Black tea is the most fermented tea out of all the teas available. With a rich, black look that resembles coffee, black tea is perfect for those transitioning from the coffee world into the tea world. Black tea was originally designed strictly for export from China (where it is known as red tea, due to the red edges of the oxidized leaves), since it was considered to be of a lesser quality of tea. Thus, due to the export, it is the most popular tea outside of Asia.
Black tea goes through a nine-step process: plucking, sorting, cleaning, withering, rolling, oxidizing, drying, and sorting. After the tea leaves are picked from the Camellia sinensis plant , they are sorted according to size. Tea leaves are then cleaned of any dirt, rocks or twigs that might have been accidentally picked up with the leaves. After all, no one wants to drink tea with bits of dirt in it!
The leaves are only dried slightly, so that their moisture content goes from 70-80% to about 60-65%. This allows the leaves to be soft enough to roll without tearing the leaves. Depending on the tea, leaves are either rolled right away or chopped and then rolled. They are then oxidized, letting the leaves brown with a red tip. Next, they are cooled and dried, leaving only 3% of the water content in the leaves. Finally, the product is sorted according to grade. Note that grade does not communicate quality of tea – it only indicates the size of the tea leaves.
Just like most teas, black tea creates a calming, soothing effect. Something about the warmth of the cup in your hands when it is raining or snowing outside just brings inner peace. It is also believed that black tea can lower blood pressure.
Black teas also greatly help the heart. It acts as a gentle stimulant for both the heart and the whole circulatory system. It also helps prevent build-ups in the arteries and veins that could potentially cause strokes or heart attacks. This great beverage also helps to prevent the intake of cholesterol in the blood stream.
Black tea is rumored to help with weight loss. Certain varieties are rumored to help with digestion as well.
Black tea has a rather hot brewing temperature – 190 – 212 degrees. Depending on the tea, the temperature will need to be adjusted. A typical brewing time is 3-4 minutes. If brewed for longer, the tea will tend to have more caffeine and start getting a very bitter taste. However, a typical cup of black tea has about 20% the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. The release of the caffeine differs as well. While a cup of coffee gives one a jolt of caffeine with the stereotypical crash at the end, a cup of black tea does a slow release and allows the drinker to have a gentle stream of caffeine through the day.
If you are a coffee drinker, then black tea should be an easy transition to go to. Some teas might be a bit more of a pleasant surprise due to the different aftertaste. However, for those who are just dabbling in tea and do not drink coffee, keep far away! It is a tasty beverage that will take some time to get used to due to its strong taste and bitterness.