Black Tea Basics

The most widely consumed tea type in the world from awful teabags to sublime brews.

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Black tea is one of those tea types that tends to be left on the side of the road as people embark on their true tea journey.

I think that this is because there is so much poor quality black tea made to satisfy the commodity market that it becomes associated for many people with low quality tea. This could not be further from the truth! Sure there are boat loads of basic Black tea out there but the really high quality stuff occupies a rarefied atmosphere of some of the finest teas on Earth.

Black tea is made by oxidising the leaf almost completely (a leaf is never 100% oxidised but Black tea is usually over 90%). This is achieved by rolling the leaf before heating.

With all other tea types, any rolling happens after heating. Rolling before means that the cell walls holding all the leaves' precious compounds become broken and the tea juices become exposed to the air and begin to oxidise.

The rolling of the leaves is usually done with small batch machines which rub the leaves over ridged surfaces but the top echelon tea is hand rolled which is so time consuming but keeps the delicate leaves perfectly whole.

The commodity Black tea is mulched up using a CTC machine which produces tea destined for blending and tea bags and should be avoided unless you are planning on adding milk or sweeteners.

There is a story that back in the day the British tea importers did a deal with the dairy and sugar head honchos to ensure that the tea was astringent and bitter enough that it would combine well with milk and sugar! I have no idea if this has any truth but everyone likes a good conspiracy theory!

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