Lapsang Souchong

The upheavals of the Manchu invasion are held to be at least partly responsible for an innovation in Chinese tea. Forced to delay their harvest until relatively late in the year, farmers in Wuyi, in Fujian, sped up the packing process for the “small grade” fourth and fifth leaves, lower quality than the three leaves of the first flush, by roasting them over pine-wood fires, inadvertently imparting them with a smoky aftertaste. The locals thought it was awful, but soon found some foreigners to offload it on. This “Lapu Mountain Small Grade” (lapu-shan xiao zhong) retained its southern Chinese pronunciation abroad, as lapsang souchong. Centuries later, it would become Winston Churchill’s favourite tea – although nobody seems to have told him he was drinking the discount option.

From The Emperor’s Feast: A History of China in Twelve Meals, by Jonathan Clements.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.