Black Tea

Black Tea

Black Tea

With fragrant aroma and thick taste

Black tea originates the tea area of Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province. Its export volume tops all kinds of teas in China, occupying 50%. The dry tea and tea soup are both primarily red, so it is called red tea. But because the red tea was called "wu cha" when it was originally made, the tea was called "Black tea" rather than "red tea" in English. There are various kinds of black tea, and souchong black tea is the earliest. In addition, a unique culture of black tea is popular in other countries. The black tea in India and Sri Lanka introduced from China are also very famous.

Methods and varieties differ considerably between the different producing regions, but process always involves four basic steps - withering, rolling, fermenting, and firing (or drying). For, the traditional "orthodox" method which produces larger particles of leaf, the plucked leaves are spread out to wither (in the shade for finer varieties) until limp enough to be rolled without splitting the surface of the leaf. At this stage, the leaves give out a fruity, almost apple-like odor. Next the withered leaf is rolled, in order to release the chemicals within the leaf that are essential to the final color and flavor. This is still done by hand in some factories, but most use Rotorvane machines to crush the leaf lightly. The rolled lumps of tea are then broken up and the leaf spread out in a cool, humid atmosphere for 3-4 hours to absorb oxygen, which causes a chemical change in the leaf particles and turns them from green to a coppery red.

Finally, the oxidized (or fermented) leaf is fired in order to arrest the natural decomposition and, at this stage, the particles turn black and acquire their recognizable tea smell. Firing was traditionally carried out in large pans over open fires and this method is still used in some Chinese factories, but most producers now pass the tea through hot air tunnels or bake it in hot ovens.

The CTC method (cut. tear, and curl) produces smaller leaf particles that give a stronger, quicker brew, making them ideal for use in tea bags. The withered leaf is passed through the rollers of a CTC machine which rotate at different speeds, or an LTP (Lawrie Tea Processor) rotating hammer-mill leaf disintegrator, which tears and breaks it into tiny particles. The rest of the process is the same as for orthodox black teas.

Black teas are made from completely oxidized leaves. They are found mainly in the south of China, in the provinces of Yunnan, Anhui (particularly Qimen) and Fujian (particularly Zhenghe). The Chinese often call them "red teas" (not to be confused with the red teas of South Africa), on account of the copper color of the infusion they produce. The method used to process black teas was developed during the 18th century.

Usually, more mature leaves are picked for the production of black teas, except in the case of very high-quality teas and "beautiful" teas.

Place of origin

Mainly produced in Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province.

WITHERING

It is the first step to make black tea, that is, to make the fresh leaves lose some water through air-cure. Withering can strengthen the activity of enzyme in the tea and make the tea soft and flexible for easy shape-making.

Withering is usually carried out either on the ground or on bamboo racks and lasts for five to six hours, long enough for the leaves to soften and to lose 60 percent of their moisture. They must be stirred often at this stage.

In the case of mechanical processing, withering takes place in a controlled environment The leaves are placed on sieves in brick containers that are usually heated by wood fires, a technique that gives Chinese black teas a slightly smoky aroma. The containers allow air from a turbine to circulate below the leaves. About four hours later the leaves are ready for the next stage.

ROLLING

Rolling is able to make shape of tea leaves and improve the concentration of the aroma and the color. Meanwhile, it is easy for oxidization and fermentation.

Once the leaves have been thoroughly softened through withering, they are rolled in order to break down the structure of their cells, releasing the enzymes that trigger oxidation. Depending on the quality of tea desired, this is usually done by a machine that presses the leaves onto plates divided into strips.

Fermentation

This is the special stage to make black tea. The polyphenols can be oxidized under the effect of enzyme and the leaf color turns from green to red, forming the quality of red tea, red leaf and red liquid. After a proper degree of fermentation, the tender leaves are uniform and red while the old leaves are red with green. The flavor of green grass disappears but with the aroma of ripe fruit.

OXIDATION

The oxidation period can vary from eight to 12 hours, depending on the ambient conditions. The leaves are spread on the ground and covered with large wet cloths to stimulate the chemical reaction. The temperature must be around 72°F (22°C).This technique takes longer than the method used for Indian black teas. As the oxidation takes place in milder conditions, a less astringent tea is obtained. This method also produces an earthy aroma and a burnt, sweet taste that is typical of Chinese black teas.

Relying on their talent, experience and intuition, independent tea growers may decide to tweak different stages of the process.

DRYING

Any residual moisture in the leaves is eliminated and the oxidation process is stabilized during the drying stage. Drying techniques vary from one region to another. The most common method uses conveyor belts through which warm air is blown to dry the leaves. Sometimes they are transferred to another wood-heated machine.

Bake the tea with high temperature. Evaporate the water rapidly to a proper degree. Fix the shape and keep it dry in case of mildew. Drying is to stop fermentation and keep the fragrant materials at the boiling point so that black tea can get sweet and mellow aroma.

SORTING AND SIFTING

Whether it is carried out manually or mechanically, sorting and sifting separates the leaves into different grades (the sorting) while eliminating dust, branches and other residue (the sifting). In the case of a large harvest, the process may be mechanized. A bamboo sieve is most commonly used for higher-quality teas. After sorting, the teas are ready for packaging.

FIRING (OPTIONAL)

In certain cases, another stage is added: firing. This further reduces the moisture content and helps standardize the batch.

Worldwide, more black tea is produced than any other tea variety; it is made in nearly every tea growing country in the world. This evolution has taken thousands of years, from the beginnings of unoxrdiced green teas to semi-oxrdiced Oolong teas then onto fully-oxidised black teas.

Oxidation is the key to black tea production, with crimson red leaves and liquid embodying the spirit of black tea. There are many characteristic flavours of black tea due to differences in oxidation and production techniques.

Variety is another key influence upon the flavours of black teas. From the aspect of tea varieties suitable for making back teas, a polyphenol ammonia ratio of ten or more denotes a plant that is suitble for producing black tea. In other words, the higher the ratio of the polyphenols in the variety, the more appropriate it is for producing black tea. As the quality of black tea is judged not by sweetness, but by intensity, nearly all the tea-producting countries including China and Taiwan predominatly use large leaf variety tea plants, which produce strong black teas due to their rich polyphenol contents. Intensity is a key factor in the appraisal of teas sold in countries where it is served with milk and sugar.

When large leaf variety tea leaves rich in white down are moderately oxidized, oxidative polymerization gives the leaves a splendid colour. This is described as "Golden Pekoe" in English, denoting a black tea with a fine appearance.

Black tea originated in China during the 17th century. This began with the production of Lapsang Souchong in Xingchuan, Chong' An County, Fujian province, and was subsequently exported worldwide. Two world renowned black teas, Keemun black tea and Yunnan black tea (Dianhong), are relatively new tastes, borne in the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition to small amounts of black tea produced in Taiwan, major black tea growing areas are scattered throughout southern China including Hainan Island, Guangdong, Guangxi Autonomous Region, Hunan, southern Fujian, as well as from the Southwest tea areas of Yunnan and Sichuan, Jiangnan teas in Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangxi.

Basically, black tea is classified into two main groups based upon appearance: 'Strips black tea' and 'Broken black tea'. Broken black tea currently dominates the international tea industry. It is divided into four types: Leaf Tea (FOP/OP/P), Broken Tea (FBOP/BOP/BP), Fannings (F) and Dust (D). They are the main form of tea used to fill tea bags and therefore are suitable for mass production. Striped form black teas are traditional black teas, including Souchong black tea and Gongfu black tea. Souchong black tea is represented by Lapsang Souchong and Yanxiaozhong (Smoked Souchong) while Keemun from Anhui, Dianhong from Yunnan, Chuanhong from Sichuan, Yihong from Hubei. Ninghong from Jiangxi, Minhong from Fujian and Suhong from Jiangsu, are representative Gongfu black teas. Souchong black tea is smoked and dried over pinewood fires resulting in its smoky flavour; Gongfu black teas are not smoke-dried, their name stems from the refined methods in which it is brewed. Broken black tea answers the huge demand for low-price products in the international market, where Western countries formerly utilized large scale plantations and cheap labour in their colonies, leading to the formation of an enormous black tea industry. Furthermore, some tea products are crushed and torn into particles to facilitate the production process.

In China, these are defined as ‘red teas’ because of the coppery-red colour of the liquor that they yield. When the Chinese talk about ‘black tea’, they mean ‘puerh’.

For black tea, methods of manufacture and the varieties produced vary enormously from country to country and from region to region, but the process always involves four basic stages – withering, rolling, oxidation (also misleadingly referred to within the tea industry as ‘fermenting’) and firing (drying). The two major processing methods are ‘orthodox’ and ‘CTC’. The traditional orthodox method is still used in China, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and elsewhere, and tends to treat the leaf with more respect than the modern CTC method. For orthodox teas, the leaves are spread out in warm air and allowed to wither for up to 18 hours in order to reduce their water content (78-80 per cent when plucked, 55-70 per cent after withering). The leaves are then soft and pliable, ready for rolling. The yellow-green leaf is then put into in a special rolling machine that presses and twists the leaves, breaking the cells inside them and releasing the natural juices and chemicals that will start the oxidation process. After the first roll, the smaller pieces of leaf are sifted off and the larger particles are put back into the roller for a second and sometimes third rolling. The leaf is also sometimes put through a rotorvane machine (a little like a large mincing machine that twists and breaks the leaf even more than the orthodox roller) to maximize production of smaller broken grades of leaf. After rolling, the leaf is broken up and spread out in thin layers in cool humid air and left to oxidize for 20-30 minutes or longer, depending on the conditions and temperature. The leaf now begins to develop its recognizable aroma and flavour, becomes darker in colour and develops the tea chemicals known as theaflavins and thearubigins. To arrest the oxidation, the tea is finally fed into large automatic dryers inside which it is carried along on conveyor belts or on a moving stream of hot air in temperatures of 115-120°C (240-250°F) and this reduces the moisture content of the tea to just 2 to 3 per cent. ‘Fluid bed dryers’ that blow the particles of tea on a stream of hot air are the most efficient type and ensure that all the pieces of leaf are evenly dried.

The CTC (Cut, Tear and Curl) method of manufacture is widely used in major tea-producing countries to give a small-leafed tea that brews more quickly and yields a strong liquor 一 characteristics that are desirable for the production of teabag blends. This process was developed in the 1950s when the teabag was becoming more popular. To produce such teas, the leaf is withered in the same way as for orthodox teas but, instead of being rolled, it is macerated by the blades inside a CTC machine that rotate at different speeds, or in a Lawrie Tea Processor (LTP) rotating hammer-mill leaf disintegrator, which tears and breaks the leaf into tiny particles. The remaining oxidation and drying stages of the process are the same as for orthodox black teas. In modern factories, oxidation usually takes place on a conveyor belt that slowly moves the oxidizing tea towards the oven.

A fully-fermented tea, the black tea originated in Chong'an District (present-day Wuyishan City) of Fujian Province over 200 years ago. Its features include red tea soup and blackish red leaves.

The black tea is produced mainly in three areas: South China Area, Southwest Area, and the Area South of the Yangtze River. The South China Area includes Hainan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Taiwan, and south of Hunan and Fujian. The Southwest Area includes Yunnan and Sichuan. The Area South of the Yangtze River includes Anhui, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi, where small quantity of the black tea is produced.

The black tea produced in China includes three varieties: souchong black tea, congou black tea, and broken black tea.

The black tea is made through withering, rolling, fermentation, and drying. For souchong black tea, two more procedures are needed: hot pot frying and steam baking.

Among the famous black teas made in China are the Keemun Black Tea, Dianhong (Yunnan) Black Tea, and Ninghong Black Tea.

To drink green tea is to drink the qi - the essence - of freshly picked tea leaves. Black tea, on the other hand, mellows with age and improves in flavor. Thus the saying, grandfather plants and raises tea bushes, father harvests the tea, and son enjoys the privilege of drinking it. Our black tea leaves is generally stronger in flavor than the less oxidized teas. Black tea can help you concentrate. A study at the University of Northumbria found that caffeine and L-theanine in black tea leaves improves cognitive skills. Taste it!

Black tea boutique

Black tea is divided into Gongfu black tea, Broken black tea and souchong black tea three kinds. Keemun black tea, Ningzhou black tea and Yunnan black tea are typical.

Souchong black tea

Shape: High quality strips are stout and complete while the inferior is loose and distorted.

Color: Tea of high quality is black and moistened while the inferior is dark brown and dry red.

Aroma: Tea of high quality eits dense fragrance and the inferior, thin and old odor.

Liquid: The liquid of tea of high quality is bright red while the inferior is light yellow.

Taste: The taste is thick and mellow with the fragrant flavor of longan.

Brewed tea leaves: Tender with lots of buds, soft and regular, red and bright.

Gongfu black tea

Shape: The superior strips are tight, slender and a little distorted while the inferior strips are loose, thick and not quite regular.

Color: The superior is red and brown, black with luster while the inferior is dark and brown, dry red, with different colors.

Aroma: The superior is of lasting aroma while the inferior is of non-savory and light aroma.

Liquid: The superiors liquid is brilliant red and there is a golden edge around while the inferior's liquid is dark and turbid.

Taste: The superior tastes savory and mellow while the inferior taste bitter, astringent and tasteless.

Brewed tea leaves: The superior is bright, corpulent and soft while the inferior is dark green with different colors.

Broken black tea

Shape: Broken tea is uniform and regular with tight and curl particles. The strips of leaf tea are straight and tight. Tablet tea is winkled, thick and stout. And dust tea is like grains of sand.

Color: The superior is dark red and brown, black with luster while the inferior is dry yellow.

Aroma: Strong fragrance and the aroma of flower and fruit.

Liquid: The superior is bright and red while the inferior is dark and turbid.

Taste: The superior is with strong and thick taste while the inferior is with coarse and thin taste.

Brewed tea leaves: The superior is bright red while the inferior is dark with impurities.

Effects of black tea

First, theophylline in black tea can absorb heavy metals in the body and help expelling of toxins.

Second, black tea contains polyphenol, saccharides and amino acids which can stimulate the spittle to secrete and promote the secretion of saliva and body fluid.

Third, caffeine in black tea stimulates the cerebral cortex and the excited nerve centre and plays the role of refreshing and eliminating fatigue.

Tea Set Suitable for Brewing the Black Tea

The representatives of the black tea include Keemun black tea, Dianhong Golden Tip, and Zhengshan Souchong. The different tea shapes result in different requirements on tea set.

The Keemun Black Tea features treasure light, gold halo, and brilliant red tea soup. It had better be brewed with a white porcelain tea set and its soup appreciated with glass utensils. The Keemun Black Tea is loved by British royal family. Brewing it in a tea set with overglaze flower pattern and gold and silver decoration, adding fresh milk and lemon juice into it, and preparing sandwiches and muffin, you have a genuine English-style afternoon tea.

Glass utensils are suitable for appreciating the shapes of Dianhong (Yunnan) Black Tea. Sancai Cup is also a good choice.

The purple clay tea set or ceramic tea set is suitable for brewing Zhengshan Souchong. Such tea set can offset part of the pine smoke flavor and make tea aroma purer and tea taste mellower.

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