The varieties of tea are numerous. Even if the leaves come from the same tea plant, the Camellia Sinensis, not all black teas are the same. Different flavors, more or less pronounced bitterness, production method, harvest, country of origin... Discover together which type of black tea suits you.
- Black tea producing countries
- The manufacture of black teas
- Harvesting tea leaves
- The different varieties of black teas
Black tea producing countries
China is the country that most often comes to mind when we talk about tea. However, when it comes to black tea, there are other countries worth visiting.
Chinese black teas
The Chinese are the world's leading producers of green, white and black tea.
Black tea, which they call red tea because of the color of the water when brewed, is intended for import.
The different provinces of China allow to have different varieties of black teas. The most famous are: Keemun, Lapsang Souchong and Yunnan.
Oolong is also very well known, but it is not really a black tea. Indeed, the oxidation of the leaves is not complete, which makes oolong a tea between green tea and black tea.
Japan, the other country of tea
Tea production is also very important in Japan. But it concerns above all green teas, including the famous matcha teas or sencha. This one would have many benefits on health.
The production of black tea in Japan is only very recent.
As in China, the Japanese call it red tea because of the color it gives to the water (not to be confused with rooibos).
The most popular Japanese black teas are smoked teas, such as Japan Lapsang.
Indian black tea
India is the largest producer of tea after China. Its black tea is very famous.
It is cultivated in gardens, most often at high altitude. Because of the temperature, the leaves of the tea plant grow longer, which gives black tea a different taste for the same variety.
The most famous black teas are the assam tea and Daarjeling.
The manufacture of black teas
The manufacturing process of black tea plays an essential role in its quality.
The process of classic oxidation( fermentation is an abuse of language for black tea ) allows to obtain excellent infusions.
Other methods exist, less expensive and faster, called CTC. Black teas that have undergone this operation are certainly less expensive, but often disappointing in taste.
Traditional black tea oxidation
If the Chinese talk about the fermentation of black tea, it does not mean the same thing as we do.
Our black tea, the one consumed in the West, is a green tea whose leaves have been oxidation. Fermentation therefore only concerns very specific teas. For example, the Pu-Erh is a fermented tea.
You should know that tea leaves oxidize from picking to fixing. Nevertheless, several steps are necessary to obtain a more or less oxidized tea:
- fixation or roasting.
The CTC method, for a faster oxidation of black tea
From English Crushing-Tearing-Curling, this process automates the production of black tea. Less respectful of the plant than the orthodox method, the tea thus obtained is intended mainly to be distributed in a bag. .
Even if the quality is sometimes good, the taste of the tea is less delicate, but these types of teas are often much less expensive to buy (since they are cheaper to make).
Harvesting tea leaves
One of the quality criteria of tea is the harvesting. Hand harvesting is of course preferable to automated harvesting, but this is not the only parameter that influences.
The right season to harvest tea leaves
Tea picking is not done in the same period according to the territories.
If some can afford to harvest the leaves all year round, others, because of the latitude, have to wait until spring.
Indeed, the decrease of sunshine during the winter seasons makes the tea bushes enter in dormancy.The harvest is therefore done from spring. This is the case in India, in Darjeeling, but also in Japan.
Why is the spring tea is it better ?
The reason is simple: the rise of the sap gives fresh notes, very vegetal, and a unique flavor to the tea.
Picking the tea leaves
The other reason why spring tea is more sought after is also because of the plucking process, and there are two particularly popular types:
- the imperial harvest;
- fine picking.
The imperial harvest consists in harvesting only the bud plus the first shoot below it.The fine picking includes the buds plus the next two leaves.
These two methods, in addition to adding flavor to the tea, also allow you to enjoy all its health benefits.
The young shoots, to protect themselves from the sun, produce antioxidants. They alone concentrate 80% of the antioxidants produced by the tea plant.
Rough harvesting is a picking that concerns the first three to four leaves of the plant. It is intended for a cheaper tea.
Black tea grades
Black tea is a special tea. It is not enough to know the garden where it comes from to know if you are dealing with a particular plucking. Indeed, this tea is often sold in blend.The blend is a mixture of several varieties of tea to balance the flavor and obtain a precise aroma. Thus, to know the quality of a black tea, there is a specific classification, in the form of grade:
- The Souchong includes the large, low leaves.
- In the grade Pekoe, the leaves are thinner.
- The Flowery Pekoe (FP) designates the leaves rolled into a ball.
- L'Orange Pekoe (OP), the young leaves of a late harvest.
- The Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP) is the highest grade (although even more precise in some regions). It is the harvest of the buds and the first two leaves.
The different varieties of black teas
There is a wide variety of black teas. Black tea can be made from any plantation, from any region, but some are better known than others, by virtue of their excellence. Plain tea, tea blend or flavored tea, there is something for everyone.
Smoked black tea
Smoked black tea is a tea whose leaves have been oxidized and then rolled on themselves before being smoked, often with spruce.These teas are very popular, and can be used in many recipes.The most famous of them are Lapsan Souchong from China, or Japan Lapsang.Nevertheless, all black teas can be smoked, so we can find all kinds from around the world.
Black tea Assam
Grown in India, Assam black tea is a perfect breakfast tea. It is produced in the Assam region, at low altitude, where the climate allows the tea plants to be very productive.
Often, Assam tea leaves are picked in two harvests. The second harvest is often better than the first, and is called Tippy Tea, because of the yellow tips that appear on the tea leaves.
Darjeeling black tea
Probably the most famous black tea in India. The cultivars are found in different darjeeling Gardens, it is considered to be the best of the black teas, even nicknamed the "champagne of teas", with fruity notes of muscatel and almond.
Earl Grey black tea
The famous Earl Grey tea is actually a blend of different black teas. It can be found smoked tea like Lapsang Souchong, Darjeeling, Ceylon tea, sometimes even Oolong...The composition can vary, but always contains bergamot, making it a flavored tea.This tea is very famous in England, and various legends circulate about its origin and paternity.
Another world famous tea, the ceylon tea.This one is grown in the Sri Lanka (Ceylon being the old name of this island), another British colony. If at the beginning, the Ceylon tea was essentially black tea, nowadays, we can also find green or white tea. Sri Lanka also designates tea by grade, according to the altitude of the cultivars: low, high and medium altitude.
These differences obviously give the Ceylon tea its own particularities.