Black Tea - The Processing Methods & Tea Types

     Black tea derives from two different types of the camellia sinensis plant: camellia sinensis-sinensis from China and camellia sinensis-assamica from India. Camellia S.S. has smaller leaves than Camellia S.A., which has large leaves. Both are 100% oxidized. This prolonged oxidization gives the tea their darker appearance. Although the method in which black tea is processed varies from region to region, it is always withered, rolled, oxidized, and dried. There are two primary processing methods for black tea: The Orthodox Method and the CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl) Method. 

     The Orthodox Method is the most popular technique for processing black teas. After the tea leaves are picked, they are laid out to wither in the heat for up to 18 hours. This length of time will reduce the water content of the leaves, causing them to be soft and flexible. A special machine will then press and twist the rolled leaves to initiate the oxidization. When the leaves are oxidized and cut, there is a second round of oxidizing out in the open air. The level of polyphenols in the tea levels will develop during this step, as well as the flavor of the tea. The final stage is drying. This action will occur in a drying machine. After, the oxidization process will be 100% complete. 

     The CTC Method was developed when the tea bag was created in the 1950’s. This process made it so that extensive amounts of tea leaves could be cut into small pieces… tiny enough to fit into tea bags. The CTC Method is similar to the beginning and end stages of the Orthodox Method, except that there is no rolling process in the middle. Instead, the tea leaves are immediately cut, torn, and curled in a rotor-vane machine.

     Black tea is a highly versatile tea due to its varied processing methods. Listed below are the better-known black teas from China and India, some of which we offer at Hackberry Tea…

Tea Types (From China):

Lapsang Souchong: This tea is the original black tea, (read the back story here). It is also the first black tea to be introduced to the West. When Lapsang Souchong is processed, it is cooked over a fire of pine needles. This technique gives the tea its signature smoky flavor.

Keemun Mao Fang: One of the more popular black teas from China and is known as the original “breakfast tea.” It has been passed down for several generations and has a sweet and smoky flavor.

Congou: This tea became very popular in the 19th century and was the original base for the English Breakfast blend. The taste of this tea is slightly sweet, yet rich, and is often used for making kombucha.

 Tea Types (From India):

Assam: Named after the region it was developed, Assam, in India. It is known for its rich body, malty flavor, and bold color. It is often used in blended teas, especially breakfast teas, and is capable of sustaining its structure and flavor with multiple steeps.

Darjeeling: Known as the “champagne of teas.” Some may even argue that it is the world’s best black tea. It comes from the Darjeeling region of India and can vary in flavor depending on when it is harvested. The first harvest, or “flush” as it is also known, occurs in the spring and that is when the tea is most green and popular. Overall, the tea produces a flavor that is delicate, fruity, and floral.

Ceylon: This tea originates from the island nation of Sri Lanka. Due to the different altitude levels and limited space, Ceylon tea can have a variety of flavor profiles. It can be lighter in color, almost golden, with a fruity flavor, or it can be darker with a more bold taste. This tea is often used as a base for Earl Grey.

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