Black tea

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Black tea

Black tea is a "true" tea (i.e. Camellia sinensis) made from leaves more heavily oxidized than the white, green, and oolong varieties. It is generally stronger in flavor and contains more caffeine than more lightly oxidized teas.

In Chinese and culturally related languages, black tea is known as red tea (紅茶, Mandarin hngch, Japanese kōcha), perhaps a more accurate description of the color of the liquid. However, in the western world, "red tea" more commonly refers to South African rooibos tea.

While green tea usually loses its flavor within a year, black tea preserves its flavor for several years (over fifty years in the special case of pu-erh tea). It has thus long been an article of trade, and compressed bricks of black tea even served as a form of de facto currency in Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia into the 19th century. Black tea was traditionally the only tea known to western culture; though green tea has been catching on somewhat, black still accounts for over ninety percent of all tea sold in the West.

The term 'black tea' is also used in the UK to describe a cup of tea without milk, adding milk to tea being the accepted practice.


Types of black tea

Generally unblended black teas are named after the region of production well known for their salient characters.

(More varieties and chief characteristics needed)

Processing of black tea

  • After the harvest, the leaves are first withered by blowing air on them.
  • Then black teas are processed in either of two ways, CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) or orthodox. The CTC method is used for lower quality leaves that end up in tea bags and are processed by machines. This method is efficient and effective for producing a better quality product from medium and lower quality leaves. Orthodox processing is done either by machines or by hand. Hand processing is used for high quality teas. While the methods employed in orthodox processing differ by tea type, this style of processing results in the high quality loose tea sought after by many connoisseurs.
  • Next, the leaves are oxidized under controlled temperature and humidity. This process is also called fermentation, though no fermentation takes place. The level of oxidation determines the quality of the tea. Since oxidation begins at the rolling stage itself, the time between these stages is also a crucial factor in the quality of the tea.
  • Then the leaves are dried to arrest the oxidation process.
  • Finally, the leaves are sorted into grades according their sizes (whole leaf, brokens, fannings and dust), usually with the use of sieves. The tea could be further sub-graded according to other criteria.

The tea is now ready for packaging.


 plantation in ,
Tea plantation in Java, Indonesia

Indian and Ceylon tea is usually named after the region of origin: Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, etc. and further by estates and grades for quality leaf: e.g., "Darjeeling Lingia FTGFOP1".

In Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka the grade names are an indication of the size and/or appearance of the tea but not the quality. There can be a lack of uniformity in the market grades which makes it difficult to describe them with accuracy. Ceylon teas can be divided into two groups:

  1. The leaf grades originally made by the Ceylon tea pioneers.
  2. The smaller broken grades which are used today.

List of Ceylon tea leaf grades:

  • Orange Pekoe (O.P.) - Long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain the tip. The liquors are light or pale in colour.
  • Pekoe (Pek.) - The leaves are shorter and not so wiry as O.P., but the liquors generally have more colour.
  • Souchong (Sou.) - A bold and round leaf, with pale liquors.
  • Broken Orange Pekoe (B.O.P. or BOP) - This grade is one of the most sought after. It is much smaller than any of the other leaf grades and contains the tip. The liquors have good colour and strength.
  • Broken Pekoe (B.P.) - Slightly larger than B.O.P., with rather less colour in the cup; useful primarily as a filler in blends.

Broken Pekoe Souchong (B.P.S) - A little larger that B.P. and in consequence lighter in the cup, but also used as a filler in blends.

  • Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (B.O.P.F.) - This grade is much sought after, especially in the UK. It is much smaller than B.O.P. and its main virtues are quick brewing, with good colour in the cup.

A small quantity of Tippy or Flowery grades (including Flowery Orange Pekoe (F.O.P) and Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (F.B.O.P) are made. They are much more expensive to produce than run-of-the-mill grades, as this involves sorting out the tip by hand.

In Assam, the main leafy tea grades produced are flowery pekoe (FP), orange pekoe (OP), pekoe (P), pekoe souchong (PS), and souchong (S), with broken tea grades BOP = Broken Orange pekoe; FOP = Flowery Orange Pekoe; TGFOP = Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe; FTGFOP = Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.

All types are sold as either "single" teas, meaning just one variety, or as blends. Blend names are usually more general e.g. "Assam Tea".

Adulteration and falsification are serious problems in the global tea trade; the amount of tea sold worldwide as Darjeeling every year greatly exceeds the annual tea production of Darjeeling, which is estimated at 11,000 tonnes.

External link

de:Schwarztee eo:Nigra teo he:תה שחור ja:紅茶 zh:红茶


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