Our Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is the the original and authentic (i.e. historic), lightly smoked black tea from Tong Mu Village in the Wuyi Shan. It is rarely sold in the US because any tea vendor selling this outside of China needs to have permission from the producer to purchase it from him!
In essence, some classify this tea as a Lapsang Souchong – the smoked teas that European tea drinkers have favored since the 18th century. But, Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is different from Lapsang Souchong in several ways. It is a fine-leaf tea that is nothing like the heavily smoked Lapsang Souchong tea that most Westerners are familiar with.
This is the important difference:
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong:
1. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is the original, lightly smoked Chinese black tea. This tea has always been reserved for the Chinese tea market, while other types of smoked tea were created for the Western-export market
2. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is made with fresh spring tea leaves from the tea gardens located in the vicinity of the smoking sheds. The leaf is given a light smoking during the manufacture of the tea. Or confusingly, it can be manufactured as a black tea but without the smoking step. Sometimes we have both versions – when we do, please order carefully when choosing:
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong #1 is lightly smoked
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong #2 is not smoked
3. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is produced in one protected, natural area deep in a mountain valley of the Wu Yi Shan. On one of our tea-sourcing trips to eastern China we were granted the special permission that is necessary to visit this restricted production zone. It is there, primarily in Tong Mu Village and adjacent small tea villages, that Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong tea is made. The fresh leaf comes from protected, pristine tea gardens that are located in the vicinity of the smoking sheds. Here, the fresh leaf is processed and smoked during the production of this unique black tea. The leaf is essentially given a ‘cold smoking’ during processing, which gives this tea a lightly-smoked character while maintaining most of the flavor and finesse of the base tea.
4. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is produced in limited quantity each spring. It is elegant, light, exotic and very refreshing.
5. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong can usually be re-infused for a second cup, depending on the duration of the first infusion.
1. Lapsang Souchong is a heavily smoked (sometimes referred to as ‘tarry’) tea produced for export and is rarely drunk by Chinese tea drinkers.
2. Lapsang Souchong is made from already ‘made’ black tea that is sent to the smoking sheds from other places in China, and then given a ‘hot smoking’ to impart the thick tarry/smoky taste to the leaves.
We offer two choices of export-style Lapsang Souchong – one from Taiwan and one that is smoked in Fujian as described here, in the assertive, export-style. These two teas are similar to each other, but differ slightly because of the underlying leaf used to make the tea, and, most importantly, the wood used for the smoke.
Note: Do you own a copy of our book: The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide? If so, you will find a story about our visit to the smoking sheds in the WU YI Shan on pages 131-135 (with some interesting photographs as well.)
Here we are at the signpost for the Tong Mu Village factory (in 2006):