Black tea is the most popular tea in the world.
There are four types of true teas including white tea, green tea, oolong tea, and black tea.
All four types of true teas are derived from the same exact plant species – Camellia sinensis.
The difference in these teas arises during the production process. Some teas are oxidized while others are simply sun-dried. These minor differences result in big flavor and color differences.
China is the birthplace of black tea, which in China is called, perhaps more appropriately, hong cha – red tea – after its the red colored tea it usually produces.
It’s history in China can be traced back to the late Ming Dynasty, around the year 1590, when the first black tea – Lapsang Souchong – was produced in the area around Wuyi Mountain in Fujian province.
Until 1590 (Late Ming, Early Qing Dynasty), the only teas consumed in China were green (unoxidized) and oolong (semi-oxidized) teas.
The tale goes that while a passing army entered the Fujian province, they decided to take shelter at a nearby tea factory. This held up production at the tea factory, where leaves were left out in the sun, causing them to oxidize for a longer period of time and resulting in darker leaves. In an effort to accelerate the drying time, they decided to smoke the leaves over pine wood, thus creating Lapsang Souchong, the very first black tea.
Black tea has long been an article of trade, and compressed bricks of black tea even served as a form of de facto currency in Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia.
The Dutch first brought tea to Europe in 1610, it arrived in England in 1658, and then it rose in popularity in England’s American colonies throughout the 1700s. Demand for tea experienced huge leaps in the 1700s as England expanded sugar imports from its Caribbean colonies.
Black tea overtook green tea in popularity in the 1720s when sugar and milk were added to tea, a practice that was not done in China.
Black tea is usually graded on one of four scales of quality. Whole-leaf teas are the highest quality, with the best whole-leaf teas graded as “orange pekoe.” After the whole-leaf teas, the scale degrades to broken leaves, fannings, then 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.
Generally, 4 grams of tea per 200 ml of water. Unlike green teas, which turn bitter when brewed at higher temperatures, black tea should be steeped in water brought up to 90–95 °C. The first brew should be 60 sec., the second brew 40 sec., and the third brew 60 sec. If your tea is of high quality, you can continue to brew by progressively adding 10 sec. to the brew time following the third infusion.
Black tea is stronger in flavor and contains more caffeine than other teas, but less caffeine than coffee.
Most studies show that black tea has between 40 and 120 mg caffeine per 250-milliliter (about 8-ounce) serving.
Black tea is a healthy drink and it has a range of health benefits.
It is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants, such as the flavonoids thearubigin and theaflavin.
The health benefits of black tea include anti-cancer benefits, digestive benefits, help fight the negative effects of free radicals to your body, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, help reduce blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, boost heart health, beneficial effects on skin and hair health, lower stress and aid in weight loss.
Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world behind water; 78 percent of the tea consumed worldwide is black tea; and over 90 percent of all tea sold in the West is black tea.
When choosing a black tea to sip, remember that not all black teas taste the same. Just like with fine wine, there are so many variables that give individual black teas their own particular flavor profiles.
Earl Grey tea is a tea blend which has been flavoured with the addition of oil of bergamot. Bergamot is a variety of orange that is often grown in Italy and France. The rind’s fragrant oil is added to black tea to give Earl Grey its unique taste. Traditionally, Earl Grey was made from black teas, but tea companies have since begun to offer Earl Grey in other varieties as well, such as green or oolong.