Black Tea

Black teas are the most well known and frequently drunk, in single estate and blended forms. They go through a full fermentation process, during which the leaves turn black which gives the characteristic robust flavor.  Black tea is 100% oxidized and is highly aromatic; it is made as a broken or full leaf or as a crushed leaf which provides a more intense flavor. Nearly all the countries that produce tea make black teas; although the techniques are similar, different countries produce black tea with different flavors.
Black tea can stand to be made at close to boiling point as possible: 212 degrees F. Steep for 4-6 minutes.

Production of Black Tea
After picking, the leaves are taken into the factory and spread on a rack where they are left to wither in the air from 10 to 20 hours, depending on the wetness of the leaf. This is done under controlled temperatures ranging from 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The moisture evaporates leaving the leaves flaccid.

The withered leaves are rolled in machines for 1 to 3 hours, depending on the reduction in weight from withering. They are then broken by the machine so that their natural juices, or enzymes, are released. As they have more contact with the air, they begin to oxidize. This is done by one of two methods known as "Orthodox" or "Unorthodox" - these terms describe the machinery used. The Orthodox machine rolls the leaf, producing large leaf particles, known as grades. Unorthodox refers to teas broken by either a CTC (cut, tear and curl) or Rotovane machine. They will chop the leaf into smaller particles than those by the Orthodox method, and as they produce a quicker brewing product, they are more suited to modern market demands.

The leaves are spread out in thin layers in a cool, humid environment at temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, to further oxidize for another 3 to 4 hours. They are turned throughout this time until they appear a russet color which indicates that fermentation is complete.

The next step is to transfer them to large oven-like machines or hot air cambers to dry them. The temperature here is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit; drying time is less for leaves that have been more fully withered during the initial step. All of the moisture is evaporated and the leaf turns a dark brown or black.Then it is sorted into leaf particle sizes, by being passed through a series of wire mesh sifts into containers before being weighed and packed into chests.
The tea will be tasted to ensure the highest quality and that it has not been contaminated in any way.

Black Teas include :

Darjeeling – grown at about 7000 feet on 100 estates in the mountain area of Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas, India. It is known as the "Champagne of Teas”; the first "flushes" (pluckings) are thought to produce the best Darjeeling vintage but all of the crops are very high quality. Darjeeling has a light and delicate flavor and aroma, and it is a wonderful choice for dinner or afternoon tea.   Traditionally taken plain, it can tolerate lemon but not milk.  

First flush darjeeling - picked in April,  the Darjeeling bushes' first new shoots are the best and  much in demand. Second flush darjeeling leaves are picked between May and June and produce high quality teas with a smoother,  less astringent flavor than first flush, which some people prefer.  The leaves are darker brown and contain plenty of silvery tip.
Darjeeling Green tea is a rare tea similar to Japanese Sencha, with an exquisite aroma and delicate taste.

Assam – Assam is a major growing area of 655 estates covering the Brahmaputra valley in India, that spreads from the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal. This area is also the birthplace of tea production in India, and really for anywhere else outside of China. There is high rainfall here that can reach 12 inches a day during the monsoon season and the temperature can rise to 200F which, with the high humidity, is perfect for growing tea here. Assam tea has a flecked brown and gold leaf called "orange" when dried. It is robust, with a smooth, malty aroma; great as the first cup of tea of the day. There is also an Assam Green tea with an unusual light, almost sweet liquor.

First flush assam tea bushes start growing in March and the first flush is picked for 8 to 10 weeks. They produce an excellent quality tea with a strong fresh flavor.
Second flush assam begins in June and goes through September. It is the best of the season, producing a rich aroma, a clear dark red liquor and a strong malty taste. 

Ceylon – this is a delicate and fragrant tea from Sri Lanka; the finest is grown above 4,000 feet and will be indicated by the words “high grown.” The three famous growing regions are Dimbula, Uwa and Nuwar Eliya. The teas are also classified by the altitude of growth: low-grown, mid-grown, and high-grown.

Nilgiri - a region of southern India, known for its high-grown black tea. Due to the tropical location, it produces nearly four times as much tea as Darjeeling even though the growing area is only slightly larger. Nilgiri's best tea is produced between monsoons, which falls between  December and March. They are often used as base in making Chai.

Keemun -  this is a  lesser-known fine black tea from the Qimen region of the Anhui Province in China. A relatively new variety, first produced at the end of the 19th century, it is a 'gonfu' tea, which means that it is made with refined skill to produce the thin tight strips of leaf without breaking the leaves. The leaves give a rich brown brew, which is lightly scented. It has a subtle and complex nature, and because of this is referred to as the "burgundy of teas". It is a mellow tea that can be taken plain as well as with sugar and/or milk. Avoid using lemon however, as the combined tastes of the “winey” tea flavor with the citrus will be too tart. The finest varieties include Keemun Mao Feng and Keemon Hao Ya.

Yunnan - The Yunnan region in south west China  is where tea cultivation began; Yunnan is a black tea with a rich malty flavor similar to Assam teas, and is best drunk with milk. The black variety of Yunnan makes an excellent breakfast tea, and tastes similar to Keemun. The finest variety of this tea, with wavy amber colored leaves, is called Yunnan Gold.

Earl Grey – this is a great favorite in Europe, and has a characteristic citrus flavor due to the addition of bergamot (orange oil). Earl Grey (1764-1845) was actually the prime minister of England under William IV, but seems to be better remembered for the tea named after him. It is the second most popular tea in the world today; a smoky tea with a hint of sweetness to it and is served plain.

Lapsang Souchong –  the finest variety of this tea comes from the hills in the north of the Fujian province; it is a very pungent China tea that you will either love or hate, with a strong smoky aroma and tarry flavor due to it being prepared over pine wood fires. It is perhaps the most well know of china tea, although it might be a bit overwhelming for a tea party..

English Breakfast – despite its’ name, this is another classic black China tea that can be drunk at any time of the day. It is the most popular of all teas, the prototype of which was developed over a hundred years ago by the Scottish Tea Master, Drysdale, in Edinburgh. It was then known simply as "Breakfast Tea", and because of Queen Victoria’s interest in all things Scottish, it became extremely popular in England. Patriotic tea shops in London, soon changed the name to English Breakfast Tea. It is a blend of fine black teas, often including some Keemun tea, and should be offered with milk or lemon. 

Irish Breakfast - because of its robust flavor, this is usually drunk only in the morning, served with lots of sugar and milk. Most often it is blended from an Assam tea base.

(Russian) Caravan – an excellent tea created in imperial Russia from the teas brought overland by camel from Asia. It is usually a combination of China and India black teas and can be taken both morning and afternoon.  It is served with milk and sugar; the Russians often add honey and jam.

Sikkim - this is a high grade tea growing on the top plateau of the Himalayas. It tastes similar to Darjeeling, with ample body and a slightly fruity flavor.  Drink it plain, in the afternoon.

Dooars  - a region of India lying between Darjeeling and Assam, Dooars teas are mostly low-grown and subject to monsoon conditions. They are less flavorful and pungent than Assams, and usually used in blends. The Good Hope Estate produces a bold and flavorful cup that is best suited for morning.

Golden Needle - a black tea from the northern part of the Fujian province of China. This is a splendid variety grown in the mountainous which provide a perfect natural environment for the growing of tea. Golden Needle is among the most flavorful black teas, with a full body and wonderful aroma.

Golden Monkey – this is from the Fujian province of China and is among the finest black teas available, being hand-processed with a careful plucking of only one leaf and one bud.

Ning Hong Jin Hao - produced in the Jiangxi province west of Fujian, this is one of premium black teas from China. With  very fine and slender leaves with prominent golden tips, it produces a bright cup with a full body and sweet aroma.