Lapsang souchong is a black tea originally from the Wuyi region of the Chinese province of Fujian. It is sometimes referred to as smoked tea. Lapsang is distinctive from all other types of tea because lapsang leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, taking on a distinctive smoky flavour.
Legend claims that the smoking process was discovered by accident. During the Qing Dynasty, an army unit passing through Xingcu (Star Village) camped in a tea factory filled with fresh leaves awaiting processing. When the soldiers left and the workers could get back into the premises, they realized that to arrive at market in time, it was too late to dry the leaves the ususal way. So they lit open fires of pine wood to hasten the drying. Not only did the tea reach the market in time, but the smoked pine flavor created a sensation a new product was born.
Very little has changed in the manufacture of this tea. The initial processing follows procedures common to other Chinese black teas. The leaf is allowed to achieve a lengthy oxidation before roasting, rolling and drying. Much of the work is still performed by hand. In the smokehouse Lapsang Souchong is hung from bamboo baskets above smoldering pine-wood: a process that takes several hours & needs constant attention. These days it is difficult to find high quality Lapsang Souchong made from fine leaf which has been smoked properly and carefully stored. Such tea is very rare!