Flavours Of Kindness
issue 3, Jul 2023

Embrace the Mystique of Smoked Tea


Unraveling the Fascination with Smoke

TEA, Issue 3

pouring tea in tea shop

Cover image by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash
. Words by Billy Wong. Edit by Louise Elliott

We, humans, have a special relationship with smoke. I’ve been curious about the idea of “smoke” since I was a young boy. Why do we humans have smokey places? Why is there always smoke in the temple? Why do people smoke? As I matured and experienced life, I also discovered that culinary artists love “smoking” their food and drinks. Why are we humans fascinated by smoked stuff? If you are looking for answers to the questions above, I have to apologize for your disappointment in advance, but if you are as interested in the idea of smoke as I am, I invite you to join us on a small category-scented tea adventure – Smoked Tea.

Pu’erh packed in dried tangerine

Smoke is often used in religious and spiritual rituals; the indigenous peoples around the world such as First Nation, India, and the Chinese use smoke to cleanse the energy of a body or object such as a house. Another urban legend is that hunter-gatherers use smoke to mark their territory, letting surrounding animals know that humans are occupying the area. Our relationship with the scent of smoke is deeply rooted in our culture, and genetically it has a significant role in our history of evolution. As our boss lady Lisa puts it, smoked scented tea is like coriander. It’s an extreme preference. “Some people love it, and some people frown upon it.” The smoked scent adds an extra layer to the tea, and almost all smoke-scented tea is black tea, as the heaviness of smoke pairs well with the full-bodied black tea.

Some People love it, and some people frown upon it.

The most well-known smoked tea is called Lapsang Souchong. It is also known as smoky souchong, tarry lapsang souchong and lapsang souchong crocodile –  and its origin might just surprise you. 

“Purportedly, lapsang souchong was first created in 1646, as civilians in the Wuyi Mountain areas fled from Qing soldiers who were advancing through the area on their Manchu unification campaign against the Southern Ming. Before they fled, to avoid spoilage of newly plucked leaves, batches were quickly dried over fire and buried in sacks. Afterwards, despite the odour, the tea leaves were shipped and sold to the Dutch traders. At the time, the months-long journey from China to Europe necessitated preservation methods and the partial oxidation of this Wuyi tea, an oolong tea graded as bohea or souchong, was better able to preserve its quality. The smoky souchong tea sold and the Dutch returned to request more.” According to Wikipedia.


In the East, China particularly, preserving the tea leaf’s original flavour is seen as the best way to enjoy a cup of tea. I found articles in China that provide us with more context: “Smoked tea is a kind of native tea used by farmers, and it can be found in most rural areas of Hunan. “Smoky flavour” is taboo in the production process of green tea in my country, but Hunan smoked tea has violated this taboo and formed its own unique flavour. There are folk customs of drinking smoked tea in the rural areas of Xiangxi, Yiyang, Yueyang, Xiangtan and Changsha, Wangcheng, Liuyang and Ningxiang. “


Besides its unique scent and the experience it provides, smoked tea also has medicinal properties. It has the effect of clearing the head and waking up drowsiness, and since it is a black tea, it also helps with digestion after a greasy meal. Tea has the effect of diuretics and is antidiarrheal. Occasionally, people who drink tea will feel that the amount of urination will increase. The diuretic effect of tea itself is due to the effect of theophylline contained in tea, while tannins in tea have antidiarrheal functions. During Covid, there was an internet rumour that drinking Lapsang Souchong helped fend off Covid because of its anti-bacterial properties; Lapsang Souchong was sold out in our shops and was only restocked recently. 


This morning I enjoyed a cup of smoked Earl Grey with a simple egg omelette and O’ways signature homemade teriyaki sauce. It’s been my ritual for two weeks now. Ever since I had my first smoked tea, I cannot resist the craving for the combination of “smoke” and teriyaki sauce for its rich taste. It compelled me to share this surprising discovery with you today.


Scented tea is an excellent choice of gift. Many of our customers in South Africa enjoy scented tea because it has been produced with creativity and imagination. It gives us access to nature and connects with our preferences(our own nature)..


Dim Sum in Hong Kong

The smoky souchong tea sold and the Dutch returned to request more.

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

pu'erh coins
pu'erh coins

Show your special ones how they are on your mind by choosing or customising a tea that is infused with their favourite flavour. Smoke- scented tea might just do the trick. 

Your quality friend deserves your quality gift. Check out our scented tea collections.

This National Women’s Month, we honour the strength and grace of South African women with a thoughtfully curated tea collection designed to nurture your well-being.


  • For BEAUTY: Unveil Your Beauty: Indulge in the rejuvenating powers of our Blue Horizon Green Tea. Packed with antioxidants, this blend supports your radiant glow while countering the effects of aging.
  • For WARMTH: Embrace Tranquility: Find solace in the delicate embrace of our Rose Congou Black Tea. Let its soothing essence wash over you, calming your senses and inviting serenity into your daily routine.
  • For HEALING: Healing From Within: Harness the natural healing properties of Hibiscus Petals. Known for alleviating bladder discomfort, this infusion is a gentle and holistic approach to your wellness journey.
  • For RELAXATION: Restful Nights Await: Experience the restorative magic of our Snow Mountain Chrysanthemum Flower Tea. Drift into peaceful slumber as it lulls you into a state of relaxation, ensuring you wake up rejuvenated.
  • For DETOX: Detox and Revitalize: Embrace the cleansing power of Pu’erh Tea. Kickstart your journey to weight maintenance and renewed vitality with this age-old remedy for detoxification.

National Women’s Month Selection

Related Stories

O’ways #4 – TEA, Honeybush Tea

O’ways #4 – TEA, Honeybush Tea

Honeybush tea, also known as “Heuningtee” in Afrikaans, hails from the beautiful landscapes of South Africa. It’s derived from the Cyclopia plant, which belongs to the legume family and has been used for centuries as an herbal infusion.

read more
O’ways #4 – PEOPLE, Mingwei

O’ways #4 – PEOPLE, Mingwei

Nigiro, a beloved name in the world of premium tea in South Africa, has always been synonymous with knowledge, wisdom, and the art of tea-making. For those of you who have had the pleasure of visiting our cherished tea cafe, you’ll understand the warmth and magic that the Nigiro family infuses into their brand. It’s a place where delectable cuisine, exquisite tea-tasting, and an ambience of pure tranquillity come together seamlessly. Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to someone who is not only an integral part of the Nigiro legacy but also the heart and soul of our tea training – Mingwei Tsai.

read more