We don't want to confuse anyone: what we know as black tea at home is called red tea in China! They also have their black tea, but it's a different type of matured tea.
In Chinese, “Hong Cha", in literal translation means red tea and tea leaves that have undergone the complete oxidation process (blackened) are called that.
The color of the finished drink is reddish, which is why this type of tea was named so in the homeland of "black tea". The first European merchants, on the other hand, named it black tea based on the dark color of the dry leaves. (The poor were not properly informed)
Black tea at home
In our country, black tea is typically filtered, so-called CTC (crush, tear and curl) teas have spread (flavored or unflavored). The teas handed down to us from British-Indian history can still be called black teas. The term "red tea" is used by those who wish to refer to the tea plant's "original", Chinese culture (Chinese and Taiwanese) teas. From now on, for the sake of Google searches and common language, we will keep the term black tea and only use the Chinese translation in professional circles! 🙂
The black teas mostly made with the CTC process, in mass production, mainly tuned for consumption with milk, typically come from the tea plantations of India, Sri Lanka, Kenya (etc.) and account for the majority of the world's tea production. With the fast but intensive oxidation process, approx. in a couple of hours, the tea is actually rather black in color and brewed, with a monotone, one might say - without flavoring - rough tasting tea.
The Chinese also have a lot of mass-produced tea, but there are also a large number of small manufactories or small and large factories that preserve the traditional and complicated, multi-step method of making good red tea that requires a lot of expertise and patience.
In such places, great emphasis is placed on premium-quality, fresh ingredients, and this can absolutely be felt in the taste. These teas should only be consumed on their own and should preferably be prepared using traditional means.
A brief history of black tea
In China, tea was primarily the favorite drink of emperors and the court. (In Europe, it was first consumed by kings)
Several tea gardens and many people served the needs of the nobility.
The so-called "tribute tea" was first steamed green tea pressed into blocks, and then in the 14th century, the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty - referring to the excessive labor demand - stopped this processing custom and ordered the delivery of tribute teas in fiber form.
Many former "government employees" started their own cultivation on small plots in the Wuyi Mountains with the help of the local Buddhist monks. Monks from Songluo Mountain (Anhui Province) discovered a new way to stop the oxidation of leaves: wok-frying.
This method gave green teas a pleasant toasted taste and soon began to spread everywhere and began to displace steaming, which is still used in Japan today.
These innovative small plants soon discovered that a longer oxidation of leaves before bakingwith them, they can bring out a very complex and even more interesting flavor from the leaves - offsetting the mild rawness of green tea.
This gave rise to the oolong (wulong) type and then, with further oxidation, to the black tea type, and this was favorably received by European traders, who began to compete for these diverse and increasingly popular Chinese teas in their countries.
Tea first arrived in Europe at the beginning of the 17th century by Dutch traders. Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (translated: "Zheng Mountain Small Leaf Variety"), meaning "Lapsang Souchong" in the Cantonese "port" dialect, is a more valuable, popular black tea from Mount Wuyi, which is still the case today.
You can find our Wuyi mountain black teas here:
Is black tea smoky?
Unfortunately, the "smoky horror" version is a modern bastard.
The original version has a slight smokiness and is becoming rarer with the advent of electric drying ovens. (of course you can find it here... 😀 ) The non-smoked version can even have a special, fruity, spicy flavor.
The common trade name for Wuyi teas was 'Bohea'. 'Pekoe' also comes from the Cantonese dialect and means small white fluff that covers the fresh buds: the highest category tea is usually like this.
I could write at length about the very exciting history of tea, for which you might read the Wuyi tea entry on Wikipedia.
The British always tried to outwit the Chinese trade monopoly, their goal was to plant tea plants in their own Indian colonies.
With the help of a Scottish botanist Robert Fortune, seeds and seedlings were secretly smuggled out of China and the British founded the first plantations and processing plants in Darjeeling.
"The British Again"
The British taste did not settle for the more refined Chinese tea (Camellis Sinensis var. Sinensis), but wanted increasingly stronger flavors, which could best be made from the other version of the tea plant, Assamica (Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica).
The British found this by chance through the mediation of another Scotsman, Robert Bruce, as it was the national drink of a people group called Singpho, also found in India, and this gentleman found a connection here.
By the way, the Chinese tea plant version cannot withstand the hot, tropical climate like the Assamica, it dies quickly.
For more than two centuries, the exotic Chinese black tea rich in flavor and aroma, such as the Keemun (Qimen) and the Lap song Souchong (Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong) was the favorite drink of kings and noble European companies, but as Assamese tea appeared on the markets, it began to displace the Chinese version and gained more and more popularity among the common people.
How is black tea made?
The harvest begins at the beginning of April - there is a slight difference of a few weeks in each region. Only a few types of black tea are made from the tenderest, tiny buds, e.g. the "Jin Jun Mei" from Mount Wuyi.
For black teas, the more developed top 2-3 leaves are usually used.
Black teas containing both buds and leaves have a slightly sweeter taste. Teas containing only leaves are fuller and spicier. Additional pickings are also possible during the year, especially in places with a hotter climate (e.g. Taiwan), but early spring is of course the most highly rated of these.
The raw material for red tea can therefore only consist of buds, buds and leaves or only mature leaves.
Oxidation – one of the keys to black teas – is the process like when you cut an apple in half and leave it out in the air, it turns brown after a while.
This also happens with tea leaves after picking.
If they let the process go all the way through, it becomes black tea. Of course, "this and that" happens in between, shaking, spinning, drying.
Green tea can also be made from the same leaf - if the oxidation is stopped at the beginning.
Which type of tea is made in which region and from which plant depends on local customs and the cultivated version of the plant.
Some are used to make only black tea, and some are used to make several types of tea, such as oolong.
There is a lot of experimentation with this even today - just like with any other crop.
The processing process in brief:
- Leaves picked by machine or (possibly, less often by hand) are first exposed to warm air in the sun they wither, to lose its moisture content and to loosen the cell walls.
- The master tea maker then (most often with a rolling machine) stirs the tea, so that the aroma and flavors inside the leaf come to the surface. This creates a unique flavor and character. Hand-spinning is becoming increasingly rare even in China.
- Several more twists and dryings follow, during which the leaf loses its moisture content.
- The final roasting stops the oxidation process and completely dries the leaves. With this the moisture content of leaves is reduced below 5%.
- 1 kg of raw tea leaves are needed to produce 5 kg of red tea.
Look around our black teas between
Health effects of black tea
We recommend that read this article, and the site also has many useful medical articles about the effects of different types of tea on our body.
Same with black tea contains caffeine as in coffee. The term "tein" is imprecise. The differences are in absorption. This invigorating substance is absorbed more slowly from green tea and faster from black tea. It is similar to coffee in this respect.
The black tea so rather revs up, it also warms up well.
It can be a basic rule that the darker a tea is, the more warming its effect on our body.
The colder the weather, the more it rains (its consumption). But there may be individual differences in this.
"Good" black tea does not need to be flavored with sugar, honey or milk. Let's not drink "bad" things.