Cooking with Tea: Smoky Lapsang Souchong

published Jun 2, 2008
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Walking home last night, the neighborhood was thick with the smells of barbecue. Oh, how we love that smoky smell. And we love tasting it in our food even more!

Barbecue wood chips, liquid smoke, bits of smoked bacon–whether we’re grilling or not, we have lots of tricks to infuse our favorite dishes with a subtle smokiness.

But have you ever considered tea?

Lapsang souchong is a tea from the Fukien province in China. Traditionally, the leaves are dried over pinewood fires, giving the tea an incredibly powerful smoke flavor. Open up a bag of this stuff, and you’re immediately transported to a summer barbecue!

This tea is perfect for whenever you want to add a hint of smoke to a dish. It makes a great rub for meat or ground into burgers.

Off the grill, we often add a few teaspoons to soups, braises, and dips like hummus and baba ghanoush.

We also reach for this tea when we’re cooking vegetarian and want the savory and umami qualities of meat without, obviously, using meat!

To use lapsang souchong, we find it easiest and most effective to grind up a half cup or so into a fine powder with our spice grinder. We store it in a recycled spice jar and use a teaspoon or two at a time. This powder keeps for about three months.

Lapsang souchong tea is now widely available in the US market. We buy ours from Tealuxe in Boston, and it’s also available online at places like Upton Tea, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, and Stash Tea. If it comes in bags, just snip open the bags and empty the loose leaves into your grinder.