[I]t’s that time of year where apples seem to be falling from the sky. Whether baked into bubbling pies, mashed into a spreadable butter, coated in caramel, or pressed into a sweet cider, the apple is quite the nostalgic treat that waves the flag to welcome in the new season. Autumn’s air has a way of evoking sensory memories that can send us back to treasured moments. The aroma of a campfire flickering under a fall starry sky while sipping piping hot apple cider is unforgettable. To capture that smoky sweet moment, entertain the idea of infusing your cider with spices and smoked lapsang souchong tea.
Lapsang souchong tea is a Chinese black tea that undergoes its final drying process over a smoking pine fire, which infuses its signature smoky aroma and flavor with just a hint of sweetness that’s crisp and cool (think pipe tobacco). A bold yet refreshing black tea with a sweet pine flavor imparts the campfire experience to apple cider when simmered in the sweet juice. Stir in cinnamon and cloves to capture the spices of the season and to offer complexity that’s familiar. This riff on mulled cider swaps citrus fruit for smoked tea. And it can be easily transformed into a nightcap by mixing one-quarter cup of dark rum into the four cups of smoked cider.
A bold yet refreshing black tea with a sweet pine flavor imparts the campfire experience to apple cider.
Keep in mind that this aromatic smoked cider is to be savored and not slurped. It should be served piping hot so that the steam rising from the cup transports you to a campfire. Let the smoked flavor slowly build after several sips so that the flavor lingers and intensifies on your taste buds. The taste mirrors that of a campfire that crackles at first with small sparks of light until it grows into a blaze that warms you to the core. And if you’re seeking a pairing, try it with apple slices and sharp cheddar cheese. Or toast a sharp cheddar-apple grilled cheese in the oven or over an open fire for the ultimate fall snack. Cheers to a new season.
Lapsang Souchong Smoked Apple Cider
Makes four cups
Note: For an extra smoky sip, infuse the apple cider with three tablespoons of lapsang souchong tea instead of two. For a cider cocktail, mix in a ¼ cup of dark rum.
• 4 cups apple cider
• 2 whole cinnamon sticks (Mexican cinnamon suggested)
• 4 whole cloves
• 2 tablespoons lapsang souchong tea
Fill a small pot with apple cider, cinnamon sticks, and cloves and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let the cinnamon and cloves infuse for fifteen minutes. Remove cover, raise heat, and bring back to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, stir in lapsang souchong tea, reduce heat to a simmer, and let steep for six minutes. Strain tea leaves, cinnamon sticks and cloves, and ladle into cups or let cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve hot.
—Story and photos by Alexis Siemons, tea writer and consultant. Alexis blogs about her steeped adventures at teaspoonsandpetals.com.