When I was little, I always thought that Lapsang Souchong sounded mysterious (a teacher at school used to drink it) I remember its smoky smell and thinking it strange that she didn't drink tea with milk.
I wanted to try it as part of my 'Interesting Teas' series and was kindly sent a sample from Cup of Tea (Tarry Lapsang Souchong). The tea itself is sometimes known as Russian Caravan, which describes the long journey it had to take in the days before reliable trade routes. It's also referred to in quite a few books from early last century (The Age of Innocence is one of them), as it was fashionable to drink in certain areas of society.
It's interesting to note how smells can take you back; the smoky, almost tobacco-like smell reminded me of rainy playtimes at school. It's an interesting smell and one that would seem alien to some Western tea drinkers. The scent is achieved by drying the tea over burning pine wood, or, as in the case of Tarry Lapsang Souchong, over burning pine resin which leads to a stronger smell.
The taste of the Lapsang Souchong is, despite the smell, surprisingly strong. The taste of the black tea washes over the mouth, almost instantly followed by the smoky taste. The flavour itself is difficult to describe, but it's very autumnal- the taste and the smell remind me of bonfires and warmth. It's definitely an acquired taste and probably not one for me, but just as this tea produces strong dislike for some people, there are others that adore it. Horses for courses, I guess!