It’s clearly a dilemma but one that I’ve been determined to solve as I have a love affair with the smokey, ethereal flavour and taste of Lapsang Souchong, the fabled tea from China.It’s name is derived from the Mandarin and means literally “sub variety from Lapu Mountain”.
It’s a black tea that came originally from the Wuyi region of the Chinese province of Fujian. Lapsang is distinct from all varieties of tea because the lapsang leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires that give it its distinctive smoky flavour.
Smoky teas were first developed in Chongan County in the 17th century. The Chinese smoke their tea in artisanal fashion. After oxidation, Souchong leaves are grilled on a hot iron plate, then arranged on bamboo racks over a fire fuelled by green pine logs that give off their scent. Smoky teas are known for their substantial character
Lapsang from Wuyi is increasingly expensive as it’s a small area and there is an increasing demand for the variety of tea.
But back to my original question. Where best to buy it from? In my view there is only one supplier of tea that I trust to whet my appetite for the very finest and utterly reliably sourced teas: Mariage Frères-the French gourmet tea company based in Paris, France.
Founded by the two eponymous brothers-Henri and Edouard-in 1854 and for over 130 years managed by a succession of Mariage family members this is the High Temple of Tea.
In 1983 the company was transformed from a wholesale importer into a retailer. Now under the leadership of Kitti Cha Sangmanee and Richard Bueno, Mariage Frères opened tea houses in central Paris. The first such tea salon was on the rue du Bourg-Tibourg and opened in the same building that Henri Mariage had as his office over 150 years ago.
Today, the company has thirty Mariage Frères outlets in France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. There are also 4 Mariage Frères tea salons in Paris.The MF brand is also distributed through resellers in over 60 countries and served in famous hotels in Paris and London.
To my mind there is no substitute for Mariage Frères’ LAPSANG SOUCHONG IMPÉRIAL about which they have this to say:
“The most refined of smoky teas–its long, uniformly handsome leaves are carefully smoked over rare wood in a traditional manner. A rich yet subtle tea for daytime”.
Never have truer words been spoken. Order some today.