Tea ranks second only to water as the most consumed beverage on the planet.
Black tea is one of the most often consumed forms of tea. People love a cup of black tea to start the day or at afternoon tea time all across the world, from Moscow to London to Cairo to Mumbai. Many different regions produce black tea, and each one has its distinct qualities and flavours. Let’s look at various types of black tea and see how to distinguish them apart.
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Types of Black Tea
Due to the numerous varieties of tea and wine, as well as the regions, cultivars, and other factors that each relies on to generate their variances, we always want to compare the two. For example, red wine, like black tea, has hundreds of types, and the place of origin has a big role in distinguishing it from other wines of the same sort. Aromas, notes, tastes (varying from malty to sweet to savoury), and texture (some lighter, some more strong) can all differ across black teas. The brewing technique one employs plays a huge influence in unlocking and discovering a tea’s taste. However, the methods of tea cultivation differ from place to place.
Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis (or Chinese tea plant) and Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica is used to make black tea (or Assamese tea plant). The changes in flavour aren’t as noticeable between the two, but the leaf forms and sizes, as well as the climates in which they grow, are. The Assamese tea plant thrives in tropical and hot regions, whereas the Chinese tea plant thrives in colder temperate settings. The type of cultivar, environment, temperature, and altitude in which the plant grew, as well as the processing methods utilised, are all elements that influence the flavour of the tea. As previously stated, for the optimum growth outcomes, cultivar and temperature generally act in combination. For example, in Korea, black tea is most likely made from Chinese tea bushes, but in Sri Lanka, Assamese tea reigns supreme.
As previously stated, altitude has a significant impact on the flavour of tea plants. Tea plants thrive at higher elevations because they are exposed to greater rainfall, humidity, precipitation, soil with adequate minerals and drainage, and a consistent cloud cover that protects them from sunburn. The more a plant is grown higher up, the more intricate the final tea will be. However, this does not imply that tea cultivated at low elevations is insipid. The time when the leaves are plucked during the harvest is another important influence on the quality and flavour of a tea. The earlier in the season (spring), the sweeter, more delicate, and wonderful it is. It also helps if the leaves are pulled from higher on the plant. The way the tea is processed can also affect how it tastes.
Brewing ProcessesDiverse brewing techniques can also bring out different qualities in tea. For example, the quantity of tea to water varies depending on whether you brew ‘Western-style’ or ‘Gong Fu-style,’ which might result in distinct properties from the same tea. All of these variables might change depending on personal tastes, so use them as a starting point and experiment to see what you like. The temperature of the water has a significant impact on the flavour profile of the tea. This is crucial for astringency control. Astringency is the mouth-puckering sensation that some teas, fruits, and foods produce. It’s certainly not a negative thing, but how you manage it is a personal choice. Astringency in tea is caused by a substance called catechins (antioxidants). Catechins are released gradually at colder temperatures and swiftly at boiling temperatures because numerous chemical components in the tea leaves extract at different rates and temperatures. To minimise the astringency of a tea, lower the water temperature at which it’s brewed. Now, let’s have a look at some of the major black tea producing regions and some of their most popular black tea varieties:
ChinaThis is a fantastic area for black tea! Fujian, particularly around the Wuyi mountain area, produces the majority of Chinese black tea. Chinese black teas are frequently described as having an exceptional amount of sweetness and smoothness, as well as some smokiness.
IndiaAcross the board, Indian black teas have some intriguing characters. Some are so tough and powerful that it’s no surprise that the Masala Chai was created! Others have a fruity, flowery, malty, or velvety sweet flavour. Even black teas with vegetable and malty taste aromas are available. Indian black teas are full of surprises, but with so many different climates, altitudes, and terroirs to raise tea plants in, it’s no surprise that these leaves have distinctive flavours.
Sri LankaSri Lankan black tea is one of the most identifiable and appealing black tea varieties available. Sri Lankan black teas have a powerful, bold, and crisp taste with citrus and spice undertones. This country produces black tea in seven separate growing zones, each with its profile due to its varying heights. Teas cultivated in the Highlands feature delicate and sweet tones, but teas grown in the lowlands are more robust.
NepalTea production began in the late 1800s with high-altitude plantations, and it is frequently likened to Darjeeling teas since some eastern zones of Nepal have comparable geology and topography. Most Nepali teas have traditionally been processed into low-cost black tea grades for home consumption and export to the Indian commodities market. The highest-quality leaves were sold in India, where they were branded and sold as Darjeeling tea. Nepalese teas have a flowery flavour to them and are not astringent. They have a lot of flavours but aren’t overpowering. Early spring leaves are processed as a light 1st flush, yielding a delicate, subtle, yet complex tea, whilst more mature leaves harvested later in the season yield a fruity, robust 2nd flush. There’s also the Monsoon flush, which yields a darker, fuller-bodied tea, and the Autumn flush, which yields a lighter tea with floral, muscatel, and citrus notes, comparable to the 2nd flush.
While many people identify tea farming with Asia, Kenya produces some of the world’s finest teas and is one of the world’s major tea exporters. Kenya’s topography and temperature are ideal for growing some of the world’s most remarkable tea plants. Together with Kenya’s temperature and rainfall, volcanic soil offers elevation, adequate porous soil for drainage, and minerals for the plants, resulting in a large and booming tea production zone.
CTC (crush, tear, curl) is the most common technique for processing black tea in Kenya. Much of the leaf’s inherent taste, complexity, and depth is lost as a result. CTC makes a low-quality, mass-produced tea that is commonly used as a filler in tea bags. That isn’t to argue that Kenyan black tea isn’t tasty on its own. Kenyan black tea is a powerful, full-bodied tea that is comparable to Assam black tea and will undoubtedly wake you up in the morning. It’s a milky tea that tastes great. A tiny amount is also processed using traditional methods and sold as speciality single-origin tea across the world. As they are grown at higher elevations, certain black teas are also slightly lighter, more complex, and aromatic.