Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese black tea that is sometimes also referred to as “Smoked Tea”, because the leaves are smoke-dried over pinewood fires. This give it a strong, smoky flavor, reminiscent of a campfire or a barbeque. Some people love this; others hate it.
Where to buy
This tea can be found in most specialty tea shops or through many online vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Lapsang Souchong Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can just follow the instructions given on the box.
Unlike most black teas, this one can be brewed at a variety of temperatures, depending on individual tastes. For the first cup, I’d begin by using boiling water, which you can heat using any type of stove-top kettle.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer/dispenser or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
Like other Chinese black teas, this one can be brewed in a variety of vessels, from a teapot to a traditional gaiwan, to a simple glass. For these instructions, I will use a gaiwan.
- Fill your gaiwan (or glass) about halfway with hot water to pre-heat it. Tilt the cup a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate it so the inside gets wet all the way around. Then pour the water out.
- Put approximately 1 teaspoon of tea leaves into the gaiwan. If using a different vessel, use about 1 teaspoon for every 100 to 150 ml (or for ever 5 oz. or so) of water.
- Fill the gaiwan with boiling water.
- Place the lid on the gaiwan and let the tea steep for 2 minutes.
- Pour the tea from the gaiwan into the teacup, using the lid to hold back the leaves. Enjoy your tea!
- You can get 3-5 infusions out of most varieties. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
You can also reduce the temperature of the water. Boiling water will give you a harder, smokier and more astringent tea, while slightly cooler water (80-90°C or 176-194°F) will give you a milder, fruitier flavor.
The video below shows another brewing method, called the gongfu style, which uses more tea leaves and a much shorter steeping time. Using this method, you can get 6-8 infusions out of your leaves. A tea press (like this one) is used in the video, but the gongfu method is traditionally employed with an yixing or a gaiwan.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. They have a large selection of Lapsang Souchong, but most of them are not very good. I recommend the one from Stash Tea.
My favorite online option is this Lapsang Souchong from Teavivre. It’s an excellent quality tea at an affordable price.
If you prefer your tea smokey, this offering from California Tea House will probably be right up your alley. The quality isn’t as high as the one from Teavivre, but it costs less.