Saturday, October 3, 2009
Tea Tasting Saturday #40 - Lapsang Souchong
As a little girl growing up in the sixties, I was sometimes given Creomulsion cough syrup when I was sick. I'm sure I became quite adept at holding back coughs because I absolutely detested the stuff, and that horrible taste would stick around forever. I was surprised to learn that Creomulsion was actually invented in the '20s, in neighboring Griffin, Ga., of all things. Happily for children of today, the cough syrup has been given a makeover with (according to the Creomulsion website) cherry flavoring and a pleasant taste. I did not know they still make such a thing as adult Creomulsion, however, and its ingredients include beechwood creosote. Creosote! That's exactly the smell I remember!
This week's tea reminds me very much of the old Creomulsion cough syrup I had as a little girl. Why on earth would anyone want to drink an entire cup of this stuff?
Category: Chinese Black Tea
Purveyor: Harney and Sons
Dry leaf appearance: Dark bits of tea leaf that smell like they've been to the very pit of you-know-where and back.
Wet leaf appearance: Soggy bits of same.
Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 205 degrees, 4 minutes.
Scent: Have any of you read the wonderful book "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis? I can't help wondering if this is what Screwtape and Wormwood drink. "My dear Wormwood," I can just hear Screwtape saying, "please enjoy the enclosed tea sample. It's a custom blend finished off with essence of creosote, and one whiff and it will no doubt whet your appetite for further such delicacies here in the underworld ..."
Color: A medium orange-brown.
Flavor: I'm willing to try just about any tea, anytime, but four sips of this was all I could choke down. Someone clearly found a 1960s-era stash of my mom's Creomulsion stock and used it as the basis for this tea. What other explanation could there *possibly* be for taking something as sweet, angelic, healthy and wholesome as camellia sinensis and turning it into this vile brew? (But on a more helpful note: I have used a scant amount of this tea, steeped, in place of liquid smoke in certain chili recipes with good results! It's a happy use for what would otherwise be a tossed tea!)
Additional notes: I was absolutely stunned to read in the Harney book that Lapsang Souchong was one of the original half-dozen teas Harney sold and remains a favorite! Say it ain't so!
Next week's tea: Ahh, back to the good stuff -- Singbulli Darjeeling