the name “Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong”.
To make Lapsang Souchong Tea, workers dry the leaves over pinewood fires. This creates the interesting smoky flavour unique to this Tea, hence “smoky Lapsang”! The fourth or fifth leaves used during the production of Lapsang Tea are usually courser and less aromatic. However, when the Tea undergoes the smoking process, it creates a marketable product from a ‘less desirable’ leaf.
Process Used to Make Lapsang Tea
The process used to create Lapsang Souchong is very lengthy and intricate. It requires a high level of attentive professionalism. The entire processing method is as follows:
- Harvesting: The harvesting of Lapsang Souchong Tea leaves usually takes place in the second week of May. This is later in the year than many other Tea types because of the moderate climate of the Wuyi mountains.
- Withering: There are two methods of withering most Tea types: “sun” withering, and “heat” withering. The former method involves placing the Tea leaves outside to wither naturally under the sun. The latter method sees the Tea leaves subjected to heated air in a controlled environment. Both methods can apply to Lapsang Souchong, with it ultimately depending on the facilities available to the workers.
- Rolling: Again, depending on the facilities available, the rolling of this Tea is either conducted by hand or with a specially-designed machine. The rolling process actually lightly bruises the leaf, which in turn kickstarts the oxidation process.
- Fermentation: The workers place the leaves, now already beginning to oxidise, into bamboo baskets, then cover them with a thick cloth. This stage eventually sees the leaves change colour from green to reddy-brown.
- Pan-firing: This stage halts the oxidation/fermentation period swiftly and efficiently. Only skilled, experienced workers know when the time is right. It involves placing the leaves in a hot iron pan and ‘stir-frying’ the Tea until the oxidation/fermentation has ceased.
- Re-rolling: This is a repeat of the initial rolling stage to ensure the leaf maintains its shape.
- Smoke Baking: Here, we have arguably the most essential stage of the process. The Tea leaves are scattered into bamboo sieves and then placed into a baking room to dry over a pinewood fire. The Tea absorbs the smoke, creating its characteristic woody, smoky flavour and aroma. From this moment onwards, one has Lapsang Souchong Tea.... or do they?
Quality Assurance Process
Though harvested, withered, rolled, fermented, pan-fired, re-rolled and finally smoke-baked, the Tea remains a “semi-finished” Tea (毛茶, or “mao cha” Tea). To meet the standards required of a high-quality Lapsang Souchong Tea (like all Lapsangs stocked at The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company), workers must first sift out any leaves of a “lower” standard.
Today, most producers use a machine called a winnower to inspect the leaf, though some still prefer inspecting by hand. This machine extracts any broken leaves or remaining stems. At this point, the Tea can officially leave the factory with its quality assured.
History of Lapsang Souchong Tea
Most historians agree that Lapsang Souchong was the first Black Tea ever created. Unlike Green Tea, which dates back to 2737 BCE, Lapsang Souchong only came into existence during the Chinese Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 CE). This was a time of great political upheaval in China.
The story of the accidental creation of Lapsang Souchong has many versions. The most popular tale, however, follows the struggles of a few farmers living near the village of Tong Mu Guan.
According to this legend, a group of bandits one day descended upon the farmers with the intention of stealing their crop. They told the farmers to have the Tea ready by the time they returned, but the farmers were not willing to give up so easily.
The farmers harvested the Tea quickly and then dried it over pinewood fires to speed up oxidation. The result was a “smoked Tea”. At first, the farmers grew disheartened, believing they had ruined it. But they persevered and reluctantly packed the Tea for transport to the market.
At the port, a group of Dutch traders approached the farmers wishing to sample their Tea. As the farmers stood in silence, expecting the worst, the traders looked up from their first sips - they loved it! The farmers, astounded by this strange turn of luck, promised the traders to return in the future with more of the Tea. Lapsang Souchong was born.
But there are almost countless variations of this legend. One suggests that, instead of bandits, it was a renegade army pestering the farmers. Another tale suggests that, instead of smoking Tea leaves in desperation, the farmers did so to satisfy the demand of the bandits (or army!).
Yet another variation of the tale refers to already-harvested Tea leaves being stored in pine sheds when the bandits arrived. When the bandits (or army!) returned to plunder the farms, they set these sheds ablaze, with the surviving Tea absorbing the smoke from the fiery inferno.
Is there any truth to any of these stories? That question is a topic of significant debate. We will likely never know for sure. Yet the result is always the same: a wonderfully aromatic Tea fit for the King!
Winston Churchill and Lapsang Souchong
Although not quite royalty, the world-famous British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) allegedly enjoyed a cup of Lapsang Souchong Tea for his afternoon brew!
Many historians theorise that Churchill liked Lapsang Tea because it tasted like his much-loved cigars, which he smoked at least ten times a day. Some even say that the smoky air combined with this smoky Tea reminded him of his campfire days when he was an army officer in the Sudan and Boer Wars. Again, we will likely never know the truth, although a handful of biographies go as far as to suggest he enjoyed the beverage with a dash of Scotch whiskey!
History of Formosa Lapsang Tea
Formosa Lapsang Souchong comes from present-day Taiwan. While the controversy of whether the island remains part of China persists today, its history with Tea began long before such questions emerged. Taiwan, then known as Formosa, was a strategic Chinese port between the mainland and ships bound for Europe during the early Qing dynasty (1644-1912 CE).
As the island’s potential grew, new opportunities prompted mass-Chinese migration, many of whom came with backgrounds in Tea production. In time, Teas such as Lapsang Souchong and Oolong Tea became staples for the island’s economy. Little has changed today.
Formosa Lapsang Souchong often boasts stronger flavours than its Chinese counterparts. For those who enjoy a truly hearty brew, one would be hard-pressed to find one better than this Tea. But which is the best Lapsang Souchong out of Formosan and Chinese? That’s up to you to decide!
Lapsang Souchong Health Benefits
Like most Types of Black Tea, Lapsang can also offer an outstanding “cocktail” of beneficial antioxidants in each brewed cup. While Green Tea contains EGCG, Black Teas such as Lapsang Souchong offer the antioxidants theaflavin and thearubigins in abundance. These compounds can help to improve our everyday way of life.
Theaflavin and thearubigins in Lapsang Tea can work with the body to neutralise free radicals. By neutralising these free radicals, one reduces the risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses.
Furthermore, consuming just 3 cups of Lapsang Souchong Tea a day can lead to noticeable improvements in one’s physical and mental well-being by boosting the immune system, enhancing mental alertness, and even reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol.
But potential benefits may differ depending on many factors. Eating healthily and exercising frequently, for example, will improve one’s chances of reaping Lapsang Souchong benefits.
Improved Cardiovascular System
According to statistics from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, 54% of all cardiovascular-related deaths are due to coronary artery disease; 21% due to stroke; and 16% the result of other forms of heart disease.
These conditions are prevalent in western society owing to high diets in saturated fats and low physical activity.
In one such western country, Canada, nearly 50,000 deaths on a yearly basis are the result of cardiovascular disease. The antioxidants found in Lapsang Souchong Tea, meanwhile, can increase blood flow while reducing the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol introduced into the bloodstream.
Improved Immune System
L-theanine in Lapsang can prime the immune system for attacking invading bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This is according to a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, USA.
Another study also indicated that immune system blood cells in Tea drinkers responded five times faster to germs than that of blood cells in Coffee drinkers.
Ultimately, this means that consuming Lapsang Souchong Tea can ward off minor illnesses such as the common cold and the flu.
relaxing in bed and waiting for your illness to pass.
Improved Cognitive Function
In the UK alone, an estimated 750,000 people suffer from conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This number could very well double in the next 40 years as Britain’s population ages. Could Black Teas such as Lapsang Souchong Tea be the answer? Maybe.
This possibility came to fruition following a study conducted at the University of Singapore and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research project saw some 2,500 participants aged 55 or over undergo cognitive measuring.
Two years later, scientists remeasured those involved. The results established that participants who drunk two or three cups of Black Tea a day had a 55% lower chance of suffering from cognitive decline. Those who drank six to ten cups a day, meanwhile, had up to a 63% lower chance.
Yet until more is known, The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company strictly do not endorse the consumption of Lapsang Souchong Tea, or any other tea, for the purpose of enhancing and maintaining cognitive function.
Improved Oral Health
Research funded by the Tea Trade Health Research Association has suggested that consuming Lapsang Souchong Tea on a frequent basis can reduce plaque formation as well as restrict bacterial growth. And they are not the only ones to say so, either.
A collaborative study conducted in conjunction with the College of Dentistry at the University of Iowa and the Institute of Odontology at Göteborg University in Sweden has supported this idea - with evidence.
Prof. Christine Wu of the University of Illinois, USA, presented the findings at a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in Orlando, Florida. Her team focused on Black Tea instead of Green Tea to uncover its cavity-fighting potential.
Participants in the US division used Black Tea to rinse their mouth with for 30 seconds, five times, waiting three minutes between each rinse to simulate the effect of supping a cup of Tea. The Swedish division saw participants rinse their mouth with Black Tea for one minute, ten times a day. Both co-operating studies discovered that the more participants rinsed, the more their plaque and bacteria levels fell.
This is because of the polyphenolic compounds present in Black Tea that can kill or suppress cavity-causing bacteria from either growing or producing acid. The Tea also affected the bacterial enzymes and prevented the formation of the sticky-like material that binds plaque to teeth.
Aside from it enhancing alertness, this beverage can also boost the metabolism, which is a chemical reaction that takes place in your body’s cells. A metabolism essentially converts the fuel in your food into energy, which is then used to power near enough everything we do.
And by boosting your metabolism with Lapsang Souchong Tea, your body can burn fat quicker and more efficiently. Furthermore, the caffeine content found in Lapsang Souchong can increase the amount of energy your body uses while at rest. This is according to a study published in the 2009 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Participants of this study consumed a regular Black Tea dosage of caffeine (approx 50 mg per cup) before their exercise routines. This ultimately increased the basal metabolism by 6%. It may not sound like a lot, but every little helps!
There is nothing quite as harmonious as sitting down on the sofa after a long, hard day while enjoying a cup of Lapsang Souchong as you relax. It seems as if all your worries drift away and in a way, they do!
While L-theanine can stimulate the brain, it can likewise keep it in a relative state of calm. Confused? Basically, L-theanine finds the perfect middle-ground. And aside from improving your overall mood, L-theanine also contributes to reducing depression and anxiety.
Furthermore, would you believe us if we said relaxing on the sofa with your favourite brew could help you lose weight? We’ll admit it’s a little obscure, but it works nonetheless.
According to new research, chronic stress (i.e. not stopping to relax with a nice, hot cup of Tea) disrupts our sleep and our blood sugar levels. This leads to increased hunger and comfort eating. Eventually, this can lead to even higher levels of stress and even more disrupted blood sugars. Not only might this cause unhealthy levels of body fat, but also an increased risk of type-2 Diabetes! The simple solution is to stop, then brew up a cup of any Lapsang Souchong.
Reduced Risk of Some Cancer
The jury is still out on this one. No one knows for sure whether Tea, be it Black, Green, White, or Oolong, can reduce the risks of developing cancer. We do, however, live in hope.
In 2015, a meta-analysis suggested that drinking a cup of Tea a day (no matter the type) reduced the risks of some cancers developing. Those who drank the most Tea, on the other hand, had a 21% lower cancer risk than those who drank none.
We’re not prepared to endorse the consumption of any Tea for reduced Cancer risks just yet. Nevertheless, some scientists believe that the antioxidants in Lapsang Souchong can afford protection against cancers of the lung, forestomach, oesophagus, duodenum, pancreas, liver, breast, colon and skin.
Buy Lapsang Souchong Tea Online
We stock many varieties of Lapsang Souchong Tea, most named after prestigious animals that differ in both grade and leaf. Lapsang Souchong Tea Tiger, for example, has a subtle, smoky flavour with sweet undertones reminiscent of Turkish delight.
We also have our very own Lapsang Souchong Tea Leopard, which many consider a “traditional” Lapsang. This is owing to its unmistakably smoky flavours and aromas which linger on the palate long after one has drained their cup.
Lapsang Souchong Osprey, named after the mighty sea hawk, is one of the finest quality Lapsang Teas available through the Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. It again boasts strong, full-bodied flavours of traditional Lapsang Tea. Additionally, we stock other Chinese Lapsang Souchong Loose Teas, including Lapsang Souchong Tea Falcon and Lapsang Souchong Butterfly Tea.
Leaving the Chinese mainland behind for a moment, we have our Lapsang Souchong Crocodile. This Tea comes from Taiwan and offers a ‘snappy’ flavour with especially potent smoky notes. Another Taiwanese Lapsang to try is our brand new Lapsang Souchong Formosa Dragon.
But if you do not have the time to brew up Lapsang Souchong Loose Leaf Tea, then we also provide Lapsang Souchong Tea Bags for your convenience.
Not sure which one suits you best? Be adventurous and try them all!