Black tea is the classic among teas and is by far the most popular type of tea in many regions of the world. Like green tea, it comes from the tea bush Camellia sinensis. However, black tea is a fully fermented tea, which influences its colour and taste. This is because fermentation provides the typical dark colouring and a significantly lower content of tannins. This makes black tea less astringent and much smoother in taste than halboxidised or non-oxidised teas.
WHERE BLACK TEA COMES FROM
Black tea comes in countless varieties. Depending on the origin and qualities, one can see clear differences. Most black tea production comes from Sri Lanka, Darjeeling, Assam and Kenya. There are also areas in China, Turkey and Russia where black tea is grown and produced. However, these black teas mostly remain in the country of production for their own consumption.
THE HISTORY OF BLACK TEA
Black tea has been an integral part of European tea culture since the 16th century. Through the British East India Company, black tea spread from England to the whole of Europe. In Germany, it has been widespread since the 19th century and has developed into the most popular type of tea in Germany to this day. The proportion of black tea drunk here is about 73 percent - that's about 26 litres that each of us drinks a year. This is mainly due to the versatility of black tea. Not only does the taste of the different varieties differ greatly, but the infusion drink is also particularly suitable to be drunk pure, sweetened, with milk or cream, flavoured or as a basis for iced teas. With an average caffeine content of about 40 mg (this can of course vary greatly depending on the variety), black tea has a stimulating effect, but for many people it is much easier to tolerate than coffee.
BLACK TEA VARIETIES
Due to the different growing areas and harvesting times, there are a number of different varieties of black tea with completely different tastes, depths and characteristics. We would like to introduce you to the largest and best-known varieties.
Assam is a classic black tea from the region of India with the same name. With approx. 82mg, Assam has a higher caffeine content than a Darjeeling or a Ceylon. Due to its high tannin content, Assam is often used as a base for strong tea blends. While the leaves of the First Flush have a delicate, refreshing and fine aroma, the leaves of the summer harvest, the Second Flush, are particularly harmonious and full-bodied in taste.
Darjeeling is not considered the champagne of teas for nothing. In the 87 tea gardens, which are located in the north-east of India around the city of Darjeeling, the noble tea is cultivated all year round. The timing of the harvest determines the final taste of the black tea. The First Flush has a particularly fine, flowery and tangy-fresh taste. The Second Flush, on the other hand, has a much more full-bodied aroma. Finally, the leaves of the autumn harvest are characterised by their mild aroma and a slightly bitter taste in the finish. The hillside location of the plantations makes it essential to harvest the black tea exclusively by hand. One kilo of first flush tea requires 12,000 leaves, whereas one kilo of Assam tea requires only about 4,000 leaves.
Ceylon is also a tea that gets its name from its growing region. Although the country is now called Sri Lanka, black and green tea grown there is still called Ceylon tea. The three major tea growing areas in Sri Lanka are Uva, Dimbula and Nuwara Eliya. The predominant tea plant in Sri Lanka is the "Camellia Sinensis Assamica". This has particularly large, strong leaves, is more robust than other types of tea, has a higher caffeine content than Darjeeling and a strong, spicy flavour.
Earl Grey is, of course, not a black tea variety in its own right, but a flavoured blend that is, however, already one of the classics of black tea. Originally, Earl Grey was made from Chinese black teas and bergamot oil, and is particularly popular in Great Britain. The bergamot oil gives the tea a unique, slightly fruity flavour.
East Frisia has by far Germany's most passionate and best-known tea culture. After all, with about 300 litres of tea per capita per year, about 11 times as much tea is drunk there as in the rest of the country. The typical East Frisian tea is a blend of more than 10 different black teas. The blend contains mainly Assam and Ceylon, but also Darjeeling and African black teas. A typical East Frisian tea has a strong and tangy taste.
PREPARATION OF BLACK TEA
The dosage of black tea depends entirely on the variety and the method of preparation. In general, it is recommended to use about 2 grams of tea for each cup (250 ml). With strong varieties such as Assam, a little more can be used - here, about 12 g of tea per litre of water is an ideal amount. Of course, personal taste is always decisive and the dosage should be adjusted accordingly.
The quality of the water has a much more decisive influence on the taste of the finished black tea than many initially believe. If the water is rich in minerals and hard, it is advisable to choose a black tea with a high tannin content. Since the tannins are dissolved by the minerals, it tastes milder. Softer water, on the other hand, is more suitable for light highland teas. In general, if you are not sure of the hardness of the water, it is advisable to use a filter.
In general, black tea is best brewed with a water temperature of 90 °C to 95 °C.
Time to dispel a well-known black tea misconception: the brewing time has no influence on the calming or stimulating effect of black tea. In fact, the effect of the tea depends only on the tannin and caffeine content of the tea leaves. Each black tea has its own brewing time. The best way to find out is to try it out individually, but as a rule it should not be steeped for more than five minutes, otherwise it becomes bitter.
EFFECT OF BLACK TEA
Black tea can have a stimulating effect due to the caffeine it contains. However, the caffeine is much easier to digest than coffee, as the body absorbs it more slowly. The reason for this is the tannins that are bound to the caffeine. With tea, these only dissolve in the intestine. The effect is therefore delayed, but also lasts longer.