Lapsang Souchong Tea : Smoky Harmony

A heart of darkness. Andy’s homage to lapsang souchong tea.

Intensely smokey, tarry, beguilingly dark…It sounds like the description of a fragrance I’d like to spray on my wrists, but instead these words are about Lapsang Souchong, perhaps my most beloved tea. It’s rare I select a singular favorite, but there is something so intrinsically satisfying about brewing a cup of broodingly dark Lapsang that I can’t help but come back for more.

andy-lapsang1

Upon opening a tin of Lapsang Souchong, the aroma of spent ashes permeates the air, like smelling last night’s bonfire lingering on your clothes. Once hot water saturates the tea leaves though, the impression is that of a fire reincarnated—the fragrance rising from the cup is unmistakably that of fresh woodsmoke and crackling flames slicing through the flinty chill of a winter’s night. Lapsang Souchong is the tea equivalent to film noir, with the mysterious femme fatale, disconcerting plot twists, and menacing darkness and shadows condensed into a mere cup.

As otherworldly as it is, Lapsang Souchong tea is often produced from lesser grade leaves (such as those lower down on the season’s growth) that would not possess a fine flavor on their own. Instead, these teas derive most of their flavor from a unique smoking process, in which the tea leaves are laid out on trays and then set above a fire made from pine or spruce wood or roots. As both of these conifer woods contain their own distinctively fragrant resin, the tea leaves become richly infused with the aroma of pleasantly scented smoke.

In addition, the smoking process lowers the level of caffeine in the tea, making most Lapsangs suitable to evening consumption if you are not caffeine sensitive. Higher grade Lapsang Souchong teas are made with better quality tea leaves to begin with, and so are smoked to a lesser degree. However, many Taiwanese (Formosan) Lapsangs, which are often described as “tarry” and tend to be the smokiest, are also highly regarded.

andy-lapsang2

Due to the variations in the smoking process, the flavor of Lapsang Souchong teas can vary greatly, from mellow and soft to intense. I have a preference for highly smoked Lapsangs, which in both dry leaf and brewed states allow an exploration of all the facets of smoky aromas—thickly rubbery and resinous, dusty and dark, woodsy and smooth.

Personal taste is the best judge when brewing tea, but I tend to use a larger measure of tea per serving size (instead of a teaspoon of tea per cup, I might use a rounded teaspoon and a half) when I am brewing a Lapsang Souchong, since the smoking process can lower the intensity of the tea leaf itself. Nonetheless, it is hard to forget a Lapsang Souchong once you’ve tasted it—there is simply no other tea quite as distinctive or polarizing. No matter what your taste for smokiness though, the recommendations below may help you to discover a new favorite tea of your own.

Light Smoke

Historically, “Caravan” or “Russian Caravan” teas are said to have gained their slight smokiness due to being kept near campfires during the long trek from China to Russia. Today, however, caravan teas are usually blends that include some Lapsang Souchong to impart a light smoky flavor. If a mere wisp of smoke is what you’re after, try Kusmi Samovar for a caravan-style taste, or their Smoky Earl Grey for an update on a tea classic. Alternatively, try Le Palais des Thés Pointes Blanches or Upton Tea Imports’ Lapsang Souchong Black Dragon. Both are smoked black teas blended with beautiful silver tip white tea, and make for a perfect introduction to Lapsang Souchong with their slightly milder taste.

andy-lapsang3

More Smoke

For moderately smoked Lapsang Souchong, try options from Mariage Frères such as the Grand Lapsang Souchong, or Le Palais des Thés variety by the same name. However, if you’re looking for a tea that is soused with smoky flavor, look no further than Thé du Tigre by Le Palais des Thés. It is an intensely smoked Taiwanese variety, and my favorite Lapsang Souchong to date.

In the Bottle

And if the tea itself doesn’t suit you, in the bottle it may. Bulgari’s edgy Black frames smoky tea with sweet resin and powdery vanilla to create a fascinating impression, while Comme des Garçons’ Series 1: Leaves Tea plays up the dryly tarry, burnt rubber facets of Lapsang. Now discontinued, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Tea for Two underpinned smoky tea with honeyed spices. For a similar theme, try Viktor & Rolf’s Spicebomb.

Photography by Andy Gerber

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99 Comments

  • kayliz: Beautiful post, Victoria! Your writing is always richly evocative but here the passion really shines through.
    I tried Lapsang Souchong for the first time last week and am hooked. I have no clue what kind I bought (at a high street tea shop) beyond it being Chinese and organic, but it tastes wonderful.
    It’s raining today, cold, and I’m enjoying a work day at home. A quick sneak at your post made me yelp and rush to the kettle — and now I know why I’m not wearing any perfume yet:)
    It has to be Black… oh, or Myrrhiad… February 3, 2016 at 8:35am Reply

    • Andy: I ended up wearing some Black myself–layered with another perfume, but any way I wear it, it always smells perfect to me (I’m a huge fan of Annick Menardo’s style). Do you find a smoky tea note in Myrrhiad too? February 3, 2016 at 9:18am Reply

    • Scented Salon: Myrrhiad was all black tea and licorice to me. I wish it had more myrrh and less licorice but it is smoky and beautiful in the cold. I hope you applied it today. It’s nice to know what others are wearing. February 3, 2016 at 9:22am Reply

      • Andy: All I could think was “oooh” as I read your description of Myrrhiad. I swear, everybody who comments here writes much more enticing fragrance descriptions than the companies–I think I’ve considered a sample of Myrrhiad several times, but only till now have I been intrigued enough to get my hands on some. February 3, 2016 at 9:41am Reply

        • kayliz: Andy, I reckon I owe you a decant after my blunder above (which you are being very gracious about!)
          I’ll send a note to Andy, erm, Victoria;) February 3, 2016 at 10:07am Reply

          • Andy: No need to apologize–Victoria is such an outstanding writer that it’s a complement to be confused for her! February 3, 2016 at 10:18am Reply

  • Scented Salon: Andy, that photo truly captures the coziness and pleasure of tea drinking, especially now that the weather is cold.

    From the description, I am sure I will love this tea so now I have to look around for a highly smoked one. The recommendations you offer will be a starting point but in my experience, expensive French teas do not pack the punch I am after.

    By the way, Tea for Two is back and is as beautiful as ever. I wish I had it with me right now so I could glory in its smoky wake. February 3, 2016 at 9:01am Reply

    • Andy: The best advice in looking for the boldest and smokiest of Lapsang Souchongs is, again, to find a Taiwanese (sometimes referred to as “Formosan”) variety, which are often smoked with spruce rather than pine. Upton Tea Imports sells a very reasonably priced version that I like as much as Thé du Tigre, minus the bewitching name.

      And thanks for the update on Tea for Two–I think I will put some on today. I never ended up getting a bottle because I couldn’t keep up with whether it was in stock or discontinued! February 3, 2016 at 9:30am Reply

      • Scented Salon: Sounds good. I will search it out in the Asian grocery stores. The smokier the better!

        Tea for Two is one of the best tea fragrances I have tried. Another one that readers and lovers of smoky tea might like is CB Russian Caravan Tea. It smells like clean black tea with smoke. I personally prefer Russian Tea by Masque: it has a birch tar and raspberry note that is truly addictive. February 3, 2016 at 9:52am Reply

        • Andy: I too loved Russian Tea–I think I should review it, really. February 3, 2016 at 9:55am Reply

        • limegreen: It’s a good time to go to an Asian Grocery, as it will soon be the Lunar New Year. 🙂 February 3, 2016 at 11:28am Reply

  • Lola: I’ve always been curious about trying Lapsang or any smoked tea(s). I’ve seen smoked Earl Grey a few times before. It sounds interesting – gives me the impression of charcoal and the deep lavender grey of an early morning sky. February 3, 2016 at 9:03am Reply

    • Andy: I wasn’t sure about the idea of smoked Earl Grey, but when I tried it, I really liked it. Granted, I’ve only tried the one from Kusmi, but I thought that version had everything I look for in both an Earl Grey and a smokey tea. February 3, 2016 at 2:17pm Reply

  • limegreen: Such beautiful photos, Andy, with the wintry backdrop for a steaming cup of tea! Thank you for an inspiring and educational article. I love the idea of tea smoking by a campfire on the road.
    And the perfume recommendations — will have to revisit Bvlgari Black, and try CdG Tea! I think you once mentioned a similar burnt note in Tauerville Incense Flash?

    I will take your recommendations for the tea itself, and put in more leaves, as I think that may be why I have not cared for lapsang in the past.
    As an aside, in looking for another taste sensation solely inspired by BdJ — salty black licorice — I also saw tea candies in the same grocery section. Except they were not just green teas but a lapsang souchong candy, too! Will have to backtrack for those and see if they are smoky sweet.
    The Dutch salty licorice coins I ended up getting had a nice salty caramel feel, but I got the light salt one (“Firm With a Little Salt” on the package), possibly geared for the timid American palate. 🙂
    (I decided to wait to try Double Salt.) February 3, 2016 at 9:08am Reply

    • Andy: I was glad the winter snow could be good for something, if even just a backdrop. There is a smoky-rubbery quality to Incense Flash that reminds me of Lapsang in character, even though it doesn’t smell to me of the tea itself.

      Those Lapsang candies sound really odd and interesting. I saw the salty licorice in a Swedish shop around Christmas, but didn’t buy as the package was nearly $10 for a tiny bag. I knew I could do better than that, but am still seeking them out. February 3, 2016 at 9:35am Reply

      • limegreen: The bag of Dutch ones was the price of a typical perfume sample so it was exactly right, since I was testing them like a perfume curiosity!

        (There were also Oregon made ones that were $15. Made with locally sourced coastal salt, something like that.) February 3, 2016 at 9:50am Reply

        • Andy: Ha! That price point is more like it, and you make a point there–I declare from here on out that all samples of anything should be measured against the “perfume sample price index.” February 3, 2016 at 9:57am Reply

          • limegreen: Since I also get a lot of perfume samples “free” — that would be an acceptable price index! 🙂 February 3, 2016 at 10:33am Reply

          • Amber: Love it! February 3, 2016 at 2:44pm Reply

    • girasole: Lapsang Souchong candy sounds so interesting – I’ve had tea-flavoured baked goods (actually, there’s a market stall in Cambridge, UK that does an amazing Earl Grey teacake), but I don’t think I’ve ever had tea-flavoured candy! February 3, 2016 at 10:13pm Reply

      • limegreen: You’re missing out on some yummy stuff — the Japanese green tea candies are wonderful. February 3, 2016 at 10:56pm Reply

  • Bonnie: A woman after my own heart! I have adored Lapsang Souchong since my first sip over twenty years ago. I loved the Twining’s brand of it, which was for some nonsensical reason was discontinued in Canada. So I order it routinely from the UK. When I visited New York City, I came home with a suitcase filled with Twining’s Lapsang Souchong in the distinctive reddish box. The company has since changed its visual branding but its Lapsang is still gorgeous. February 3, 2016 at 9:11am Reply

    • Andy: I think the Twining’s variety may have been the very first Lapsang Souchong I ever tried, which seems a long time ago now. I still remember the boxes in that gorgeous shade of red–are they still that lovely color? February 3, 2016 at 9:36am Reply

  • Therése: Ah, I struggle with Lapsang Souchong. I love the scent, but not the taste. February 3, 2016 at 9:51am Reply

    • Andy: I sometimes don’t want to drink it either, and instead treat it like smelling salts–something to dip my nose into and inhale the scent of, but not to taste. February 3, 2016 at 9:58am Reply

  • Kathy: I will check out the recommened brands..I just recently tried lapsang souchong, and decided it was an aquired taste that I will enjoy acquiring ?. Maybe just because I am alreay wearing it today, but I think Natori might be a good scent match.

    Thanks for the post!

    Kathy
    Bloomington February 3, 2016 at 10:03am Reply

    • Andy: Enjoy the “courting” process! February 3, 2016 at 10:19am Reply

  • josina: Have loved lapsang souchong for over 30 years! since my student years and still now. It beats a glass of wine and must be drunk piping hot with a tiny drop of milk to increase the flavour. love bulgari black. Have you tried the perfume jasmine et cigarettes from Etat libre d’orange? February 3, 2016 at 11:00am Reply

    • Andy: So nice to hear from a longtime Lapsang fan. I too love Bulgari Black, and have tried Jasmin et Cigarette–I too notice a smokey, tea-like note. February 3, 2016 at 2:10pm Reply

    • kayliz: Ooh, piping hot with a drop of milk: noted! I loved Jasmin et Cigarette too when I tried it and must try it again with smoke in mind:)

      Andy, I agree with Scented Salon, Myrrhiad isn’t smoky but it is special. I’m in Europe… if I can send to you, I’d love to. February 5, 2016 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Ellen M.: Also my favorite tea, although supplies where I live are very limited. Lovely article. I have Tea for Two as well. Maybe a cuppa and scent? February 3, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

    • Andy: Sounds like a perfect way to relax! February 3, 2016 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Karen (A): Andy, all of your tea posts make me wish I was more of a tea drinker! But I do love the Turkish tea I make when inspired, and for a while was brewing it up on the fire pit so was getting a smokey version which was wonderful. Will search out some of those you list – and perhaps try some fragrances to wear while drinking!

    Thanks for a great post and beautiful photos! February 3, 2016 at 11:52am Reply

    • Andy: I’m intrigued by your Turkish tea–what’s in it? And I’m so curious to know how you brew it on the fire pit, this sounds like something that might be fun to try sometime. February 3, 2016 at 12:24pm Reply

      • Scented Salon: Turkish apple tea smells just like Ambre Narguile. Especially when you drink it in an outdoor teahouse while others are smoking narguile. Now that’s an experience! February 3, 2016 at 3:31pm Reply

      • Karen (A): It’s tea grown in Turkey in the Black Sea region, and is loose (I’ve never seen it in bags, but sure it also comes that way) It’s got such a great flavor. Turkish tea pots have two parts – boil the water in the lower pot, tea is in the upper pot – gets stronger as it brews, but you just add more water. Tea glasses are tulip shaped and used to not have handles, but apparently now more places are using glasses with handles like the ones in Egypt.

        It is served with sugar, not milk.

        On the fire pit I just brewed it like on the stove, but let it steep on some of the bricks as they were really hot. February 4, 2016 at 1:28pm Reply

        • Andy: So fascinating to learn more about Turkish tea custom–I admit that it’s not one of the cultures whose tea drinking habits I know much about, so your insights are invaluable. February 7, 2016 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Neva: Ok, after this beautiful description that makes my mouth water, maybe it is time that I try some lapsang souchong tea finally. I’m a fan of green teas and among them I have my favourites but I have little experience with other teas.
    Besides I like most smoked food and drinks (smoky whisky – yummy) so I suppose I could easily fall for lapsang souchong. February 3, 2016 at 12:29pm Reply

    • Andy: If you appreciate a smokey whiskey, then I think Lapsang Souchong would definitely be something worth trying. February 3, 2016 at 12:47pm Reply

      • girasole: Lapsang is my favorite tea, also (although my husband says it smells like drinking smoked salmon!), and I’ve always said it’s the ‘whiskey of tea’. In addition to having a similar flavor, it also seems to suit the same occasions and environments.

        I’ve been testing a sample of VC&A’s Midnight in Paris this morning, which I’ve heard compared to Bulgari Black. I think I prefer the Bulgari, though, for the simple reason that Midnight in Paris lacks that tarry, dark-brewed tea aspect. It’s no surprise that Tea for Two is probably my all-time favorite scent (although I do think the re-issued version is a little ‘softer’ and thinner, it’s still gorgeous). I’ve yet to try the Comme des Garçons scent you mention, or Masque Milano’s Russian Tea, which also gets mentioned in this genre, but I really should.

        I think I should also brew some Lapsang; today’s gloomy weather is perfect for it. Thanks, Andy, for the inspiration! February 3, 2016 at 1:05pm Reply

        • Andy: I laughed at your smoked salmon comment, because I always get,”it smells like the house is burning down,” when I drink this tea while anyone else is at home. For comparison’s sake, the Comme des Garcons is something like a hyperrealistic take on tea, and Russian Tea is much sweeter, with the smokiness tempered by some yummy notes like raspberry. February 3, 2016 at 2:14pm Reply

          • girasole: Haha – yes, the smell never fails to provoke a reaction, that’s for sure!

            Thanks for the scent summaries; I’ll have to seek them out (I never would have thought of pairing raspberry with smoky tea!) February 3, 2016 at 9:57pm Reply

            • Andy: Much like a distinctive perfume, I might add! February 3, 2016 at 9:59pm Reply

  • patuxxa: What a lovely coincidence. I’m wearing Tea for Two today. One of my favorite L’Artisans and superb longevity – spritzed in the morning, it’s six in the afternoon and I can still feel it wafting around me.

    I adore Lapsang Souchong and very often in tea salons the waiters try to warn me “it is a very smoky tea” – everybody’s drinking those fruity flavored brews nowadays. Little do they know the smokier the better! February 3, 2016 at 1:48pm Reply

    • Andy: I have a dab of Tea for Two on right now, and it’s so beautiful. Why I haven’t added it to my collection yet I have no clue. I’ve gotten that same warning when buying Lapsang Souchong–“It’s very, very smokey!” but feel the same way you do–bring on the smoke! February 3, 2016 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Qwendy: I too love smoky tea, though I was unaware of their nuances, thanks for a great post!

    When I first started going to Paris I went to Kusmi Tea in the back of a residential building, where they blended and sold their teas, using an iron to seal the packages …. How things have changed in 20 years!

    I discovered their Traktir tea, one of their Russian blends, which smelled intensely smoky to me, although I see that it includes many other notes … I wonder if the citrus notes magnify the smoky ones? I used to serve it with dessert at dinner parties and people were completely surprised and captivated by it.

    Must revisit when I am in Paris in May (and Palais du Thé for their Tigre!) although I fear it has been discontinued … Do you think that tea maker’s formulas have changed in these last years, with IFRA regulations and also the proliferation of tea manufacturers? I don’t think that this is the case with my fave Mariage teas, but maybe Kusmi, who went from a Mom and Pop operation to a worldwide tea concern? February 3, 2016 at 2:20pm Reply

    • Andy: I had no idea of Kusmi’s more humble beginnings, because I only came to know the company in more recent years. What an incredible story.

      I will have to try Tratkir, because I’ve never tasted this one before. It sounds exquisite, though.

      While I don’t know of any connection between IFRA and the tea industry, you bring up an interesting point. I haven’t personally noticed my favorite teas tasting differently, but it’s certainly possible. In addition, since tea is a natural product, the base tea that the companies are using for their blends may vary or have to be exchanged for another variety as supply and cost allow. February 3, 2016 at 2:27pm Reply

      • Qwendy: I discovered their teas more than 20 yrs ago at a fancy market near my parent’s town in NY, beguiled by the packaging and tea names and descriptions. We all became addicted to them and on my first trip to Paris we sought them out, as their address was on the tin …. I went into the blending room filled with giant canisters of scents from Grasse and asked it I could come back for a custom blend … Alas I never did it!

        I would go back on each trip to get more tea to fill my beautiful canisters and one day they disappeared. I was worried, but they resurfaced in their own shops not long after …. I have since moved on to other tea loves, but this convo moves me to revisit, thanks! February 3, 2016 at 2:36pm Reply

        • Andy: In that case, I think I’ll have to consider this to truly be an international love story! 😉

          I’d be curious to know, when you revisit their teas, if the original blends (those that still remain in the collection, that is) taste the same as you remember or if you find them changed. February 3, 2016 at 2:52pm Reply

  • Amber: Wonderful article Andy! I was just enjoying a cup of Lapsong Souchong yesterday- it is the perfect antidote for grey Pacific Northwest winter days.
    I have also found solace in your recipe for rose scented tea which Victoria shares in her article “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”. Thanks so much! I’m definitely going to get a sample of Tea for Two now… February 3, 2016 at 2:52pm Reply

    • Andy: I think Tea for Two would be a perfect perfume for those cool, grey days in the Pacific Northwest. The weather here on the East Coast feels like that today, and Tea for Two is smelling like just the thing. February 3, 2016 at 3:31pm Reply

  • Aurora: Enjoyed your post so much: such a mine of information on Lapsang Souchong. You know, one reasons I love to drink it is that somehow I always felt that apart from being delightful on its own it actually goes very well with food, Chinese of course but also all kinds of dishes are really good with a cup of LS.

    A different topic but remembering the post on grapefruit in perfume, I had omitted to mention the beautiful grapefruit note in Parfum Initial l’Eau. Do you know it? February 3, 2016 at 3:34pm Reply

    • Andy: You’re absolutely right, Lapsang Souchong is perfect alongside food–both savory and sweet. I don’t usually advise eating anything chocolate with tea, but this is one tea that seems to stand up to bold flavors without a problem.

      I know Parfum Initial but not the L’Eau flanker–if I see it on a store counter I will make sure to give it a test! February 3, 2016 at 3:53pm Reply

  • Katy: I confess to being a fickle tea lover. Whatever I am drinking is my favorite cup! I love Bvlgari Black and Spicebomb, seriously considering trying them together since Black has no longevity on me. February 3, 2016 at 4:19pm Reply

    • Andy: Fickle perhaps, but I love your approach to tea! I too love Bulgari Black, and find that it works great for layering (with Caron Pour Un Homme is a favorite combo). I’m imagining right now how seductive it would smell layered with Spicebomb. February 3, 2016 at 4:35pm Reply

      • Katy McReynolds: I will try that combo! I confess to having a weakness for lavender perfumes and lavender tea. February 3, 2016 at 7:03pm Reply

        • Andy: Me too! February 3, 2016 at 8:49pm Reply

  • Austenfan: What a great post, on a great tea. I’ve always loved Lapsang Souchong although I don’t drink it as often as I used to. I loved the Lapsang Souchong Impérial from MF, which I guess is medium smoke with some lovely woody notes as well.
    Damman Frères used to have an interesting blend of a Lapsang and an Oolong, which unfortunately I never tried, and it’s no longer listed on their site. I’ve never tried the Tigre from Palais either, and it sounds interesting, so I will give it a go.

    The only perfume that to me, truly matches the smell of Lapsang, is Goutal’s Eau du Fier. I love T42, and I really enjoy the Comme des Garçons, but they are nowhere near as close to LS as Fier was. February 3, 2016 at 4:43pm Reply

    • Andy: Ah, that’s right, I do remember now that you are indeed a fan of Eau du Fier. Although I’m sure I could certainly order a sample, I haven’t tried Eau du Fier yet, partially out of fear that I’ll absolutely love it. One of these days I’ll try it though, and I’ll let you know how I get along with it.

      That Lapsang-Oolong blend from Damman sounds great, I bet it must have been beautiful to look at with tangly oolong leaves interspersed among the dark black tea. February 3, 2016 at 5:24pm Reply

      • girasole: I’ve resisted sampling Eau de Fier for the same reason (though that didn’t stop me from asking whether it might ever come back in an email to the house!), but after this post and all the suggestions, I’m very tempted… February 3, 2016 at 10:06pm Reply

        • Andy: Me too, I must admit. February 3, 2016 at 10:15pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Well, I see the occasional bottle on ebay at prices of around €1000,-. It was a unique perfume, that apparently didn’t sell particularly well, and I think could also no longer be made because of restrictions on materials that were essential to it’s character.

        About the Damman; I’m really sorry it’s no longer available as it seems such an interesting match, but alas I never even saw the actual tea, only a picture on the Damman site. February 4, 2016 at 4:05am Reply

        • Andy: I didn’t even think about the possibility that it could no longer be made due to materials restrictions, but I’m sure you’re right about that. February 4, 2016 at 9:24am Reply

          • Austenfan: This is what I was told in 2012 in one of the Goutal shops in Paris. Victoria is bound to know more about it.
            I purchased my own bottle in 2009, also in Paris. February 4, 2016 at 10:44am Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Andy!

    Your characterization of Lapsang Souchong had me at film noir and femme fatale! However, while my mornings always starts with my morning coffee, my afternoons and after dinner (especially at this time of year) leans towards tea but of late I am able to do “tastings” at my nearby Fairway Supermarket by purchasing a small amount ( of leaves) and then determine if it appeals to me. I haven’t been able to get the source/mfg. of their teas but I have to say they have a really decent array. But somewhere along the line I cannot favor LS tea. But in its defense LS tea would make for a great cooking ingredient. Good post, Andy! February 3, 2016 at 4:59pm Reply

    • Andy: You’re right, Lapsang Souchong would be excellent for cooking. I always mean to try it in a recipe, but I still haven’t yet. I’ve only ever included it in rubs for grilled meats, where it imparts a deliciously smoky flavor. February 3, 2016 at 5:27pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Andy, perfect post & sentiments to savor at the end of this raw and rainy day! I have loved Lapsang Souchong ever since blind buying a tin of it at a grocery in NYC Chinatown years and years ago. I fell for the container but was blown away by the contents!
    Twinings used to offer a bagged tea (I know, I know, wet nappies) called Russian Caravan that was a blended tea with L.S. in it. Have not seen it in a while but recommend it as an intro to this somewhat acquired taste.
    Infusing plain vodka with L.S. tea yields a very sophisticated cocktail base to which to add any number of elements with great aclaim.
    I just went and ordered a small flask of Bulgari Black after reading your post too. :+) February 3, 2016 at 6:29pm Reply

    • Tam: Oooh Wow!, Ariadne, What a fantastic idea infusing vodka with Lapsong Suchong! Maybe then mixed with a little Chambord etc. Russian Caravan cocktails! February 3, 2016 at 8:04pm Reply

      • Ariadne: Go for it!! Blame it on New Orleans, plus it’s Mardi Gras Feb. 10th. February 3, 2016 at 8:27pm Reply

      • Andy: I was commenting to Ariadne that I have had trouble blending Lapsang Souchong infused vodka into a proper cocktail in the past, but this sounds delicious! February 3, 2016 at 8:47pm Reply

    • Andy: I love your tip to infuse vodka with Lapsang Souchong, it’s something I’ve done in the past but have had difficulty pairing other ingredients/liqueurs with successfully. You remind me to try it again, preferably sooner rather than later!

      And enjoy Black–I mentioned it in the comments a couple weeks ago as one of my most versatile fragrances, and I stand by that–it’s very distinctive, but I often think of it as being like the fragrance equivalent to a person who looks intimidating at first, but really just wants to cuddle up with you. February 3, 2016 at 8:46pm Reply

      • SilverMoon: Dear Andy, that was a lovely article on Lapsang Souchong (beautiful photos too). I really love a cup of LS sometimes – I need to be in the mood for that smokey smell. Like many others, I also see what you mean by Bulgari Black being similar in feel; also loved your description of Black in this comment, since it is similar to how I perceive it. Black is the only blind buy full bottle I have ever bought. It was based on Turin & Sanchez’s review in The Guide. And I was not disappointed.

        Tea for Two and Seville a L’Aube are the only two L’Artisan P perfumes I have. Now that I think about it, they both have a smokey feel albeit in very different ways. February 9, 2016 at 4:37pm Reply

        • Andy: Come to think of it, I can see what you mean about Seville a L’Aube as having a smokey feel even though it’s not smokey per se. It’s almost thick and vaporous like smoke is rather than having a distinctly charred quality. February 9, 2016 at 6:07pm Reply

      • Ariadne: Hi Andy, I just got my bottle of Bulgari Black and love it! Interestingly my husband thought it overly vanilla whereas I thought it just the right balance of elements. There is something in it that recalls vintage Je Reviens to me. (I did an a wrist to wrist comparison) Can you think of what it might be? February 10, 2016 at 9:40am Reply

        • Andy: I haven’t smelled vintage Je Reviens myself, but I recall that the same comparison was made in Perfumes: The Guide, which says that Black has,”a muted fifties Je Reviens floral note (benzylsalicylate) as 
green as a banker’s desk lamp.” February 10, 2016 at 1:40pm Reply

  • Ariadne: I was thinking it might make a SICK Bloody Mary with maybe a splash of spicy BBQ sauce rather than tomato juice. Garnish it with a Slim Jim! HA!
    I do love Tam’s idea for fruit liquoer too! Peach might stand up to the smoke too.
    I like the smell of wood smoke in a companion’s hair too so I think I will indeed love the Bulgari. February 3, 2016 at 8:56pm Reply

    • Andy: So many creative ideas, I’m tempted to infuse some vodka this weekend, and see how I make out with using it. February 3, 2016 at 10:05pm Reply

    • Tam: First time I purchased Lapsang Souchong, I found it at the healthfood store available by bulk and as such, so inexpensive to try. I fell in love with it. It reminded me of burning cedar in the fireplace to keep warm during desert winters. I also found a brand of NUMI teabags (wonderful, potent and organic) The peach note had occured to me as well. Yet maybe a base note is required to round out the cocktail as in perfume, like salt or sugar infused with vanilla bean February 4, 2016 at 12:58am Reply

  • john: Thank you for this lovely article! When I was about sixteen, the first real coffeehouse in my city opened up – there was no place like it (based on Murger’s/Puccini’s La Boheme, featuring bathrooms wallpapered in sheet music, a precarious mezzanine and a creepy attic full of antiques and surrealist paintings)… It was the first time I tried Lapsang Souchong tea, and it has been my favourite tea ever since. I thought I detected a powerful Lapsang scent (complemented by mint and melon of all things) in Lush’s polarizing, paralyzing Breath of God. Do you know it Andy? February 3, 2016 at 11:28pm Reply

    • Andy: What a great story–that coffeehouse sounds like such a fun place to discover a new tea and spend down time. I have heard a lot of (strange, very intriguing) things about Breath of God but haven’t smelled it yet. But the knowledge that it possesses a Lapsang like smokiness sure puts it more solidly on my radar. February 3, 2016 at 11:32pm Reply

    • Ariadne: Bingo! Melon liquer with that infused vodka over crushed ice!! Thank you John! February 5, 2016 at 7:24pm Reply

  • spe: Thank you, Andy. What a delightful read – and the perfect accompanying pictures.

    I’m wondering how lapsong souchong relates to a tea called “gun powder”. I remember that one being powerfully smoky. February 3, 2016 at 11:51pm Reply

    • Andy: If you’re referring to gunpowder green tea, I don’t know of any particular connection between it and Lapsang Souchong, although I know exactly what you mean when you say that gunpowder tea has a smokiness to it. February 4, 2016 at 11:06am Reply

  • Kandice: I love teas of all kinds but don’t know if I’ve ever tried this variety. I will have to remedy that right away! Thanks for the suggestions and the enticing article 🙂 February 4, 2016 at 9:39am Reply

    • Andy: When you do try it, enjoy the new discovery! February 4, 2016 at 11:07am Reply

  • laraffinee: I love Lapsang Souchong teas and have been enjoying them for years! I love the scent of Birch Tar and it it a tea version for me to enjoy. One of my favorites is Tsar Alexandre by Mariage Frères tea – beautifully balanced flavor that is not overcome with smoke, but rich in smoke. Lovely… February 4, 2016 at 10:26am Reply

    • Andy: Tsar Alexandre sounds lovely for those times when I don’t want something too smokey. I will have to try it. February 4, 2016 at 11:08am Reply

  • Aisha: I love Lapsang Souchong tea, and that Smoky Earl Grey sounds like a good one to try too. By the way, I also love the smell of Spicebomb and have snuck in to my husband’s stash of it a couple of times. 🙂 Great article! February 6, 2016 at 9:05pm Reply

    • Andy: The Smokey Earl Grey is such a very original take on the concept of smokey tea. Also, I don’t blame you for sneaking some of your husband’s Spicebomb now and again. February 7, 2016 at 2:09pm Reply

  • carole: I went to a lot of trouble to get some LS from the Kusmi line. I had a whole tin of it. I brought it to work, and brewed some. Thought I had enough for the whole long Canadian winter. One of my coworkers hated it so much she threw it out, complete with its beautiful tin. It’s really hard not to take it personally. February 7, 2016 at 7:17pm Reply

    • kpaint: Wow. You’ve got my jaw on the floor with this one. She certainly had an obligation to replace it. February 8, 2016 at 7:02pm Reply

    • Andy: I too would have difficulty not taking that personally, I’m so sorry to hear this story. This kind of passive-agressiveness on the part of your coworker was clearly and completely out of line. It’s one thing to dislike someone’s choices, whether it be in perfume, food, clothing, etc., but quite another to express this dislike in such a flagrantly distasteful way. I hope that in spite of this experience, you can still find a way to enjoy Lapsang Soughing. February 8, 2016 at 10:29pm Reply

      • carole: Thanks for the kind words-very much appreciated. It made me feel so rejected. She has done that before too-I had a tin of Cauchon tea a few years ago, and she did the same thing-threw it out. It feels sort of personal, you know? February 9, 2016 at 1:29pm Reply

        • Andy: I understand your feelings completely! February 9, 2016 at 6:07pm Reply

  • kpaint: Thanks for the article, Andy. I’m in the US and am wondering if you or others know of any sources for purchasing Mariage Frères or Le Palais des Thés here. Even better would be sources where I could buy samples (I’d also love it if I could get Kusmi samples somewhere.) I’m as reluctant to blind-buy tea as I am perfume, if not more so.

    I have read the tea primer series as well and referred to it often when purchasing tea. Great info! February 8, 2016 at 7:07pm Reply

    • Andy: Unfortunately, I don’t know of any way of buying samples of the teas by Mariage Frères nor those by Le Palais des Thés here in the U.S. I have heard that some people do tea “splits” on some tea community websites online, but as I’ve never done anything like this myself, I can’t really make a recommendation.

      In any case, Le Palais des Thés has a very well-stocked U.S. website, so the only thing I might recommend is to try ordering a tea or two that seems similar to a current favorite of yours, and to start discovering from there. They also carry some sampler sets, and while somewhat pricey, they do allow you to sample a wide array of teas without having to commit to a large quantity of any one blend. February 8, 2016 at 10:34pm Reply

  • kpaint: Oh, and I had also meant to say that the long-discontinued Fendi is one of my favorite tea perfumes. I don’t know that it’s ever referred to as a tea perfume by anyone else, but that’s always been by reaction to it. It has some similarities to Tea for Two, to my nose. February 8, 2016 at 7:12pm Reply

    • Andy: I’ve never tried it, but I’m always up for original tea perfume recommendations. Thanks! February 8, 2016 at 10:35pm Reply

  • Gian Marco: Lapsang Souchong is my favourite tea too! Unique taste, unique fragrance. Have you ever tried Fortnum & Mason’s Lapsang Souchong? May 7, 2016 at 7:25am Reply

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