At The Tea Spot, we handcraft a pair of organic smoky teas that we are unabashedly fond of – Russian Caravan and Smokejumper Ginger. Both black loose-leaf teas also come with a tradition, as well as a story steeped in sentimentality.
In my family, we drank black tea every evening. It was always loose tea leaves in a teapot (no filters needed). The finished tea was poured into beautiful teacups through a strainer. I have the most vivid memories of the wonderful aroma while waiting for the tea to cool, accompanied by family after-dinner chatter. We usually made either an aromatic blend of Indian teas labeled “Indar,” a Keemun from Grace Rare Teas, or a smoky Russian Caravan from GH Ford Tea Company. Even today, I could still draw the images of those tea tins from memory.
Growing up, we also always had pets. I don’t think I’ve lived a day of my life without a dog at home. My brother and his wife recently lost their oldest family dog, Smoky, who lived to be almost 17 years old. Smoky was the last remaining dog who knew our parents. So the exquisite smoky teas that we carefully blend today are in honor of Smoky.
Both these smoky teas owe their smoky character to Lapsang Souchong, a scented black tea, even though its scent is anything but delicate in character. This long-leaf black tea is cured with pinewood smoke, making its leaves blacker than black and its smell much like a campfire or smoked meats. In its production, Lapsang leaves are first withered over pine fires, then pan-fired and rolled, and finally oxidized. The tea leaves go into bamboo baskets that hang over smoking pinewood fires to dry and absorb the smoke. This makes for an intensely smoky tea with a smooth finish.