April 21, 2004

Lapsang Souchong

As some of you may know, I’m partial to Scotch. Its smoky, peaty flavor differentiates it from other liquors. Single malt Scotch is not blended and so is prized and enjoyed for its particular characteristics (which vary based on originating region). I’m not a learned Scotch drinker, only having begun a few years ago, but I know enough to enjoy the differences.

I’m even less knowledgeable about tea. But I’ve always liked the stuff and am acquiring a new appreciation.

Recently, Julie introduced me to Lapsang Souchong, a tea which is produced in different parts of China and Formosa. A distinction of this tea is that it is smoked over wood fires after it is dried. There are a number of variations on it, and the version I have adheres to the Formosan tradition. The flavor is of a pine smoke, a bit like pine tree incense, though some versions are cedar-smoked.

It does remind me a little of Scotch, with its smokiness. Julie gave me some loose tea and I liked the aroma so much that I hesitated to brew with it. Eventually I began to chew it a little while I was sitting at my desk. On Sunday I went out to Whole Foods Market and bought some in tea bags, a brand called Taylors of Harrowgate. I enjoy the smell of most teas, but Lapsang Souchong is particularly elegant in its aroma. It’s a great tea to relax with.

I also grabbed their green tea version of Earl Grey. Earl Gray’s bergamot infusion comes out stronger against the less-assertive green tea, and this is a brew that definitely improves with some sweetener. I may save the green tea for iced tea this summer.

If you’ve never had Lapsang Souchong before but you like tea, give the stuff a sniff (which costs you nothing if your nose is sensitive enough and you can smell through the cellophane at the store). It’s said to be an acquired taste, but I’m already hooked. My local markets do not carry the stuff—I had to go to Whole Foods in Providence to find it.

Posted by James at April 21, 2004 2:50 AM
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