I've recently become addicted to reading about tea online, and I just unearthed an article worth mentioning on this thread. The whole thing is about the history and current underrated state of black teas from Fujian, whence most Lapsang Souchong comes. It's very interesting, and if you, like me, love reading about such stuff I suggest you read it here
This excerpt concerns the original Lapsang Souchong, or Zheng Shan Xiao Chung, and the origin of the name 'Lapsang Souchong':
Indeed, a quick Google search revealed that pretty much the only place to buy Zheng Shan Xiao Chung online is here, and not for too cheap.
[W]e at last learned from our tea manager that the tea we drank earlier was the original WuYi Bohea tea, or what the tea manager considers the authentic Lapsang Souchong, or the proper Zheng Shan Xiao Chung. He cautioned us that the Lapsang Sauchong we see in the West is not the original smoky tea, and although it is somewhat confusing, the same Chinese name Zheng Shan Xiao Chung applies both to this original tea and to the Lapsang Souchong teas known from exports. Xiao Chung refers to the limited production from this region, and the relatively small leaf of the genuine article. Approximately 300 to 400 years ago, no trademarks defined tea from this area. Zheng means genuine or authentic, so Zheng Shan (mountain) was used to distinguish teas of this area from other producing areas. The local dialect pronounces pine as "lap," which was later added and thus became Lap Shan Xiao Chung. This, however, eventually developed into Lapsang Souchong (as it is known today).
The special grade fine leaf tea that was served (the group later learned) was made after six hours of withering and 12 hours in the smoking rafters. The gentle hint of smoke we detected in the tea was sweet and haunting, inviting repeated sips. This original Zheng Shan Xiao Chung is soft and tasty, without the brasher smoke of a conventional Lapsang Souchong.
At an altitude of 1135-meters, this tea comes from trees in a small area in this hidden reserve. Admittedly, the very limited production from a single season's (spring) plucking makes this costlier than the standard Lapsang Souchong, and one that rarely finds its way to being exported. However, knowing a bit about its locale and comparing it to the bolder, somewhat harsher standard version, the original Zheng Shan Xiao Chung can still be considered a relative bargain.
(Someone buy some! I want a review!
The only Lapsang I've personally had is Adagio's, and I quite enjoyed it, although I wouldn't be able to drink it every day. I definitely agree though:
It must not be overbrewed or it turns bitter— 3 to 4.5 minutes is best
After the four-minute mark it quickly acquires a harsh astringent aftertaste, which is bearable and wholly separate from the foretaste, but not subtle by any means.
Vive le thé!
PS-- Alwyays rinse it, too. I slack on this with other teas but the improvement in taste is undeniable it with Lapsang, at least with Adagio's. Plus we don't want all those gnashty