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History, Benefits, Flavors, Preparation
Did you know that black tea is not actually black but red? The red color is the result of its oxidized leaves, and it’s why they call it 红茶 or Hong Cha (red tea) in Chinese.
Black tea is one of the most popular types of tea, and for a good reason. It has a long history and is very versatile. Keep reading to learn more.
The History of Black Tea
Travel back in time with us to the 1500s during the Ming Dynasty. At this time, the only tea consumed in China was oolong and green tea.
However, things were about to change around 1590 in Wuyi Shan (the fairyland of tea) in the Fujian province.
During this time, a passing army decided to take shelter at a nearby tea factory. Green tea is unoxidized; however, oolong tea is semi-oxidized.
The army slowed down production, and tea leaves left out to be oxidized were oxidized for a more extended period of time. This produced darker leaves.
To speed up the drying time, the tea masters smoked the leaves over pinewood and created Lapsang Souchong, the first black tea.
From China to India
While black tea’s history starts in China, it has over 100s of years traveled into the rest of the world. The story of how it traveled to India is fascinating, and it reveals a dark past.
Part of the history involves a picture that gave away how tea traveled from China to India. The picture shows tea being manufactured in India. However, if you look closely, the hairstyle of the men in the photo indicates they were from China.
Chinese tea makers were smuggled into the country. It was their job to teach the Indians how to cultivate, manufacture, and process tea. This gave rise to the Indian tea industry.
British Tea Culture
Even with the long history of tea in China, when many western cultures think of tea today, they think of England. Tea was originally a luxury item in England reserved for royalty and people with money.
Princess Catherine of Braganza brought it to the UK as part of her dowry in 1662. However, during the Victorian era, tea became more popular and was no longer just for the higher classes.
All classes could enjoy a cup of tea; however, you could tell their status by the tea they served and the accessories used. Black tea was the most consumed type, and it gave rise to the English tea culture.
It quickly gained popularity, and in the 1720s, when milk and sugar were added to tea, it overtook green tea in popularity. Adding milk and sugar was not practiced in China.
Black Tea Flavor Profiles
There are many varieties of black tea, and because of that, black tea flavors are diverse. However, there are some similarities between the different teas.
Here are some of the flavors you could experience when drinking black tea.
Because black tea is more oxidized, it has a bolder taste than other teas. In addition, longer steep times and hotter water temperatures contribute to the bold flavor of black tea.
Chinese black teas often get described as astringent. This flavor profile is where you will taste the dryness with a bit of bite to your tea.
There are a few types of black tea that get described as malty. These include:
- English breakfast tea
- Irish breakfast tea
Drinking one of these teas’ you’ll notice a full body and natural sweetness.
If some of the bold and strong flavors are too much for you, there are black teas that have fruity profiles. For example, Nepalese Gold and Nilgiri tea have fruity notes.
Black tea blends can add sweeteners. However, loose leaf tea also has a soft natural sweetness. You can taste this more in mellow black tea options.
There are a few black teas that can taste smoky. In fact, Lapsang Souchong is smoked when dried, which creates a strong smoky flavor.
Pu Erh is an example of a black tea that has a more earthy taste to it. Depending on the black tea you choose, you could get earthy flavors like wet leaves, oak, pine, mushrooms, and moss.
Flavored Black Teas
There is a huge variety of flavored black tea. Because of this, the variety of flavors when it comes to black tea extends beyond what we discussed.
For example, a Masala Chai tea has a black tea base, but it gets flavored with cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. This creates a unique flavor profile.
Earl Grey tea is another example of a flavored black tea.
Types of Black Tea
We mentioned a few types of black tea as we discussed flavor profiles. However, we want to be sure to touch on some of the more famous varieties a little more.
We can’t miss out on discussing Lapsang Souchong a little more. This tea is the origin of all black teas and is also referred to as Zhengshan Xiaozhong.
This tea has a strong smoky profile due to getting smoked over pinewood. However, in modern times other woods might get used.
There are also some unsmoked varieties of Lapsang Souchong that have ripe fruit, sweet, and cocoa notes.
But, keep in mind that a traditional Lapsang Souchong will be smoked over pinewood.
Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey tea is a black tea blend. It gets scented with a bergamot orange essential oil. Because of this, the flavor profile is rich, deep, and strong. You also might detect light, smoky or malty notes from the background of this tea.
However, it’s also refreshing and citrusy because of the bergamot orange essential oil.
There are different varieties of Earl Grey. For example, there are caffeine-free versions and Earl Grey teas made with green tea.
Ceylon Black Tea
Ceylon black tea is the most oxidized black tea. This tea’s history starts in Sri Lanka, and the flavor profile differs from region to region because of different climates and elevations.
In the Central Province, you will likely find bright infusions with coppery tones. This tea will also be strong and have a lot of body.
In contrast, tea grown in the Southern Province will have a strong malty flavor.
Assam Black Tea
Assam black tea gets made in the Assam region of India. This tea is strong and full-bodied with a malty flavor. Assam tea commonly gets used in tea blends.
Because of this, the flavor can range from sweet and spicy to brisk and smoky. A CTC Assam tea makes a good base for chai.
Benefits of Black Tea
Like other types of tea, black tea has a range of health benefits. The biggest caution with black tea is to remember that it does have a higher caffeine content.
The length of time you steep your black tea helps determine the caffeine content. However, for example, if you look at an Earl Grey tea, six ounces contains 40 mg of caffeine after steeping for one minute.
If you steep it for three minutes, the caffeine content rises to 59 mg.
The polyphenols in black tea have antioxidant properties. This can help decrease the risk of chronic disease and improve your health.
Boost Heart Health
Another metabolite found in black tea is flavonoids. Flavonoids are good for heart health.
Black tea can also help decrease bad cholesterol and reduce blood pressure which helps boost heart health as well.
Improve Gut Health
The polyphenols and antimicrobial properties in black tea can help improve your gut health. This is an excellent benefit because your gut houses around 70 percent of your immune system. By improving your gut health you can improve your immune system.
Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Keep in mind that to reap this benefit you can’t fill your cuppa tea with sweeteners. However, black tea is a naturally unsweetened beverage that can help improve the use of insulin and reduce your blood sugar levels.
Reduce Risk of Cancer
We’ve mentioned polyphenols a couple of times, but this organic compound is pretty amazing. It could help fight cancer cells in your body.
While drinking black tea, unfortunately, will not cure cancer, it can help decrease the risk of developing it.
Because black tea has caffeine it can help improve focus. However, it also has an amino acid that increases alpha activity in the brain, L-theanine.
This can help improve your alertness and focus.
Drink a Cup of Black Tea Today
Black tea has a rich history. In modern times, there are many types of black tea this ensures that you can find one with a flavor profile you’ll fall in love with. Brew a cup today and start reaping the benefits.
Do you want to sip a piece of history? Check out our shop for Lapsang Souchong tea today.
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