Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (正山小种), also sometimes referred to as unsmoked Lapsang Souchong, is an outstanding black tea from Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province. Compared to its classic smoky counterpart, this version has a malty and fruity profile with complex dark cocoa notes. This particular batch is from the spring 2021 harvest.
If you prefer to try the classic smoky tea, our Lapsang Souchong from our shop is a good choice! You may also be interested in trying our early spring Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong crafted by the Chen family.
This tea is often sold as an unsmoked version of Lapsang Souchong (LS). We prefer to name this tea as Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong rather than ‘unsmoked’ LS to avoid any confusion. Many people refer to Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong as a type of LS, something that is especially common in China. In fact, there are clear cases where a lot of Wuyi black teas of this style are referred to as LS, whether they are smoked or not, this being a kind of umbrella term in China for these teas. The specific teas in questions are: Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, Li Shan Xiao Zhong and Jin Jun Mei. This of course causes a large amount of confusion for customers as to what tea they are actually buying. Therefore we are using Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong to refer to this specific unsmoked tea and to differentiate it from the Jin Jun Mei that we offer. Consequently, we use both the well known ‘Lapsang Souchong’ as well as the proper Chinese ‘Li Shan Xiao Zhong’ names to refer only to the classic smoked tea.
The name Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong literally means ‘Original Mountain Small Leaf’, referring the the ‘original’ Wuyi Mountains and the small leaf plant that is used to produce this tea. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong is made from the same leaves that are used to make LS, only in this case the leaves are left unsmoked. This showcases the complexity that these teas can have before they are smoked. While the classic smoked LS that we offer has a smoky and spicy profile, this tea displays a more delicate and balanced malty and chocolaty character.
The leaves of this Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong have a neat wiry appearance with some golden tips present. It produces a dark amber liquor with a light malty and somewhat floral aroma. It reminds us of a very good Keemun style of tea, while featuring a more mineral character that is so typical of Wuyi Shan teas. The liquor produced has no astringency or bitterness and is superbly smooth, mouth-watering with a juicy and clean taste. The character is very well balanced, having tangy and sweet characterful notes of fruits, cocoa and malt. There are complex notes of sweet longan, dark tart chocolate and caramelised sugar. A greatly satisfying cup!
It is best brewed at 90°C for 3-4 minutes, with multiple infusions.
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong black tea was first featured in our June 2018 and June 2022 Curious Tea Subscription Boxes.