Tea 101: Tea Varieties – Black Tea
Most widely consumed in the Western world, black tea hails from the camellia sinensis sinensis and camellia sinensis assamica plants.
It is, by far, the most oxidized of all teas. Oxidation is a chemical reaction causing tea leaves to brown while simultaneously coaxing out their unique aroma and flavor.
With black tea, the oxidation process kicks in no sooner than the leaves are plucked. To expedite the process, the leaves are often crushed or rolled.
High temperatures are also required for the ideal brew, with experts recommending a max of 203-212℉.
Ultimately, black teas boast a strong, full-bodied flavor profile, which is frequently described as “astringent,” and for that reason is commonly cut with milk and sugar in the U.S.
Types of Black Tea
Here, most commercially sold black teas are blends of various black tea varieties.
The flavor of black tea is largely dependent on where it is from, as different origins produce different flavor profiles. Seven of the most popular single-origin black teas are:
• Assam (India): Brisk and bold, malty.
• Ceylon (Sri Lanka): Typically, strong and rich with notes of spice and/or chocolate.
• Darjeeling (India): Light, fruity and floral.
• Keemun (China): Described at times as having a wine or tobacco-like flavor, with notes of pine, fruit, and flowers.
• Kenyan: Bold, astringent, dark.
• Nilgiri: Fragrant and floral.
• Yunnan (China): Nuanced, with notes of spice and malt.
English Breakfast and Earl Grey are perhaps the two most popular blends. The former is typically made with Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas. The latter is a strong blend made with a black tea base – from Keemun to Ceylon to Assam – and flavored with oil from the rind of bergamot orange, giving it a citrus quality.
Black Tea Around the World
The black tea sold in the U.S. today is predominantly grown in China, India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, which cumulatively yield 75% of the world’s production.
• In China, black tea is called “red tea” – or “hong cha” – due to its colorful infusion.
• In India, it is known as Chai, or Masala Chai, and is infused with milk and various spices.
• In England, cream and sugar are standard accoutrements.
• Tea bag titan: Black tea is the tea most common variety used in tea bags.
• More than a jolt. Black tea has half the caffeine of coffee (but more than most other teas) – but also boasts groups of antioxidants which are essential to promoting overall health.
• It’s iced teatime! In the U.S., black tea is largely consumed as iced tea, often served with sugar – but also lemon, honey, and mint.
The Best Way to Brew
Black tea is among the easiest varieties to steep.
You will need:
• A kettle
• A teapot or mug
• Loose black tea (or sachets)
1. Measure one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup of hot water.
2. Bring cold, filtered water to a boil in your kettle.
3. Pour the boiling water into your teapot.
4. Allow the tea to steep for 4-6 minutes. (Adjust for your personal preference. Note: Darjeeling black teas often fare better with shorter steep times.)
5. Strain out the leaves and pour into your cup.
6. Add milk, sugar, or lemon as desired, and enjoy!
NOTE: If using sachets, use one sachet per two cups in your pot or mug.