Gourmet Smoked Teas and Tasty Tea-Smoking Recipes
Speciality Teas for Drinking and Cooking
For centuries, tea drinking has been considered a healthy choice. Tea, as a natural source of antioxidants, is believed to be helpful for many conditions, including heart disease, arthritis, and weight control. Whether this is true or not, many people think that tea can calm, relax and aid mental clarity.
Lapsang Souchong tea and Russian caravan teas are smoky teas, traditionally made from leaves that have been dried in bamboo baskets and trays over pine fires. Lapsang comes from China's Fujian Province and Taiwan, but Indian Assam tea can be blended in to give a malty taste, as found in Russian Caravan tea.
In the times of the 19th century Czars, tea was carried on camels from China to Moscow. As the camel caravans stopped at night, the smoky campfire aromas would be absorbed by the precious tea cargo. After vodka, the prized tea was the most important drink in Russia.
Teas can also be used to give great flavor to foods. Lapsang Souchang is a popular tea for imparting a tasty smoky aroma to meats and fish. You can find some simple ways to make your own home-smoker here.
This photo is my own, and is copyright. Please do not use without my written permission.
Lapsang Souchong Tea
Lapsang is a black tea from the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian province, China, and Taiwan. The Fukienese name means "smoky little variety" because the tea is produced by withering the leaves over pine, cypress or cedar fires, and then placed in bamboo baskets and hung over smoky pine fires to give it a distinctive smoky, tarry flavor and aroma. It appeals most to people who love smoked foods and cigars. The smokiness of this tea also makes it a popular cooking tea.
The origins of the smoking process are not clear:
One story, based during the early days of the Qing Dynasty, tells that an army unit took over a tea factory, filled with fresh leaves, in Xingcu (Star Village). When the soldiers left, the workers realized that it was too late to dry the tea leaves in the normal way, so they lit pine wood fires to speed up the process. The tea, with its smoked pine flavor, apparently reached the market in time, and was a success. Another similar story claims that the army commandeered the tea factory while the tea was being fired, resulting in the tea being overcooked. The smoky, "burned" tea was tossed in a bin at the roadside, but when an English tea merchant came by he was attracted to the smoky scent and bought the tea. A third story tells of a threat to the crop, that led the villagers of Tong Mu to harvest their tea and dry it quickly over pine wood. In this story, the farmers didn't like the smoky flavor, but European customers did enjoy it so the new process remained.
Case of six 20-count boxes of Twinings Lapsang Souchong, which is a rich blend of black tea infused with pinewood smoke. It can be drunk with milk or without, according to your preference.
Lapsang with the convenience of tea bags, from a maker you can really trust : Taylors of Harrogate.
Loose Leaf Tea
For the most authentic experience, some people prefer a loose leaf tea. Stash tea offers a 3.5 oz pouch which should make about 50 cups.
Loose leaf Stash Premium Lapsang Souchong. It has good sized leaves and brews a strong, smoky tea.
Russian Caravan Tea
A strange name for a tea, you might think, but the tea is named after the 16th month roundtrip made by the camel caravans that used to take lapsang souchong tea from China to Moscow. It is actually a blend of two teas, because Indian Assam is added to provide a slight malty flavor. The smoky, malty taste makes it a great after-dinner tea. Often, it is served heavily sweetened with preserves or honey, although sugar can be used.
A six pack of 16-count tea bags made with Yunnan tea and special grades of Lapsang Souchong.
A blend of Indian and China tea make up this Siberian Caravan Tea - 1 Pound Bag. Can be drunk with milk, sugar, honey, rock cane sugar or even with jam
There are several very good varieties of Russian Caravan tea - here are a couple more highly rated brands.
Perfect for finishing a dinner party this Russian Caravan is a blend of Assam tea and Lapsang Souchong. It has a slight malty flavor and a smoky aroma
Delicately flavoured, with a slightly toasty character. Czar Nicolas Caravan tea is a perfect way to finish a dinner party
Tea-Smoking Techniques for Delicious meals
Smoking can be used to preserve food. It can also add great flavor.
Tea-smoking is an old Chinese technique, which you can use with meats like duck, chicken an beef, or with fish, such as salmon and trout. Tea-smoking gives a beautiful color to the food, and adds a rich and fragrant taste. If you'd like to try this technique (and why wouldn't you?), you can get hold of a purpose-made smoker, or you could make your own using a wok or dutch oven. The videos below show these methods in action.
The photo is titled Preparing smoked shad fish alosa sapidissima by Walton LaVonda, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is in the public domain.
Tea Smoked Beef Tenderloin
Step-by-step demonstration of how to smoke beef in a dutch-oven. Served with a tasty pear salad
Three tips for the best home-smoked foods
Before you begin, make sure the food is as dry as possible. This will help the food to absorb the smoke. It will also give a better flavour and color. Pat the food carefully with a paper towel to remove moisture.
Try to avoid overwhelming the food with smoke. It will have a more pleasant flavour if it has a gentle infusion of smoke, rather than a hefty blast. Arrange the food so it is not directly above you smoking mix or smoking packet.
Monitor the color to avoid over-smoking. If the food is turning deep amber before it is cooked sufficiently, remove from the smoke, and continue to grill until it is ready.
Smoked in a wok, on the stovetop, in 10 minutes. Note: that the half chicken had been roasted first!
Step-by-step demonstration of tea-smoking using a wok.
Kitchen Smokers - Purpose designed, or make your won with a dutch oven or wok
In just a few minutes, you can smoke foods in your won kitchen, or on the campfire. Having a lid is very important - it prevents a smoky kitchen and traps in heat and moisture. You can enjoy succulent tea and wood-smoked foods, infused with fragrance and flavour.
The Camerons stovetop smoker will allow you to try tea or wood smoking in your own kitchen. It is made of heavy-gauge stainless steel, and includes a drip tray rack and retractable handles. At 11 by 15 inches, it is large enough to smoke fish or a ham. The lid has a good seal, to prevent a smoked kitchen. Can also be used as a roasting pan, steamer or poacher.
The Nordic Ware Kettle Smoker is very versatile and can be used in the kitchen or for outdoor grilling. The set includes a base pan, non-stick smoking rack, high-dome cover, water pan, thermometer, wood chips and recipe booklet. Approx 13inch diameter.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
If you lack kitchen storge space (like me), you might prefer a multi-functional Dutch Oven, which can be used indoors or outdoors. Dutch ovens are great for searing, frying, sauteing, simmering, braising, baking, and roasting.
This 7-quart Dutch oven is made of heavy-duty cast iron, and is oven-safe up to 500F. It can be used in the oven, on the stove, on the grill or even over a campfire.