Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

By Jess Hodges

November to me can be summed up by two scents, smoke and gunpowder. Wood smoke from the bonfires and gunpowder from the fireworks stinging your nose in the cold air means only one thing, Guy Fawkes Night. It's one of my favourite nights of the year but this year I'll be spending it in Florida where not only is it sunny but bonfires and explosions are sadly at a minimum. How do I capture the November spirit in a true British fashion? As usual tea has the answer.

Lapsang Souchong is a smoked tea originating from the Fujian province of China. Supposedly it was created by accident during the Qing dynasty when workers were prevented from drying fresh tea leaves in the usual way by an extremely inconvenient army. When they were finally able to get back to the tea there was no time for the traditional method so they lit pine wood fires to speed the process. The smoke from the fires gave the tea a distinctive flavour which was an instant hit.

The tea is grown in a nature preserve in the Wuyi mountains, a UNESCO world heritage sight. Home to the clouded leopard and dotted with the remains of ancient Taoist temples it's a very special place and the tea it produces is just as unique. If you don't like your tea strong then this isn't going to be the brew for you but if you can stand up to it then the smoky flavour is unmistakable and very evocative.

So if you, like me, are stuck somewhere sunny this November 5th without even a hint of gunpowder then join me in a cup and spare a thought for England where fires are being lit and things are about to become distinctly less civilised.