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Lapsang souchong

Lapsang souchong (often shortened to simple "lapsang") is a distinctive, smoke-flavoured, very dark tea from Fujian province in China. Called 正山小种 (in Pinyin, zheng1 shan1 xiao3 zhong3) or 烟小种 (yan1 xiao3 zhong3) in Mandarin, this tea is known to be an acquired taste in much the same way that Scotch or cigars are. Historically it was considered a "man's tea", but has become increasingly popular with women in recent years.

Souchong itself is a grade of fine Chinese tea typically oxidised until it is very, very black. Lapsang souchong is a souchong tea which has been withered over pine or cedar fires, pan-fried, rolled and oxidised before being fully dried in bamboo baskets over burning pine. This process adds a distinctly smoky aroma and flavour to the resulting tea.

The flavour of the tea is strongly assertive, favoured by tea drinkers who prefer a very bold cup of tea. It is known to go well with spicy foods as well as with salty foods. It is also considered by its advocates as being peculiarly suited to drinking out-of-doors, especially after intense activity like hiking.

Many first-time drinkers of lapsang souchong have strongly negative reactions to its flavour and aroma. This is partially due to the aforementioned acquired taste necessary to enjoy it, but also due to the fact that a low-quality lapsang can taste very much like stale cigarette ashes steeped with tea. As a result, tea connoisseurs generally recommend avoiding low-price lapsangs.