Imperial Black Tip, AKA Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is the original, traditional, high-end form of Black Tea, which is often called Lapsang Souchong. It has a medium twisted needle-like shape. This mellow, dark golden tea has a light orchid sweetness and a lingering, refreshing finish.
As the legend goes…
In the spring of 1650, a troop of soldiers from the Northern Army of China, needing shelter, slept on the floor of the Jiang’s Tea Production Facility in the Wuyi Mountains, during the processing of a large batch of newly picked tea leaves. The tea makers found that after the soldiers left, the tea leaves had darkened due to a much longer fermentation time caused by the encampment of the soldiers who actually slept right on the tea leaves. The semi-fermented oolong style of tea they were working on could not be made. In an attempt to minimize their losses, the dark shiny leaves were rolled and twisted for an extended time, and to the Tea Master’s surprise, new unknown and delightful fragrances and tastes developed. Using wood from local pine trees to dry the long, dark, twisted leaves added smokey notes to the flavors of longan and lychee that developed in the tea. Locals were not interested in this new style of tea, so the family sent it to villages over 100 miles away where this new tea, called Lapsang Souchong, literally “pine smoked,” was an immediate success. The next year it fetched a high price, and it wasn’t long before Lapsang Souchong began to be widely imitated. A batch of the new tea reached Fuzhou, the capital and main port in Fujian, and made its way to London, where, combined with milk and sugar, it soon became a must have for the royalty and aristocracy of the day.
Today in a protected nature preserve in the Wuyi Mountains, leaves without buds are withered, rolled, and twisted in a special way. Using heat from pinewood several times during production, a dark red tea with a light, distinctive, pleasant fragrance, and a natural sweetness is produced. Even the multi-floor production buildings are unique, and the real Lapsang Souchong (Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong) made there is rare and prized, often brewed using traditional Gong Fu methods and, of course, requiring no milk or sugar. Low quality imitations are common in today’s market and are overly smoked and made using non-traditional methods. They are all inferior to the real Lapsang Souchong.