SMOKY FLAVOURS: Chestnuts & Lapsang Tea with Gluten-Free Cake

The good thing about the New Year so far is that my skin is beautifully hydrated….I spent the Christmas holidays in the UK countryside where it rained almost solidly for two or three weeks. Despite the weather, it was a wonderful trip….but it was also very, very wet!

Things are drier back here in Italy and altogether sunnier, but one of the things I found I’ve been missing is the quintessentially English ritual of afternoon tea and cake, so I’ve decided to adopt here in Italy…it’s the perfect excuse to stop and have a mini snack in the long hours between lunch and supper!

During November and December I would often go to Bergamo and stop for an afternoon ‘something’ before heading back home. Being autumn and that time of year, the ‘something’ was often some hot roasted chestnuts and I remember particularly a café where I could eat these whilst sipping a smoky and elegantly presented Chinese Lapsang Souchong tea. The two were perfect together!

I was curious to know more about Lapsang Souchong tea and so I scrolled through various interesting ‘history of tea’ posts. Described by one tea company as having ‘smoky notes of peppered bacon, baked fruit and pine sap’ (um, does that sound appealing?) I learnt that Lapsang is still grown in the hills in north Fujian, China where it’s unique smoky aroma and flavour comes from drying the freshly-picked green leaves on bamboo racks over pine wood fires.

The smoke from these pine fires contains vaporized amber essence (amber being fossilized pine resin) which is then absorbed by the drying tea leaves and giving Lapsang Souchong its lingering smoky flavour.

You can read a brief history here:

Just as an aside….I can recommend a delicious Italian after-dinner drink which I first drank in the Dolomite Mountains, called Pino Mugo. It’s a liqueur that has been infused and distilled with pine-tree resin, pine cones and pine buds …. without the smoke!