July 15th, 2010
I was given a container of tea the other day. Inside the container the leaves were sealed inside a plastic packet, so I couldn’t see or smell them. The container and the packet contain no indication of what kind of tea this was. Indeed, the container simply bears the words “中国茗茶” and a poem in a form of calligraphy I find hard to decipher (maybe there’s a clue hidden in the poem, which I should examine more closely?), while the packet is even simpler, bearing the character “茶” and the English words “China tea”. So it’s tea from China. Very informative. And the friend who gave me this tea was no more helpful, as she had been given the tea by somebody who didn’t bother to tell her what kind of tea it was.
So I brought this tea home, and opened the packet to have a look. Dark green leaves, long and tightly twisted. A problem in our kitchen that I am trying to get fixed made it difficult to get a handle on the aroma. So I brewed a cup, and tasted it. A strong, mellow, dark, slightly smoky flavour took me back to Dunedin, where I had tried a tea with an unusual but vaguely Chinese-y looking name, a tea I had never seen in China in part because I had no idea if it really was Chinese, and if so, what its name would be in Mandarin. So today I googled it. Could I have been given a container of this? The leaves in the picture are very similar to the leaves in the mystery container in my tea cupboard, and the flavour is similar to what I remember drinking in Dunedin. Of course, it’s been 11 years (almost exactly to the day) since I last set foot in Dunedin… I really need a tea expert to help me with this, and I don’t have anything other than the internet and one unfortunately small and not at all comprehensive book handy. I can’t upload tea leaves for people to examine.
Anyways, from a Chinese study point of view, I now have something approaching an explanation for the odd-looking name “lapsang souchong”, as well as Mandarin names, which will also be useful from a tea buying point of view. Although, I would like to know why Wikipedia states “拉普山小種/正山小种” in Fukianese means “”smoky sub-variety.” I can’t see “smoky” in those characters. And the name “Fukianese”?