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Black Teas

Historical Context

Black tea is a fully fermented tea – originally produced out of necessity rather than taste.

When European traders first started exporting tea from China, green leaves were all thatexisted and would lose freshness in the long, arduous trip back from Asia, so Merchants fermented the leaves to lengthen preservation - thus creating a new variety with a different flavour.

For centuries this was the only way tea could be enjoyed by Westerners – explaining in part why it remains a firm favourite today.

The invention of the tea bag in 1904 by NYC tea merchant Thomas Sullivan is also a key reason for black teas’ fame.

Popularity

Black tea is currently the most popular in the UK, accounting for approximately 90% of all tea sales

Mainly enjoyed with milk and often with sugar.

Of the 165 million cups of tea we drink each day, most of it will be black tea.

Processing

Black tea is a fully oxidized and fermented leaf that varies mainly in processing style and growing region.

After picking and withering, the leaves are bruised by rolling - inducing oxidation.

The level of oxidation depends on the specific intentions of the tea master responsible for producing the tea.

The leaves are then dried by heating them in an oven until the moisture content is reducedto between  2-4%.

Growing Regions

Today teas are being made all over the world (including Bolivia, Brazil, Georgia, Malawi , Rwanda) but China, India and Sri Lanka are considered the major growing regions for Black tea.

Key varieties produced in these three countries include;

 China – Keemun, Yunnan, Lapsang Souchong

 India – Darjeeling & Assam

 Sri- Lanka – Ceylon

Taste Profile

The flavour of black tea differs greatly. Adjectives such as flowery, malty, spicy, nutty can all be used to characterise different types of Black Tea.

Generally, black teas should be steeped using boiling water for 4-5 minutes, with notable exceptions:

First Flush Darjeeling should be steeped for only 3 minutes using water heated to about 80°

Steeping most black teas too long will result in a bitter, acrid taste.

Due to their stronger flavour, black teas are known for not being able to handle multipleinfusions particularly well – in contrast to some other varieties, for example Oolong teas.)

Health Benefits

According to some studies, long-term consumption of black tea has been linked to lowering the risk of a stroke.

The high concentration of flavonoids found in black tea are said to help reduce the clottingof arteries, acting as antioxidants to reduce the levels of damaging free radicals in the body.

Often black tea is overlooked for its health benefits; overshadowed by the publicity surrounding the health benefits of green and white teas.

Misconceptions

What we call black tea is known in China as red tea (hong cha) - not to be confused with the South African infusion Rooibos, which is also colloquially referred to as ‘Red Tea’.

The reason for the discrepancy is said to be down to a simple error in translation  - and the mistake stuck!