Black Tea (Red Tea)
Black tea is by far the most popular tea in the western world, although green tea and - as of late - white tea have made their
mark as well, primarily due to their health benefits.
Black tea is 100% tea leaves (made from Camellia sinensis) and is a fully oxidized type of tea. The complete oxidation of black tea usually produces a tea that is stronger than less oxidized teas.
In China, this type of tea is called "red tea", which describes colour of the infusion rather than colour of the leaves.
All black teas are produced in the following way:
- The new buds and generally the first one or two leaves are picked and quickly the processing begins.
- First, the leaves are withered by blowing air onto them.
- They are then rolled, enabling the leaf to release its chemicals from within. It's at this stage that oxidation begins. The oxidation process is regulated in an environment with controlled humidity and temperature levels. This crucial step in the processing determines the outcome of the tea and is entirely dependent on the experience, skill and judgement of a tea master.
- When the desired oxidation has been achieved the leaves are heated (fired) to stop this process.
- The tea is then sorted and graded.
Black tea dates back to the 16th or 17th century and it's said that it was invented in Wuyi Shan City, Fujian Province in China.
Legend has it that a local tea-producer used a barn to store and process tea. After having put a new harvest into the barn one day he was visited by a small group of soldiers passing through. They decided to stop for the night and slept in the barn, making a bed on the fresh tea leaves. The next morning the leaves had considerably changed (they had oxidized).
The family, not being able to process their harvest in the usual manner, decided to dry it using pine wood torches and try to sell it at the local market. This "special tea" wasn't accepted by the village people, so they took it to a well-known tea trading centre and sold it.
By the next season, the family's special tea was in high demand by tea merchants and so it became China's first exported black tea.
This tea is still produced today and is called Wuyi Bohea (ZhengShan Souchong Black Tea). We are proud to be able to offer this historic tea (see our Chinese Black Tea section) which is still produced organically.
The geographic and climatic environments of different tea growing regions create unique flavour characteristics specific to the region.
The variations within a region (though less pronounced) are the valuable, subtle distinctions that connoisseurs seek and which distinguish a highly prized tea from an ordinary one.