Black Tea: The Basics

 

OK. So last week I kind of got in trouble with my wife. I guess she didn’t find the as much humor in the “Who’s on First” whiskey analogy as I did, even though she was a good sport about it. So, to keep in her good graces, I am going to keep this newsletter clean and free of anecdotes that may involve her many questions! As the second part of the series I started last week, here is an overview of Black Tea. If this article looks almost identical to the Green Tea Overview, it is because that is intentional. There really isn’t that much of a difference between Green and Black Tea.

  

Black Tea also comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant

 

Just like Green Tea, Black Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The only difference between Black Tea and other teas is the way it is processed. The processing is the only difference between Black, Oolong, White, Pu-erh and Green Teas. The most important step in the processing is oxidation.

  

Why “Black Tea” is black

 

After the tea leaves are plucked from the plant, they are allowed to oxidize. If you remember, oxidation is the process a banana goes through when it turns from green to black. Since Black Tea is fully oxidized, the tea farmers essentially let the leaves turn a black color. Once they are just right, the farmers apply heat to cease the oxidation process to hit that perfect spot where Black Teas get their wonderful flavor.

  

What Black Tea tastes like

 

Black Teas are a bit easier to describe as far as flavor goes. That is not to say they all taste the same, but they all have a lot of common characteristics. Almost all Black Teas are full bodied and have a bit of astringency. This astringency is why Black Teas are often served at breakfast, where many people want that slight “pick me up” in the morning. In addition, a lot of Black Teas should have a bit of a malty flavor, but that is where the similarities stop. Some Black Teas will have hint of smokiness, while others have a wonderful flavor of cocoa and honey. Then there are Darjeeling’s, which have a bright, citrusy flavor.

  

Different styles of Black Tea

 

There are three main countries that produce Black Tea – China, India and Sri Lanka. While these are Black Teas, their taste and preparation styles are quite different.  Because there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different styles of Black Tea, please note these descriptions are going to be incredibly general.

  • China – Chinese Black Teas generally have a heavier body and a bit more of a cocoa flavor. In general, Chinese Black Teas will taste heavier and more complex than the standard “Black Tea”  flavor.
  • India – Black Teas from India are usually bigger and bolder than their Chinese and Sri Lankan counterparts. These are generally divided into two cams, the big malty teas of Assam and the vibrant citrusy teas of Darjeeling.
  • Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan teas have that characteristic “Black Tea” flavor. They are generally lighter, cleaner tasting and have a bit more astringency than other countries. If you love the traditional flavor of a freshly brewed glass of iced tea, then Sri Lankan teas are a great choice.
  • Other Countries – One of the biggest producers of Black Tea is actually Kenya. This is where a lot of the giant corporations that sell cheaper tea bags get their tea from. Not to knock Kenya too much, but I often find their teas boring and uninspiring. But, if someone knows of a wonderful Kenyan tea, please let me know because I would love to find one!

  

Health Benefits

 

One of the biggest misconceptions about Black Tea is that is isn’t as healthy as Green Tea. There have been a bunch of new studies done on the past 5 years showing that Black Teas have the exact same health benefits as Green Teas. These studies have shown to be inconclusive, but that does not change the fact that almost all studies have shown Black Teas to be extremely healthy.

  

Summary

 

As you can now see, there really isn’t too much of a difference between Black Teas and Green Teas. They both have a huge amount of variety that span over multiple countries and, the best thing about this is, I am going to be home free when it comes to my wife getting mad at me. That is, until I say something stupid again! 

 

photo:www.flickr.com/photos/sono_polarbear/5841589681

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