Did you know black teas are the second most consumed beverage worldwide after water? Black teas are derived from Camellia Sinensis and have similar properties to that of green and white tea. To get the diverse flavours and aroma, black teas are often blended with other tea variants like Earl Grey and English Breakfast. Compared to green tea and white tea, black tea has higher caffeine content and less caffeine content compared to coffee.
Black Tea Origins:
Though black tea has been originated in China, the delicate and fresh test of green tea is still the base of tea culture there today. As the tea culture continues to spread beyond the regions, the neighbouring countries across the ocean discovered the taste of oxidized black tea over time.
In 1610, the Dutch first bought black tea to Europe and in 1658 it arrived in England. The popularity of black tea leapt when England’s American colonies come up with a huge demand for this tea variant in 1700. Even some claim that the trend of adding sugar and milk to black tea has increased the demand for strong black tea over delicate green or white tea.
The next spike in black tea production happened in the 1800s when the Camellia Sinensis Assamica tea plant variety was discovered in 1823 in the Assam region of India. This variety suits the best bold black tea lovers. Soon after this, British people started planting tea gardens in India’s Darjeeling region. Since India was a British colony at that time, the Indian variant of black tea has been exported to England at that time.
Black Tea Processing:
Whether it is black tea or green tea, both of them are originated from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. What makes green tea green and black tea black is the processing of leaves. Find the brief discourse below –
Black Tea Variants:
Camellia Sinensis Assamica is the larger-leafed variant, which is used to produce black tea and originated from the Assam district of India, where the warm and moist climate is found. On the other hand, Camellia Sinensis Sinensis is the smaller-leafed category that is grown in China and it is typically used to make green and white teas. A sunny region with cooler and drier climates is the ideal place that lets the shrub grow.
Over time, a lot of cultivars and hybrid plants have evolved from Camellia Sinensis plant varieties. So, be it white, black, green, oolong, yellow or Pu-erh- all are tea types that can be made from the Camellia Sinensis plant.
This is the production process that makes black tea different from green tea. In the oxidation stage, tea leaves are allowed to be oxidized fully before they are fully heat-processed and dried. During this process, oxygen interacts with the tea plant’s cell walls, and the leaves are turned into rich dark brown to black colour, for which black tea is famous. The oxidation process is responsible to alter the flavour profile of the black tea by adding fruity, malty, and smoky notes.
Black tea is processed in two methods, which are explained below –
- Orthodox: It is a comparatively more time-consuming method of tea production, in which tea leaves remain whole or are partially broken during processing. Tea leaves are plucked from the garden, moisture is reduced, and rolled in a variety of ways to bruise the leaves and start oxidation. Next to this, fire is applied to stop oxidation and at the last stage, the tea leaves are categorized according to their quality.
- Non-orthodox: This is a sped-up version of the tea production process, where tea leaves are cut into fine pieces and quickly oxidized to produce a strong and consistent batch of black tea. The cut pieces easily fit into the commercial tea bags, which are more popular than loose-leaf tea.
Tasting black tea:
The western palate is more likely to choose typical black tea that excellently teams up with sweetener, cream, or lots of ice. However, to meet the huge demand mass production isn’t something regarded by the west. Over time, consumers started learning about the premium and loose-leaf teas in search of variety, freshness, and flavour that allowed them to choose which black tea to sip.
When it comes to choosing black tea, it is to remember that not all black teas taste the same. Just like a bottle of fine wine, each black tea variant has its flavour profile. Based on when they grow or their cultivation near other crops, kind of climates, use of chemicals, method of oxidation and processing may alter their flavour.
Generally, black tea is stronger, bolder, and richer in taste than green tea. A perfectly brewed black tea comes in an array of colours from amber to red to dark brown. When it comes to taste, it ranges from savoury to sweet, depending on how it was oxidized and how it was heat-processed. Compared to green tea, black tea has an astringency and bitter flavour, but if it is brewed correctly, it can give a smooth and flavourful taste.
Some tea drinkers claimed the sour taste of the black tea, which indicates bad quality or problems with tea’s fermentation process. Black tea’s fermentation is polyphenols’ enzymatic action, which is caused by the damage of the leaf cell tissues. At the time of fermentation, the black tea leaves develop more water-soluble pectin and monose. These two substances determine the level of sweetness and thickness of the tea. Under-fermented leaves will taste green and grassy. On the other hand, fermented leaves will taste sour.
Buying and Storing Black Tea:
To get the freshest flavour of black tea, make sure you buy it from reputable black tea manufacturers and exporters in India, who can give clear instructions on the packaging about how the tea was processed, packaged and how to brew it.
If you store black tea for long, it won’t go bad, but it may taste stale over time. Oxidized black tea comes with a longer shelf life than delicate green tea. If stored properly in a cool and dark place, many black teas can last up to one to two years in an air-tight container. In addition to this, be cautious about the pantry items and spices that can leach flavour into the tea leaves.
Preparing the Black Tea:
To brew a perfect cup of black tea, look for the brewing instruction provided by the tea manufacturers. Though different black teas have different brewing temperatures and steeping times, here are a few general black tea brewing tips to keep in mind –
- Black tea needs a longer brewing time and hotter temperature to get prepared than green tea. The temperature must be between 200-212 degrees for 3-5 minutes.
- Cover the tea while it is steeping to keep all the aroma inside the steeping vessel.
- Don’t over steep your tea! the longer it steeps, the more bitterness it will release. It is a safe bet to taste your tea after recommended steeping time and decide if you would like to steep it a little longer or not.
- Loose leaf black teas can be steeped multiple times if they are of high quality.
- A lot of people like strong black tea with milk and sugar, but when it comes to enjoying the subtle flavour, try sipping them plain with no additives.
While concluding here, you must know that black tea contains antioxidant properties, which can eliminate damage in the body. This eventually lowers the risk of chronic diseases. This tea variety comes with polyphenols like arubigins, theaflavins, catechins to promote overall health.