Kinds of black teas

The best description of a piping hot cup of black tea.’ Black as the devil, Hot as hell, Pure as an angel, Sweet as love’. Black teas are strong robust and very assertive. Black teas come from all the major tea growing countries.

Chinese black tea

Chinese are famous for green and oolong teas. Black teas are made from the plants and in regions that don’t produce the best of green and oolongs. Chinese black teas, much similar to their other teas, are sweet and fruity.

Some of the famous teas of China are:

Golden monkey

This tea was mainly developed for export. Rather new, but has a cult like following in the west. This comes from the Saowu near the coast in the Fujian province. This is a light tea slightly sweet and with the aroma of mild rose and apricots. It is made of an inch long twisted leaves that are a mixture of about 75% darker brown leaves and 25% golden tips.

Panyong Golden Needle

This tea is from Panyong town and the surrounding region in northeastern Fujian province. Made of flat, shiny needle like leaves, with many golden tips. It is a medium dark tea with strong flavour of nuts and a has a fruity top note.

Keemun Mao Feng

This is the most famous black tea from China. Made of long skinny leaves of which many end in golden tips. It is a light and sweet tea with hints of chocolate. The sweetness is due to the fact that the leaves are harvested earlier in spring than normal. Which results in these leaves containing more polyphenols and amino acids. This tea is grown in the region around the Qimen town, near the Yellow Mountains and the Yangtze River.

Yunnan black tea

This tea comes from a remote region of China bordering Laos and Burma. Made of slightly twisted inch long dark black leaves and golden tips. It is a medium strong tea with astringent undertones and has a earthy aroma.

Lapsang Soucong 

This is a medium heavy tea with a smoky aroma. Originally from the Wuyi Mountains, this tea is one of the oldest black teas of China. Today many varieties of this tea can be found.

Indian black teas

India is the largest producer and exporter of tea. Tea production was restricted to a few indigenous tribe of the Assam region of India, till the British developed plantations in the 1800’s to suffice the growing tea market in Europe. The tea plant growing in India is a variant of that found in China, it is the ‘Camellia sinensis var. assamica’. Due to the huge tea harvest, the production process is mechanized in India, unlike the handmade teas of China. Tea is grown in Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiri hills and in Kerala regions.

Darjeeling black teas 

Darjeeling is a town in the state of West Bengal, India, on the border of Bhutan and Nepal. In these areas, tea is harvested in three seasons, spring’s First flush, the early summer’s Second Flush and the fall’s Autumnal teas. The Darjeeling tea is considered the champagne of teas. This is the only region in India where the Chinese variety of tea ‘camellia sinensis var. sinensis’ thrive.

Most of the tea from this region is medium bodied with fruity flavours. Some of the variants are Singbulli SFTGFOP1 supreme, Margret’s Hope FTGFOP Muscatel, Himalayan tips Second Flush, Okayti DJ Autumnal FTGFOP.

Nilgiri teas 

Nilgiri, the Blue mountains, are a part of the Western Ghats mountain range in southern India. The first tea plantation here was started by the British in 1854. This region is produces vast volumes of CTC teas. The teas of this region are strong with bold aromas.

One variant is the ‘Kairbetta frost tea’ which is harvested in the months of December and January. Tea leaves grow slower in the winter concentrating the tea’s aromatic compound, and the cold weather also allows for the slow oxidization, making this tea have a attractive fruit and spicy note. Kairbetta is a medium bold, dark coloured aromatic tea.

Assam black tea

Assam is the tea basket of India. The tea plant grown here is the large leafed ‘camellia sinensis var, assamica’. This region produces large volumes of tea and at a fast rate, of just 6 weeks. Commercial tea production in Assam started in the mid 1800’s, by the British. The region is fertile with alluvial soil, with plenty of water due to heavy rains and the Brahmaputra river.

The Assam teas are brisk and strong. But due to the rush in tea production, the tea is more muted, soothing, but darker. Some of the important teas from here are Golden tip Assam, Mangalam FTGFOP, Mangalam Special of 555, Boisahabi CTC.

Ceylon black teas

Ceylon is today’s Sri Lanka, a small island nation to the south of India. The tea was introduced to this island nation by the British and commercial plantation started when the then dominant coffee crop was completely wiped out by a blight in the 1870’s.Some of the black teas found here are: New Vithanakande, Kenilworth BOP, UVA highlands Pekoe.

Kenyan black teas

Kenya has cultivated tea since the 1900’s, since the British started plantation in their colonies. Kenya is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world today. The most famous tea from Kenya is the Milima GFBOP, which is a citrusy medium full tea.

Tea blends

Lots of manufacturers today mix teas to achieve a myriad of flavors, it is a common practice to mix different kinds of teas together. Sometimes other ingredients like oils or other flavouring agents are added. Some of the famous blends are English Grey and English Breakfast.

With so many teas to savour, black tea offers the drinker with a repertoire of taste and flavor. So it is no wonder that today black tea is the most consumed form of the beverage.


The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, Michael Harney



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