As each day passes, my earliest memories become a little blurrier, a little more confused, a little harder to trace. That is except for those concerning 25th December. Carrots for reindeer, the year that Mum forgot the Yorkshire puddings and the year that Dad bought me my first bike. Yet one thing seems to stand out more than anything in my mind: the organisation. Days, weeks, even months spent saving, buying, saving a little more, chopping, mopping, wrapping, flapping and God knows what else-ing. As I approach my nineteenth Christmas, I’m arriving at the conviction that perfecting Christmas Day is a craft. And so first and foremost, I’d like to say: well done Mum.
Surprisingly, tea has never really translated well into our Christmas Day: year after year, it struggles to surpass firm festive institutions such as chocolate, Monopoly and a little more chocolate. But, this being theteaisle‘s first Christmas, things are going to have to change. So along with 567 books, 3 tons of dirty laundry and the odd present, I’ll be bringing home a very special festive friend this Christmas: Lapsang Souchong.
Said to have been the first black tea in existence, Lapsang Souchong (meaning ‘small plant from Lapu mountain’) has assumed an alias as the Marmite of the tea world in more recent years. Some cower timidly in its presence, others bravely embrace its individuality. Why? Simply because it breaks all the conventional tea boundaries. You’re probably thinking you’ve heard it all before, but this tea really is exceptional.
My first encounter with Lapsang was a somewhat memorable one. As I uttered my order, the waitress glared at me in disbelief. “Wouldn’t you rather go for something else? Some customers find the Lapsang a little… Quirky”. What may have been intended as advice had the opposite effect. This was a dare and I was willing to accept. As the tea arrived, I stared nervously into the smoky abyss, as a child sits fearfully aloft a slide in the playground.
As it turned out, what I tasted was more bliss than abyss. The tea is smoke-dried over pinewood trees, rendering each sip smoky and sultry and evoking a madcap melange of tastes and smells, from wafts of smoked bacon on a Sunday morning to the smell of wood-burners on a frosty winter’s night.
If you’re thinking it sounds a little *ahem* eccentric, you’d be right. But you’d be wrong not to try it. And when you do, Twinings’ blend is the only place to start. High quality minus the high price tag and impeccably packaged, Twinings’ Lapsang Souchong is a winter staple for any self-respecting tea lover. So, when the gorging has ceased and the post-Terry’s Chocolate Orange self-loathing is setting in, a cup of tea by the tree may well be in order. And take it from me: it has to be Lapsang.