This week we will explore the world of Black Tea! In China, Black Tea is known as red Tea because the actual tea liquid is red. Westerners call it black Tea because the tea leaves used to brew it are usually black. We will use the western countries version! So, today we will talk about Black Tea.
Black Tea is the most consumed Tea in the world. Places like USA, UK and Russia import and consume this Tea in large quantities. Tea blends as English Breakfast and Earl Grey may be very familiar to you!
Like White, Green, Yellow and Oolong, Black Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. There are two varieties of the plant used to produce Black Tea. The first one is the small-leaved Chinese variety plant (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis), and the second one is the large-leaved Assamese plant (Camellia sinensis var. assamica), used in the Assam region in India.
Black Tea is characterised for being fully oxidised. The Tea can be processed in two different ways – CTC (Crush, Tear and Curl) or the Orthodox way.
- The CTC method was introduced in the market in 1931. This method revolutionised the way of producing Tea, as it turns large quantities of fresh leaves into oxidised Tea quite quickly. This technique produces a lower quality mostly used in tea bags. CTC Teas are easier to produce, are much cheaper, and still have a strong flavour, which have contributed for its recognised place in the Tea market.
- The Orthodox processing can be undertaken by either machines or hand. This process is the traditional rolling table method of tea production that maximises large leaf grades and gives good aroma and flavour. This process is used for loose-leaf Teas. These loose-leaf Teas are usually of better quality tea than the tea used in tea bags.
The next step is the oxidation process, which contributes to bring out the particular aromatic qualities of the leaves. It’s the oxidation that gives black Tea its distinct colour, aroma and flavour. Withering and rolling contribute to activate the oxidation process.
- Withering – after the harvest, the leaves are first withered by blowing air on them. The leaves are heated to accelerate water evaporation. The method and amount of withering varies by region and type of tea.
- Rolling – the tea leaves are passed through mechanical rollers, which will break the cells of the leaves, “freeing up the enzymes and stimulating a uniform, enzymatic oxidation to take place over the entire surface of the leaf.”
- Oxidation – After the leaves are rolled they are immediately laid out for oxidizing. The leaves oxidise in contact with the air. Their colour gets darker.
- Drying – once the tea leaves have oxidized to their ideal level, the oxidation is stopped by drying the leaves with hot air. The purpose of this step is to kill the enzymes that are responsible for the oxidation of the leaves.
- Finally, the leaves are sorted into different grades according to their sizes (whole leaf, broken, fanning and dust), usually with the use of sieves.
On our next post we will write about all different types of Black Teas! Stay tuned! 🙂