Black tea generally refers to tea whose leaves are heavily oxidized and fermented. It is generally stronger in flavor than other varieties of tea (such as green, white and oolong teas) and generally contains higher caffeine content.
Black tea is not black when poured. The name refers to the color of the leaves, which are black. When poured, Black tea has a dark amber color.
Black tea is able to preserve its flavor for several years - and in the case of Pu-erh Tea, fifty years. Its ability to maintain its flavor has meant that historically, it has been used for trading purposes.
Black tea accounts for around 90% of all tea sold worldwide today.
Varieties of black tea
Black teas are usually named after its region of produce. All varieties of black tea contain a similar level of caffeine. Their taste can vary, but generally black teas are full-bodied and robust.
Some of the more well-known varieties include:
Darjeeling: From the Darjeeling region in India, Darjeeling tea is known as the "champagne of teas". It is known for its spicy and muscatel (grape-like) taste, with the latter one of Darjeeling tea's most famed qualities.
Earl Grey: A black tea blended with bergamot oil, it is the world's most popular tea.
Processing of black tea
Black tea is firstly harvested, and then the leaves are withered using blown air.
Black tea is then processed either through crush and curl (CTC), which is when the leaves are processed en-masse using giant rollers with teeth, or orthodox processing where each leaf is curled separately. Only high-quality tea is processed by hand.
The leaves are then oxidized under controlled temperature and humidity conditions.
When the desired level of oxidation has been reached, the leaves are fired to halt the oxidation process.
The leaves are finally sorted into grades according to their size, using with the use of sieves. The sizes are, from largest to smallest: whole leaf, broken leaf, fanning and dust.
Health benefits of black tea
Black tea is a rich source of antioxidants, which have been linked with cancer prevention, decreased heart disease and lowered cholesterol.
Black tea is rich with antioxidants called polyphenols - or tannin - which is known to prevent damage to cells. Damage to body cells is an early sign of cancer. Tannin is known for its ability to help DNA cells reproduce accurately, thus preventing abnormalities from forming.
More information on black tea varieties
The following pages contain detailed information on many types of black tea, including the characterestics, health benefits and preparation methods of each: