Smoked tea is a unique black tea, with a very characteristic woody taste. Although originally from China, smoked tea is not consumed there... and mostly appeals to Westerners! Will you be one of its new aficionados?
What is smoked tea?
The great peculiarity of smoked tea is that the tea leaves are heated with coniferous wood (often spruce branches) after harvest. This allows the leaves to dry faster than in the open air and in the sun. But above all it plays on the taste, affording it great originality.
The most unique of black teas
Like all black teas, smoked tea undergoes complete oxidation. After harvest, the tea leaves are left in the open air in a humid atmosphere, causing them to turn black. Oxidation is the disappearance of chlorophyll, which gives plants their green colour. The specificity of smoked tea lies in its manufacturing process. After being dried and then rolled, it is placed in baskets, usually made of bamboo, which are set over a wood fire in line with ancestral methods. It is this second drying that gently impregnates it with the vapours of the fire and gives it its unique taste.
The extravagant history of smoked tea
There are several legends that talk of the birth of this tea. The first tells of a tea factory that was occupied by the army and when it left, the planter wanted to dry the tea leaves over a wood fire so as not to lose them. The leaves would have oxidised too much and been damaged if they were left in the open air for too long. The tea leaves absorbed the smoke, and smoked tea was born! The second legend is similar to the first, with the same urgency to dry the tea. It says that Chinese tea producers, behind on their delivery times to England, decided to save time by drying the tea leaves by placing them on a spruce fire. The English appreciated this very special tasting tea and asked for more!
What does smoked tea taste like?
Its taste is very different from other black teas. The extent of the smoky taste depends on the varieties of teas and their production process. Some will have earthy or woody notes, similar to the taste of mushrooms, barbecue... or whisky (this is very subjective, depending on the palate!). In short, a special flavour that will not necessarily please everyone, but which will remind some of walks in the forests!
Why are some smoked teas controversial?
Some smoked teas, such as Lapsang Souchong, have caused controversy. The reason: the process of smoking by wood combustion releases particles harmful to health, potentially carcinogenic (just like grilling!). This is why the only smoked tea offered by Kusmi Tea is a very lightly smoked tea, which meets the new European regulations. Several studies have, in fact, shown that the harmful particles released during smoking are not found in the tea once infused.
Beware of counterfeits!
The other danger you will need to watch out for are counterfeits, made from poor-quality black tea, sprayed with a smoky-tasting spray. To avoid them, choose reputable tea houses. Such as Kusmi Tea, which only markets organic and herbal teas. In addition, it is in Normandy, France, that the brand (which became French in 2003) designs, creates, blends, flavours and packages its tea in Normandy – A sure bet!
Everything you need to know before tasting it
Want to try or share smoked tea with those around you? Here are our tips for choosing it, for good infusion, and also for using it in cooking to enhance your favourite dishes. How did you ever manage without it until now?
How to prepare smoked tea
The preparation is similar to that of a classic black tea. Simply simmer the water at 80-90°C before steeping for 3 to 4 minutes. For more precision, as it also depends on the variety of tea, the best way is to rely on the temperature and brewing time indicated on the box. Smoked teas are best enjoyed plain or very slightly sweetened. The sugar should not mask its delicately smoky taste too much. That would be a pity…
Which teapot to use for a smoked tea
If you drink several types of teas (green tea, white tea, classic black tea, etc.), you will need to opt for a “memoryless” teapot, which is the case for the vast majority of them (glass, cast iron, ceramic, etc.). Only unglazed terracotta teapots have a “memory”, that is, they retain the flavours from one brew to the next. They are not recommended for smoked tea, as the smoky taste could remain encrusted on the walls of the teapot, due to the tannins, and modify the flavour of green or white tea. If you would like to find out more, read our teapot guide.
When to brew a smoked tea
You can drink it all day long. Smoked tea is very popular for breakfast. Especially, if you are already a fan of the toasted taste of Japanese Genmaicha tea. We also recommend it as a good accompaniment to a sweet and savoury brunch, in order to combine its incredible smoky taste with a wide range of flavours. Some people prefer to consume it in the afternoon at tea time (a great passion of the English!). Finally, note that smoked tea can also be used in cooking in the preparation of various dishes.
Smoked tea, an unusual cooking ingredient
Several recipes use it to quickly and easily add a smoky touch, without having to barbecue! Here are some very mouth watering suggestions: a lentil salad with smoked tea, creamed pumpkin with smoked tea, a salmon gravlax with smoked tea, a guinea fowl with kumquats and smoked tea, an apple crumble with smoked tea or even a rice pudding with smoked tea. Why not create a whole meal around the theme of smoked tea? If you are playing with originality, you might as well go all out!
What are the benefits of smoked tea?
Like all other teas, smoked or not, black tea contains antioxidants known to have beneficial effects on health. Although in a smaller proportion than green tea, which is the most antioxidant of teas. But black tea is loaded with its own antioxidants: theaflavin and thearubigin. Molecules which play an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and promote digestion.
What smoked tea does Kusmi Tea offer?
It is a blend of black teas and lightly smoked tea. What does it promise? A base of black teas with rounded flavours, to which are added smoked leaves of Tarry Souchong tea, releasing their subtly woody notes. This unique association is rich in contrasts. Indeed, this blend of teas combines the intense and the delicate, the traditional and the unusual, the classic and the very aromatic. A comprehensive selection!