In Chinese languages and the languages of neighboring countries, black tea is known as “Red Tea”, a description of the colour of the liquid; the Western term “Black Tea” refers to the colour of the oxidized leaves. It is the most widely consumed teas in the world and accounts for over 90% of all tea sold in western society.
Black, Green, Oolong and White teas all come from the same plant – The Camellia Sinensis. A number of factors determines which type of tea is produced for example the processing method, the level of oxidization, where the Tea was grown etc. Following the initial drying and rolling of the leaves just after they have been picked, Black Tea goes through a natural oxidation process and is more oxidized than Green and White teas. Black tea is classified as a post-fermented tea and has a far stronger flavour than other less oxidized teas. Unlike Green tea which loses its flavour within a year, Black Tea retains its flavour for several years. For this reason, it has long been an article of trade.
Black tea is usually graded on one of four scales of quality. Whole leaf teas are highest quality followed by broken leaves, fannings, and dusts. Whole leaf teas are produced with little or no alteration to the tea leaf. This results in a finished product with a coarser texture than that of bagged teas. Whole leaf teas are widely considered the most valuable, especially if they contain leaf tips. Broken leaves are commonly sold as medium grade loose teas. Smaller broken varieties may be included in tea bags. Fannings are usually small particles of tea left over from the production of larger tea varieties, but are occasionally manufactured specifically for use in bagged teas. Dusts are the finest particles of tea left over from production of the above varieties, and are often used for tea bags with very fast, very harsh brews. Fannings and dust are useful in bagged teas because the greater surface area of the many particles allows for a fast, complete diffusion of the tea into the water. Fannings and dusts usually have a darker colour, lack of sweetness, and stronger flavor when brewed.
The most popular varieties of Black Tea
Zhengshan Xiaozhong (Lapasang Souchong)
Originally from the Wuyi region of the Chinese province of Fujian, it is sometimes referred to as smoked tea. Lapsang is distinct from all other types of tea because the leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, taking on a distinctive smoky flavour which is similar to the smell of a barbecue or campfire, or of Latakia pipe tobacco. The flavour of the pine smoke is meant to complement the natural taste of the black tea, but should not overwhelm it. High grade lapsang souchong possesses a taste of dried longan for the first few brews.
Keemun is produced in the Qimen County of Huangshan City, in Anhui (Anhwei) province. (“Keemun” has been the English spelling for “Qimen” since the colonial era.)
Keemun has a relatively short history. It was first produced in 1875 but quickly gained popularity in England, and has since been used as a prominent ingredient in some blends of English tea (e.g. Earl Grey tea).
The aroma of Keemun is fruity, with hints of pine, dried plum and floweriness (but not as floral as Darjeeling tea) which creates the very distinctive and balanced taste. It also displays a hint of orchid fragrance and a recognizable sweetness. The tea can also have a more bitter taste and the smokiness can be more defined depending on the variety and how it was processed.
Dian Hong is a relatively new product from Yunnan that began production in the early 20th century. One of the distinctive characters of Dian Hong is its fresh, floral aroma, with the typical black tea malty base. The quality of Dian Hong depends on the level of theaflavin and thearubigin it contains, the higher the better. The younger the tea leaves, the higher level of theaflavin and thearubigin.
The top grade Dian Hong is called Dian Hong Jin Ya (Golden Buds) which is picked in early April when the earliest tea buds begin to grow. Unlike other black tea, Golden Buds have a beautiful golden color when dry.
Chinese Teas, including Black Tea, are extremely well known for their health benefits due to them containing vast amounts of vitamins and antioxidant properties. Many health benefits have been linked to drinking Black Tea these include; Eliminating free radicals, Oral Health, Helping the brain and the nervous system and many more. Another extremely well known health benefit of Black Tea is it’s aid in helping the digestive system.
*Please note that the health benefits listed are only suggested and more tests need to be done*