Black tea

What is black tea?

Black teaBlack tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The plant is used to produce both black and green tea. The variation in the two teas stems from differences in the manufacturing process. Over three million tons of the Camellia Sinensis plant is cultivated each year, bringing hot tea to our tables everyday.

Black tea

Since its discovery over 5000 years ago, black tea has maintained its popularity in home, and features in social life across time and across cultures. Its leaves are brewed hot to draw out its unique flavours and can be served throughout the day. It is also used and enjoyed as refreshing iced tea. Black tea is the most popular beverage globally, second to water. There are over three thousand varieties of teas, with thousands of different flavours. Tea is the most popular hot beverage, drunk in all corners of the world. It has more flavour profiles and variety than wine. It is more than a delicious drink, or a stable breakfast or supper item. Black tea is widely touted to possess medicinal and health benefits for its drinkers. A hot cup can help to calm you down before bed, help in settling an upset stomach, or helps to give you a boost and concentration on an early morning task.

History of black tea

Tea originated in China over 5000 years ago, where it was enjoyed for its flavours and said to possess healing properties. The story goes that Emperor Shen-Nun was in his garden when some tea leaves blew into his pot of hot water. He drank it and found it to be delicious and refreshing. The Chinese philosopher Lu Yu produced the most famous piece of written work on tea: the Ch’a Ching (The Classic of Tea). It wasn’t until centuries later that the rest of the world was introduced to the refreshing qualities and benefits of drinking tea. In the 1600s, Dutch traders introduced tea to other countries and it quickly became a viable trading commodity. Demand for tea experienced huge leaps in the 1700s as European countries expanded sugar imports from Caribbean colonies. By 1800, the English were annually consuming over two pounds of tea and 17 pounds of sugar per capita. It gained even more popularity with the invention of the tea bag in 1904 by tea merchant Thomas Sullivan. This invention was purely by chance, when Sullivan but the tea leaves in silk pouches in an attempt to cut costs. Customers received the new packaging, and unsure what to do with them, threw the bags of tea in hot water...and the tea bag was invented!

How is black tea cultivated and produced?

Black tea is cultivated from the leaves of Camellia Sinensis plant which is native to Asia. It is mainly produced in China, India and Sri Lanka. Tea leaves are cultivated from small family farms to large acres of farm estates. The best teas are grown at higher elevations. The leaves require hand picking. To get one pound of tea, two thousand hand picked leaves are required! The cultivation process involves a mixture of traditional and modern methods. Some farms do use machinery to help with the cultivation, but it is argued that the best teas are hand picked. Bamboo trays may be used to help dry the leaves. The CTC (crush-tearing-curl) is a modern method used for large scale black tea cultivation and production, especially for making tea bags.

The Camellia Sinensis leaves goes through various process to become different teas. There are five steps: plucking, withering, rolling, oxidizing, and firing. Unlike other teas, black tea goes through all five steps that gives it its unique colour and flavour.

  1. Plucking - The leaves are harvested. Usually the top three leaves of the plant are plucked. Afterwards, the leaves are sorted for uniformity.
  2. Withering - the leaves are laid out for several hours to wither. During this process, the leaves are fluffed and rotated. They are monitored to make sure all leaves are exposed evenly to the air. This process helped to make the rolling step easier.
  3. Rolling  - from here the different flavours of tea begin to emerge. The wilted leaves are rolled, pressed or twisted to kickstart the oxidizing step.
  4. Oxidizing - The most important step in producing the delicious black tea is the oxidizing process. Oxidizing occurs when the enzymes in the tea leaves interact with oxygen.In the oxidization process, the tea leaves are rolled and laid out to dry for several hours.  Black tea is allowed to oxidize more than any other tea types, producing a distinct and robust flavour.
  5. Firing - the leaves are heated slowly to reduce the moisture content to 3%.

Types of black tea

  • Keemum - A delicate and aromatic tea from Northern China, that has a deep, rich flavour.
  • Lapsang Souchong - Rich, robust, a very distinctive smokey flavour.
  • Yunnan Western - this has a sweet taste and a light golden color.
  • Assam - One of the classic Indian varieties. A strong, malty flavour.
  • Darjeeling - from Northern India. Delicate flavour with a golden hue. The most notable of all the various Darjeelings is Darjeeling Broken Orange Pekoe, which is sometimes called the champagne of tea.
  • Dimbula - a type of Ceylon tea that has a rich color and flavour. Orange pekoe and broken orange pekoe give Dimbula tea an aromatic fragrance and a delicate, fresh taste.
  • Kandy - This variety is noted for its full-bodied quality and strength, appealing particularly to those who like a robust beverage.
  • Nuwara Eliya - a light, fragrant black tea.


Brewing black tea

What is the best way to brew and enjoy a cup of black tea? It is much more that adding some tea bags to a pot of boiling water. Read the following steps for a perfectly enjoyable, and delicious, hot brew of tea.
1)    Boil a pot or kettle of fresh, pure cold water.
2)    Place the tea bag (or 1 gram of loose tea leaves to 100 ml of water).
3)    Let the tea steep for a minimum of three minutes for the best flavour and optimal minerals. Careful.  Beyond three minutes, and your tea can become bitter.
4)    Sweeten to taste. The robustness of black tea makes it the ideal tea option to add milk, cream and sugar.
Tea can go stale. Make sure to store your tea bags in a cool, dark place, in an airtight container.

Health benefits of black tea

The use of tea for medicinal purposes dates back to 5000 years. It was first used by the Chinese as a cure for a number of ailments. Numerous research has been conducted over the years to examine the health benefits of your daily cup of tea. Research and new discoveries around black tea continues. Some of the benefits of black tea are:

  • Good source of antioxidants - Black tea contains polyphenol which destroys free radicals that destroys cells, and alter DNA. As such can help prevent and repair cell damage.
  • A calming effect - L-theanine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the Camellia Sinensis plant. Tea is the best natural source of this amino acid. It helps to produce a state of relaxed concentration. It also helps to reduce the presence of the stress hormone, cortisol, in your body.
  • Improves oral health - helps to reduce plaque build up and restricts cavity causing bacterial growth in the mouth.
  • Reduces risk of cancer - while more research is needed in this area, there has been the argument that the presence of antioxidants like polyphenol helps to reduce the risk of cancer. Some research indicates that women who regularly drink black tea have a reduced chance of developing ovarian cancer compared to other women.
  • Boost mental alertness - Tea contains xanthines (the most common is caffeine) which helps to stimulate the brain
  • Improve heart health - a 2009 research demonstrated that regularly drinking tea (at least three cups daily) helped to reduce tea drinkers risk of stroke by 21%, as compared to people who drank less that one cup a day.
  • Prevent diabetes - using a sample of tea drinkers in the Mediterranean, who drank one to two cups daily, researchers concluded that these persons had a 70% less chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Healthier bones linked to drinking more black tea.
  • Helps to boost the immune system and fight off viruses and infections.
  • Tea alone (no sugar, creamers or milk) is a healthy, zero calories drink.
  • Improved gut health.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1368x
Added: 01-02-2017 18:39
Last modified: 11-04-2017 22:47

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