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What Is Lapsang Souchong Tea?

Lapsang souchong may be a type of tea that you’re unfamiliar with, but if so, you’re in for a treat if you decide to try it. This dark-colored tea has a sweet, smoky flavor unlike any other variety on the market. 

Lapsang Souchong is a special oxidized black tea from the Wuyi region of China in the Fujian province. The unique flavor of this tea is the result of oxidation, the pine fire the tea is smoked over, and the mountainous microclimate where this tea is produced. 

Lapsang souchong is an exotic tasting experience, but this tea isn’t available in all areas due to some associated health risks from drinking it. Read on to learn more about lapsang souchong and why some people may not consider it safe to drink. 

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Lapsang Souchong smoked tea

What Is Lapsang Souchong?

Lapsang souchong is a black tea processed by smoking it over a pinewood fire, giving this tea a rich, earthy flavor that isn’t present in other tea varieties. Lapsang souchong tea can be either cold smoked or hot smoked depending on how the tea is cured. 

The name lapsang souchong comes from the native Fuzhou dialect in the region of China, where this tea is traditionally produced. 

The word “la” in this context means “pine” and the word “sang” means “wood”, referring to the pinewood used to smoke this tea variety. The word souchong translates to “small sort” and refers to the smaller tea leaves favored during the plucking process for this variety. 

What Does Lapsang Souchong Taste Like?

Lapsang souchong has a complicated flavor, especially against other types of black and green tea. Lapsang souchong tea is said to have notes of the following flavors: 

  • Pine resin/terpenes
  • Woodsmoke
  • Smoked paprika
  • Soapberry

In general, Lapsang souchong has a deeper, more complex flavor than other types of black tea. This is because the pinewood smoke that it is processed in has a large influence on its final taste and aroma.

How Is Lapsang Souchong Made?

Lapsang souchong is made by harvesting the coarser leaves of the tea plant, then smoking them over a pinewood fire. This gives the tea a unique, smoky flavor and a deeper coloring than non-oxidized types such as oolong, white, and green tea. 

Is Lapsang Souchong Illegal?

Even though lapsang souchong is considered a delicious treat in some parts of the world, this tea is banned throughout Europe because the pine smoke processing method used to create lapsang souchong doesn’t comply with European food safety standards. 

Pinewood smoke is considered to have carcinogenic properties, so tea shops in Europe and the United Kingdom will not offer lapsang souchong for sale as a result. Sometimes a lapsang-like alternative is offered, but these teas are treated with an artificial smoky aroma that is meant to emulate the real aroma and taste of lapsang souchong tea. 

Lapsang Souchong in a white saucer

Is Lapsang Souchong Safe to Drink?

Authentic lapsang souchong tea is one of the riskier types of tea to drink since food safety regulating bodies have concluded the smoking process used to create it can cause cancer. Despite this, scientific studies have shown that the levels of carcinogenic chemicals present in lapsang souchong are less than those found in common household grills. 

Does Lapsang Souchong Have Caffeine? 

Because lapsang souchong is made of regular black tea, it contains caffeine. However, lapsang souchong has been shown to have a lower level of caffeine than some green tea varieties. 

Is Lapsang Souchong Good for You?

Like all black teas, lapsang souchong is associated with several major health benefits. Here are a few of the advantages of drinking black tea regularly: 

  • High levels of antioxidants: Both black and green tea feature high levels of polyphenols. These antioxidant chemicals are responsible for helping to prevent various degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. 
  • Flavonoids: Along with polyphenols and catechins, black tea like lapsang souchong contains a special group of chemicals known as flavonoids. These chemicals are associated with improved cardiovascular health such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. 
  • Stabilized blood sugar: Black tea is associated with stabilizing blood sugar levels, making it a good option for people with diabetes or other metabolic disorders as long as it isn’t sweetened with sugar. 
  • Improved mood and concentration: The caffeine levels in black tea are associated with increased concentration and positive mood-altering effects. Many people are dependent on black tea for their morning pick-me-up or to study long into the night.
  • Improved gut health: The caffeine in black tea acts as a mild laxative, helping tea drinkers to keep their digestive systems operating smoothly. Fermented black teas can even help improve gut flora by introducing beneficial bacteria to your digestive system. 

There are many preventative health benefits you can derive from a daily cup of black tea. 

Despite the precautions the European Union has taken against lapsang tea in retail situations, there isn’t much hard scientific evidence that the risks of drinking it outweigh the advantages. 

Lapsang Souchong is an Exotic Tea to Try

While European bans might make this tea a little harder to find in some areas of the world, it’s worth tracking down. The sweet, smoky flavor of lapsang souchong is hard to find in any other tea variety worldwide. 

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