Updated: Jul 5, 2020
What Is Black Tea?
Black tea and most other teas come from the same plant called Camellia sinensis. The larger leaf type of the plant, Camellia sinensis assamica, is usually the plant used to produce black tea. Black tea is more common in Western countries such as Canada, the United States, and Great Britain. The flavour profile of black tea is stronger than other types of teas because of the intense oxidization black tea goes through.
Black Tea Processing
The tea leaves for black tea become fully oxidized before they are heat-processed and dried. During the oxidation period, oxygen interacts with the tea plant's cell walls to change the leaves to the deep brown or black colour black tea leaves are known for. The leaves are oxidized under special controlled settings of the oxygen level, temperature, and humidity. Oxidization modifies the flavour profile, assisting in adding fruity, malty, or smoky notes, depending on the type of tea.
Black Tea Grades
Black tea can be split into two broad categories, whole leaf and broken leaves. Whole leaf grades contain better flavour and aroma, but less body. It is recommended that these types of black tea are best plain, no milk added. The broken leaves grade contain more strength to them, which allows them to accommodate milk better since they have more body than whole grade leaves.
Areas Black Tea Is Grown
There are four main regions that black tea is grown and produced. They are Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Kenyan.
The Assam region in India is the largest tea-growing region in the world. The tropical climate produces tea typical for its bold and malty characteristics. These teas pair nicely with milk and sugar.
Darjeeling, a smaller, mountainous region in India, produces a softer, more herbaceous black tea that may change from season to season depending on the particular climate. Tea produced in this region is usually used as the tea base for Chai.
Sri Lanka has plenty of acres of tea gardens that vary depending on their location. Sri Lanka grows tea from cool and mountainous locations to humid and tropical locations. The black tea from Sri Lanka is known as Ceylon. These types of tea are often known as strong and brisk teas with a slight hint of spice.
Kenya is the leading tea producer in Africa and generally exports black tea. Kenyan tea uses the cutting, tearing, and curling method to process their black teas. Expect to have an assertive, full-bodied style tea when you drink a black tea from this region.
Tasting Black Tea
Black tea is commonly stronger, bolder, and richer than other teas. The colour of a freshly brewed black tea can range from amber to dark brown. The flavour profile of black tea can vary from sweet to savory. Some words used to describe the overall flavour profile include smoky, nutty, spiced, caramel, malty, fruity, and sweet. Each black tea has its unique flavour profile and if brewed correctly, it should be smooth and full of flavour.