Whether it is iced tea or a hot milk tea, black tea has been a part of our lives for ages. But what makes this tea different from the other teas? To answer this question, let’s dig deeper. First, we will explore its origin, processing technique, its taste, and some of the famous varieties. And in the end, we will explore the basic steps of brewing this tea.
ORIGINS OF BLACK TEA
The tale of this tea began in China. According to one legend, during the Qing era, a group of soldiers entered the Fujian province. As they marched near Wuyi mountain, the process of drying tea leaves was delayed and the tea leaves were oxidized for more than the intended time.
As the leaves became darker in color, farmers decided to smoke these leaves over pinewood fire, hoping to accelerate the drying process and save the harvest. This historical event resulted in a different type of tea that had a unique smoky taste.
Over time, farmers came to study the process of making this new tea that was able to retain its flavor for a longer time. Eventually, black tea started to flourish first in China and then around the globe.
Related Article: Learn the History of Tea in China, the Birthplace of Tea
HOW BLACK TEA IS MADE?
Black tea is the most oxidized tea of all true teas, i.e., teas made from the tea plant called Camellia sinensis. The process flow involves the following major steps.
- STEP 1: Fresh leaves
- STEP 2: Withering
- STEP 3: Disruption
- STEP 4: Oxidation
- STEP 5: Drying
- STEP 6: Sorting
- STEP 7: Black Tea
Fresh leaves first go through withering, which removes the excess water from the leaves by either using the sunlight or by blowing air. The duration of this step is crucial as it can alter the final taste of tea.
Next stage of disruption uses Orthodox or CTC (Crush, tear and curl) method of rolling and shaping the tea. In simple words, both of these methods bruises leaves and allow the release of juices and essential oils, enhancing the final taste of tea. This stage can result in different shapes of leaves, i.e., whole leaf, broken leaves, fannings, and dust.
Later, these leaves are exposed to air under controlled temperature and humidity. In this stage, most of the oxidation process takes place, giving the tea leaf its distinct dark brown color and strong taste. In the tea industry, this stage is often called fermentation even though no actual fermentation takes place.
Once the oxidation stage is complete, leaves are dried to arrest the oxidation process and further bring down the moisture content of oxidized leaves.
Finally, after sorting these tea leaves in similar sizes, the tea is packed and sold accordingly. For example, tea bags often use fannings or dust.
Related Article: Why Some Teas Are Darker than Others?
BLACK TEA TASTE
Not all black tea has the same taste even though it’s made from the same plant. Why the taste differs? The answer is simple.
Firstly, as mentioned above, slight changes in processing technique would alter the taste. For example, the whole leaf produced using the orthodox method generally has more flavors than dust. Secondly, the taste would differ based on the natural chemistry of soil, climatic conditions, and the altitude of its growing region. Finally, harvesting tea at different times of the year would result in the varied final taste.
Although the flavor of each variety is unique, generally you can define black tea’s taste as strong, bold, and brisk. Moreover, due to higher caffeine content, this tea has a relatively more bitter taste. To understand flavor in more detail, let’s look at different varieties.
VARIETIES OF BLACK TEA
The world of black tea is vast, with many original and blended varieties to enjoy. Some of these varieties from the famous tea growing regions of the world are mentioned below:
- Lapsang souchong: Also known as smoked tea, the leaves of this Chinese tea are smoke-dried over pinewood fires giving it a smokey, piney, and roasted flavors and aroma.
- Keemun: It is one of the ten most famous teas of China, mainly known for its light fruity sweet and flowery flavors. It also has a slightly smokey aroma to it. Once brewed, this tea has a reddish hue.
- Assam tea: This tea comes from the Indian region of Assam. It has a strong, rich, and malty flavor. Most people love to enjoy this tea with milk and sugar.
- Ceylon tea: This famous Sri Lankan tea is known for its rich taste and aroma. Generally, it has spicy, citrusy, and refreshing flavor. Its flavor may also include chocolaty notes. This tea is one of the favorite base tea for blended teas and fruit flavored teas.
- English Breakfast tea: This famous tea of UK is a blend of black teas from Assam, Ceylon, and Kenya. It has rich, malty, and aromatic flavor. It is one of the strongest tea available in the market that may taste better with milk.
- Masala Chai: Originally from South Asia, this is an interesting blend of black tea and various herbs and spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg, etc. Hence, the taste of this tea varies drastically depending on the type of herbs used.
- Earl Grey: This is yet another famous blend of another tea variety and oil from the rind of the bergamot orange. Usually, a traditional cup of Earl Grey has both malty and citrusy taste. This tea is often used as a flavoring for confectionery and savory sauces.
HOW TO BREW BLACK TEA?
Feeling tired and exhausted? Follow these general steps to make yourself a nice cup of tea, and you may feel rejuvenated and energized.
- Take fresh, pure, and filtered water.
- Bring the water to boil.
- Add either 2-3 grams of tea per 237 ml cup of water or the amount recommended on your tea package. If you find it too strong or light, then adjust the tea amount accordingly.
- Brew it for 3-5 min to release all the flavors. Exact brewing time would differ with each variety.
- In most cases, you should let it steep for at least 3 min but not more than 5 min. If you want stronger flavors, then add more tea instead of steeping for too long.
- Cover your tea while it steeps to prevent heat loss.
- Drink it solo or with milk, lemon, or honey. Generally, people enjoy Earl Grey without milk, while Assam tea tastes best with milk. Hence, experiment with the flavors depending on the type of tea you are using.