Different from other black teas, Lapsang Souchong has more absorption of smoke and also more loss of the delicate flavor. The dry leaves, different from other teas, has a fantastic pine smoky scent to them complementing to some dry longan aroma. Even after several steeps, high-quality smoked Lapsang Souchong still can yield longan flavor.
All the way from the beautiful tightly twisted tea leaves to the aftertaste of the last steeping, this tea has a distinctive character overall and with no bitterness so it is really easy to appreciate from start to finish. The tightly twisted tea leaves looks neat and shining black in appearance, smells of composite pine smoky aroma, a bit like dry longan scent. The liquor of Lapsang Souchong is bright reddish in color, clear, mellow but without any astringency.
The flavor disperses evenly on the tongue with thick mouth feel and you can feel sweetness accumulating on tongue tip even just taking a sip of the liquid. It is truly a good tea that you can add sugar or milk to create your personal taste. Especially for smoked Lapsang Souchong, sugar or milk can definitely bring surprise to you.
The Main Processing Procedures
To process Lapsang souchong is not easy. The whole process steps can be divided into two parts, first manufacturing and refining process.
1. First manufacturing
Roughly, the manufacturing process contains five steps:
Fixation – Withering – Rolling – Fermentation – Pan-firing – Re-rolling – Smoke Baking – Re-firing – Maocha
The first step of making Lapsang Souchong is withering, which is a natural process and requires a particular room specially designed for this purpose. It includes two types, sun withering and withering by high heat. Just as its name implies，the first refers to the way of withering under sunlight. The second way look like some bit complicated than the first, the tea is put on bamboo basket and slow roasted over pine fire for couples of hours.
After having been moderately withered, those fresh leaves are going to be lightly bruised on their edges by shaking or tossing with hands or tea twisting machine. This step is curial to the fermentation.
This process is also known as “hot fermentation”. Covered with thick cloth, tea leaves tightly pressed in a bamboo basket will ferment (speeded by their enzyme) and change its color to red brown.
As a distinctive steps unique to Souchong processing, passing through a hot iron pan which aims to cease fermentation and maintain tea quality to a desirable level. Generally, this work has been done by skilled worker by stir-frying tea leaves with hands in an iron pan heated up to required temperature. Be very careful to control the temperature not too high or too low for the sake of getting enough aroma rather than bitter scorched leaves.
After fermentation and passing through “red pan”, the tea will be some scattered light so it is necessary to knead them again in tea twisting machine to get tightly twisted shape.
Scatter tea leaves on bamboo sieves placed in the baking room and dry them with pine fire and bake them with pine smoke from the bottom of bamboo sieve holders. During the whole process, tea leaves continue to absorb pine aroma and ends with distinctive pine flavor.
This step is going to pick out the coarse tea leaves and bake them again with pine fine to enhance its aroma.
After above several steps, we get the semi-finished tea (毛茶, mao cha) which will be further processed several times before entering markets.
Main Procedures: Mixing Maocha – Stacking – Drying – Sifting – Fanning – Stalk Extraction – Complement of Firing – Re-baking
The Maocha tea leaves are going to be graded according to their producing area, harvest time, quality standards then stored separately for further processing.
Stacking of Maocha:
Pile up the Maocha tea of different quality together in appropriate proportion to control the stability of quality.
Concocting leaves of different water content levels may easily lead to mildew spots, so it is necessary for tea makers to let excessive water content out by re-firing for quality requirements. After this process, the leaves should be pliable and resilient enough to be rolled for further process.
Pick out those leaves which does not meet the requirements of appearance standards and make all leaves compatible with each other in appearance.
Following the sifting process, tea leaves are going to be loaded into a machine known as the winnower, which can remove unqualified tea leaves and separates the leaves of good shape by size.
After the process of fanning, there are still some leave stems or broken leaves need to be removed as required by quality standards. Nowadays, this process can be done by hands or machines.
Complement of firing:
This step is going to evaporate the water content absorbed during the process of sifting and stalk extraction to prevent spoilage.
The use of rosin to bake tea leaves is a special procedure unique to Lapsang Souchonog tea processing. After being smoke baked, the finished tea can give out a strong scent of rosin (someone calls dry longan scent). Besides, this process also can make dry leaves has a good shape and color.
After having been verified by the quality inspection agency, the finished Lapsang Souchong tea will be packed and put on the market.