Black teas were inadvertently invented in China in the 17th century in a valley of the WuYi Mountains, the Tong Mu Guan valley.
One spring, when a troop of mercenaries passed by, the peasants got scared and took refuge in the mountains, leaving their harvest of the day behind them. On their return, they found their leaves soiled and oxidized. In order not to lose the harvest, they decided to smoke these leaves with spruce wood and sold them at a discount to European merchants. The Europeans appreciated this new tea and asked for more. Thus was born the tea called Laaph Sang Su Chong in Cantonese. Lapsang Souchong which soon became a world reference and paved the way for great black teas and smoked teas.
Lapsang Souchong are quickly produced all over China. In order to recall the origin of this tea, the Fujian people decided to rename their tea ZhengShan XiaoZhong: tea with small leaves from the original mountain (that is to say from the original production area).
Since the 17th century, the farmers of TongMuGuan have been at the forefront of innovation in terms of black tea. It was here that the producers were formed who exported the production of quality black tea throughout China, such as the Qimen. It was also them who, twenty years ago, reinvented the XiaoZhong. Nowadays, it is increasingly rare to find smoked versions of this tea. WuYiShan producers prefer to produce more qualitative teas - and therefore more profitable for small producers - than those offered on the market as smoked tea. So for decades there were eight smoking houses in the TongMu valley, today no more than one is still in operation, and not necessarily every year ...
Smoked teas from China are today mainly mass-produced lowland teas intended for export. But as today the Chinese market being now more interesting and producing for inner market is widely promoted by the government, we now find less and less smoked Chinese tea.
Today the consumption of black tea is booming in China, whether in the teabag industry for "Western-style" teas as well as for quality teas and traditional productions. China is still a net importer of black tea. It is the only tea for which it imports more than half of its consumption, and for the central government, this dependence on foreign productions is a problem. It therefore encourages large producers to produce black tea dedicated to the Chinese market.
The tradition of smoked teas in China is in the process of being lost, just like certain green teas such as gunpowder which have now almost disappeared ...