Black tea was quite possibly the first tea you ever drank. It’s the tea behind delicious Iced Tea (Southern or otherwise) and Lipton, the most popular tea in the United States(according to one source, up to 90% of tea drank in America is black), and recent research indicates that it has just as many health benefits as green tea. This versatile true tea – meaning that it comes from the tea plant Camellia sinensis – is available on its own and also blended with many different herbs and flavors. Fan of Earl Grey? The actual tea in this favorite is Black Tea. It’s also the tea behind most Breakfast variety teas – including Russian, Irish, and English – as well as traditional Chai tea. Many people assume that tea comes from China, but it is actually grown in Sri Lanka, India and elsewhere. It’s a surprise to many that most black tea actually comes from India.
What makes a tea Black, Green, White or otherwise is the processing that occurs after it is picked. All teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Black tea is the most processed of all true teas.
Once Tea leaves have been plucked they are they are withered. This generally occurs by blowing air on them. Next, they are sorted to determine quality; they fall into two general categories, those for bagged tea and those for loose. After this the true processing that makes tea Black occurs. It is often referred to fermentation, but no fermentation actually occurs. Rather the tea leaves are oxidized. Black tea leaves are the most oxidized. This process occurs through control of temperature and humidity. Once the proper amount of oxidation occurs the leaves are dried. Finally, they are again sorted into various grades according to size. The largest leaves are typically the highest grade and quality, whereas the dust is lowest. They are then packaged and sold.
Famous Black Teas
This distinctive production process has produced some famous teas. Below is a short list of some of the most well known – but there are many others!
1. Assam: Assam refers to the region of origin of this tea, which affects the flavor. Assam is a region in India bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar. The flavor has been described as fresh, bracing and even malty with a touch of fruity. It is available at several different price levels.
2. Ceylon: Like Assam, Ceylon refers to the region of origin of this tea. In this case, this tea originates in Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon). Sri Lanka has gone through a series of main crops starting with cinnamon. After the profitability of this crop fell, coffee was introduced but a disease outbreak in the coffee crop led to a change to tea. The flavor is described as citrusy and crisp. There are also Green and White varieties of Ceylon.
3. Earl Grey: Earl Grey is one of the most popular teas around the world. It actually refers to a blended Black tea. Although Black tea is the base ingredient, what makes Earl Grey is the bergamot oil added for flavoring. Bergamot is a citrus fruit originating in Southeast Asia. There are many variations on this classic, including Lady Grey which contains lemon and Seville orange, as well as blends with lavender and vanilla.
4. Darjeeling: Darjeeling is a region in West Bengal, India, and one of the most popular and prized Black teas. It can be somewhat astringent, but is also fruity and floral. Tea connoisseurs describe a musky spiciness as “muscatel” (throw that into your next conversation to impress your friends). Darjeeling is one of the more expensive teas, but is well worth a try.
How to Brew
It’s almost impossible to ruin a cup of black tea. Unlike Green and White varieties which are rather delicate, the temperature of water for black tea cannot be too hot. Because the tea leaves are already very processed, there is no danger of burning the tea leaves (in Green or White tea burnt tea leaves account for the somewhat bitter taste that can accompany the flavor). You just boil fresh water, pour, and steep three – five minutes.
Common Serving Practices
Whereas White and Green teas are typically served plain, Black tea is often served with milk, cream, and/or sugar. Like coffee, the milk or cream actually mixes with chemicals in the tea making the flavor smoother and less astringent. Serving with milk and sugar is traditional in Britain.
A less well known tradition is one out of Russia. A sugar cube is placed between the teeth and tea is then drunk through it. This originated from the Russian royal family and can be traced back to .
Many people have their own traditions. For example, many people prefer honey to sugar as a sweetener. One reason for this is that the flavor of honey affects the flavor of the tea. Another less common practice is sweetening tea with jam or jelly. This is a quick and easy way to sweeten and flavor tea – in an instant you have Blackberry Black Tea!
However you drink it and whatever your preferred type, you are guaranteed health benefits.
Black tea does contain caffeine, but it is still less than a cup of coffee. This is one reason why it is a preferred tea for the morning. It is also a great way to start the day because of the antioxidants that in contains. Antioxidants are chemicals in various plants that neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are everywhere – they are in the environment and are thought to be one contributing factor to cancer. Although there is no conclusive proof that drinking tea can help prevent cancer, various studies have indicated that its inclusion in one’s diet can make an impact. Recent studies have shown that Black tea is as effective as Green tea.
There are many other health benefits associated with Black tea.