Alex Barton

Where to get your Lapsang (now Twinings has ruined theirs)

Does anyone actually want a cheap knock-off?

  • From Spectator Life
Photo-illustration: Coral Hoeren (Alamy, iStock)

Tea drinkers erupted in a fit of caffeinated rage on Monday; kettle cosies were dashed across the kitchen, bone china was placed down hastily and many people were all very cross. Twinings sparked the uproar after axing its Lapsang Souchong tea and replacing it with something called ‘Distinctively Smoky’. It has been met with near universal disapproval and branded a stain on the company’s 300 year history.

Famously Winston Churchill’s brew of choice, Lapsang Souchong is a centuries-old tea thought to have originated in the Wuyi Mountains in the Fujian Province of China, with the first record of it in 1646. Legend has it Wuyi locals fleeing Qing soldiers dried fresh batches of tea over fire to expedite their escape. Lapsang’s signature aroma and sweet notes of pine resin are a result of this process.

 Legend has it Wuyi locals fleeing Qing soldiers dried fresh batches of tea over fire to expedite their escape

The imitation blend has been likened to ‘old cigarettes’, ‘stale cigarettes’, ‘ashtrays’, ‘fake bacon bits’ and ‘glue’. It seems to have missed the mark. Twinings’s Lapsang cost £12.50 for 100g; Distinctively Smokey, is around ten quid less. But it has bastardised the product and the consensus is people would rather pay more for the real thing.

Others said Distinctively Smoky was ‘like sipping a swimming pool after a chemical incident’, hmm. Twinings said it would pass the feedback on to its Master Blenders. The drama after Twinings complained of ‘sourcing challenges’, prompting the ‘difficult decision’ to replace Lapsang with a new blend of teas from around the world ‘including China’.

Despite its origins, Lapsang is ‘seen as a quintessentially British brew,’ Henrietta Lovell, who curates tea lists for hotels like Claridges, told the Telegraph. ‘It is more popular among older tea drinkers who grew up drinking stronger loose leaf tea,’ she added.

Indeed, it’s heartwarming to see Brits getting vexed over a cuppa; we are still a nation of tea lovers.

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