The Tea Lady and Lapsang Souchong

Tara and I made the 60 mile trek down to Olympia, Washington in
order to shop at The Tea Lady.
The shop itself isn’t very well maintained, and sells exactly what
you think a tea shop should sell. Everything from loose tea, tea
bags, tea pots, tea kettles, to lemon curd and even vegemite
(which I swear I’m going to try soon.. I have no idea why I’ve been
thinking of that so much). The teas were divided into blacks, greens,
oolongs and even whites, which impressed me a fair amount, and the
fact that they didn’t really sell much in the way of herbal teas also
made me take notice.

I ended up spending close to$40 on four different teas. I picked
up a nice Black Currant tea, some Darjeeling,
4 oz. Of Zhejiang Dragonwell (a green tea), and the oddity of the
bunch…Lapsang Souchang. All you need to do to figure out why
Lapsang Souchang is so peculiar is to smell it, and allow the smoky
aroma fill your senses.

It was the first glass of tea I made when I got home, wanting to
know exactly what a ‘smoke tea’ is supposed to taste like. I took
careful care not to steep it more than 3 minutes, as I didn’t want
the smoke flavor to be overwhelming.

I have to say that the taste is not unpleasant. Yes, it’s a bit
brisk, and it’s certainly not one of your more subtle flavors, but if
brewed properly, I can see why this make is so popular. Again, the
trick here is to steep lightly. Steep too much and the flavor will
overpower you.

Later, I was told a story about the history of this tea (and have
no idea of the accuracy of this story, as I could not confirm this
story over the Internet). It seems that back when England was going
ga-ga over tea, a boat in the orient (China or India) accidentally
got the tea it was about to be sent to Europe wet, a big no no. So
they thought to themselves “How can we keep this tea on the
market?ˮ

Their solution? Dry the tea by pan frying it. What this did was
allow the smoke from the fire to infuse itself into the tea, and
accidentally creating a new type of tea. My friend who told me this
story claimed that the tea was sold to the UK with a wink and a nod,
meaning that the tea was only for suckers. But I disagreed. The fact
that lapsang shouchang took off and is still around today only goes
to show that accidents are often the best way to discover new foods.
At any rate, I did not dislike the tea, and will have a glass or four
when the mood strikes. It’s still not my favorite, as Earl Grey and
the Black Currant are now both neck and neck, but I will proudly keep
it on my shelf.

All in all, a good trip to the Tea Lady, and I’m looking forward
to going back…once I am able to finish off all of these other teas
that I have purchased.


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