Sometimes life gives us lemons and we go, “Hurray! Let’s make some lemonade!” Well, the tea growers in China certainly used that principle and came up with a tea that has grown steadily in popularity: Lapsang Souchong. This 2011 Spring Imperial Lapsang Golden Eyebrow version is certainly a good example of that genre. According to legend, around 1644, a passing troop of soldiers commandeered a tea factory for shelter so the tea workers could not process the leaves. When the soldiers left the workers had to hurry and dry the leaves over pine wood fires. The tea became hugely popular, even in European markets where it was used as a base for blended tea.
Generally, Lapsang Souchong is a black tea where the leaves are withered in the smoke from pine or cypress wood fires. This gives the tea its distinctive smoked flavor, often described as an acquired taste. This tea is very popular, with demand exceeding supply, and often imitated. The true version originates in the Wu Yi Mountain region of China’s Fujian province. Although other regions also produce tea which is marketed as Lapsang Souchong, Wu Yi Mountain tea is considered to be the best, possibly due to the growing conditions of the area. Wu Yi is usually fog-enshrouded and is thickly forested with pine and cypress trees which retain the cool, moist air.
This tea, from the wild growing tea bushes in Tongmu village, must be picked before “Tomb-sweeping Day” from a rare and primitive species of wild tea which grows on mountains in the National Natural Conservation Area of Wu Yi Mountains at an attitude of 1,500 to 1,800 meters. A skilled tea picker needs to pluck leaves (actually, tight plump buds) for at least 29 days to have enough to make 500 grams of golden eyebrow black tea, making this a rare and rather expensive tea. In fact, this is the rarest Lapsang Souchong black tea in the world.
Golden eyebrow Lapsang has unique characteristics. The dried tea is a golden color full of beautiful fine tea hair. The liquid is a bright orange color with a fresh, sweet, delicate & mellow, ripe fruit or flower taste with long aftertaste.
Recommended Steeping Technique
Gaiwans, Yixing teapots, glass teacups, or porcelain teapots are all fine for steeping this tea. Steep as you would any black tea, or even pull back a little. If you steep for 5 minutes normally, steep this tea for only 3 minutes, for example. Boiling water is recommended.
If you’ve tried Lapsang Souchong before and found it too strong, try this one. You’ll be quite surprised!