Drinking tea is a healthy practice as tea leaves are rich in health-giving antioxidants, catechins and polyphenols. The main types of tea are black tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea and the post-fermented pu erh tea. All the different types of tea are processed from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant.
Black Tea Benefits
Although green tea possesses more catechins, health benefits of black tea are just as amazing. Here are some of the benefits of drinking tea. Theaflavins formed during enzymatic oxidation of tea leaves in black tea help reduce LDL cholesterol in our blood, thus minimizing risk of strokes and heart attacks. Studies indicate a significant lower risk in those who drank 4 cups daily.
Studies done by cancer researchers in UCLA School Of Public Health, United States, found that flavonoids in tea reduce risk of developing lung cancer and inhibit spread of tumor cells.
Theanine, an amino acid in black tea, has been found to boost our immune system by improving the disease fighting capacity of gamma delta T cells.
Lowering of stress hormones cortisol can also be obtained by drinking 3-4 cups daily. Studies indicated less cortisol hormones in black tea drinkers after a stressful event. Theanine stimulates the brain’s production of alpha waves thus after a cup of tea, you feel relaxed and calm.
Black tea has undergone the most oxidation compared to the other teas. Traditionally known as red tea in China due to the red color of the tea liquid, the black color of the oxidized black tea leaves gives it the name black tea. Black tea can retain its flavor for many years compared to just 6 months to one year of the green tea.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fermented teas are said to be hot in nature. Thus it is good to drink black tea when you are experiencing excessive coldness of the body. Black teas are also good for the digestive system. Drink it for its anti-diarrhea properties or if you wish to relieve menstrual cramps.
Generally, black teas are given the names of the places where they are produced and often have their own distinct characteristic as well as flavors.
Types Of Black Tea
Black Tea – Some of the best black teas (not blended)
From the Fujian Province in China comes the 3 famous Gongfu red teas. The best of them is the Tanyang Gongfu tea.
Another well known Fujian tea is the Zhengshan xiaozhong (lapsang souchong tea) from Mount Wuyi. This type of tea has a strong smoky flavor from the burning pine over which it is smoke-dried. The Yin Junmei or Silver Steed Eyebrow tea is a higher grade Lapsang Souchong tea. The first few brews of the high grade lapsang souchong has a distinct dried longan fruity taste.
A famous tea from the Anhui Province in China is the Keemun tea. Keemun black tea has a fruity aroma with delicate traces of pine, dried plum and flowery taste. Tea liquid color is golden orange with a sweet and delicate aroma and no astringent taste. The Keemun Hao Ya is said to be the best grade Keemun tea. This black tea is sometimes used a black tea blend for the more expensive grade of English Breakfast Tea.
Dian Hong Yunnan Black tea from Yunnan is a high quality gourmet tea. It has more fine leaf buds, or “golden tips” compared to other black Chinese teas in its dried tea. The best grade is Yunnan Pure Gold that only has golden leaf buds and a fine red color for its tea liquor with a sweet taste. Poor quality Dian Hong has a bitter taste and has few golden leaf buds. Yunnan Gold Tea is Adagio’s premium black tea from Yunnan. It has a sweet, peppery taste with luscious soft leaves.
Assam tea got its name from the lowlands of the Assam region in India where it is produced. It has a full bodied and strong taste, a distinctively malty tea.
Darjeeling tea is another famous high quality delicate black tea from India. This thin bodied, floral and fruity tea is one of the most expensive black tea with a most unique flavor. Only about ten million kg of Darjeeling Tea is produced annually by the Darjeeling district thus making it very exclusive and expensive.
Ceylon black tea from Sri Lanka is strong and yet light with traces of crisp citrus in its aroma and flavor.
Some of the more famous black tea blends include Earl Grey tea, Irish Breakfast, Masala Chai and English Breakfast Tea.
Black Tea – Tea processing
Black tea is processed either by hand or by machines. The higher grade teas are all processed by hand.
The tea leaves are processed by first withering (reducing moisture by spreading the leaves out on troughs), then comes the rolling stage.
After the initial heavy rolling by hand or machine, the leaves are then oxidized or fermented as it is sometimes called. The oxidation process is either done in batches on the floor of a cool and humid room or in a conveyor bed with air flow. The temperature and humidity is strictly controlled as these will determine the flavor and aroma as well as the quality of the resulting tea.
Next step would be to dry the tea leaves. Drying stops the oxidation process.
The final process is sorting the leaves according to their sizes such as whole leaf, brokens, fannings or dust. Whole leaf tea belongs to the best grade especially if the leaf tips are still intact. Fannings and dust grades are normally used in tea bags.
They are now ready for packing and distribution.
Black Tea – Brewing Time
For every 180 ml of water, put in about 2.25 gms of tea or a teaspoon of black tea for every 6 oz. cup for the perfect brew. For the large leaf teas such as oolong tea and Souchongs, you can add a little more tea leaves. Freshly boiled water should be used unlike green tea, white tea or jasmine tea which needs a lower temperature water (about 85 degrees Celsius). The recommended brewing time is about 3-4 minutes for delicate tea such as Darjeeling as well as tea brewed from crushed and broken fragments of tea leaves. Whole leaf teas need a slightly longer time of 4-5 minutes for a full flavor. Tea that is steeped for too long results in a bitter taste. With each subsequent infusion, the length of steeping time can be increased by approximately 30-60 seconds. Good quality tea can be infused again up to at least 5 times.
Black Tea – Storage
Do not expose the tea leaves to moisture and light. It is best kept at room temperature in an air-tight container. A better way would be to store the bulk in a bigger tea container, keep a smaller amount in a small container for daily use. A beautiful compartmentalized bamboo tea storage box for keeping tea bags would make a useful as well as decorative piece on the kitchen shelf. Pu erh tea is an exception. You do not need to store it in air tight containers. Store it in a clean and cool place with air-flow and make sure that there are no strong odors around. Glazed ceramic containers are ideal for storing pu erh tea as they age.
Black Tea – Caffeine content
About 40-50 mg of caffeine is found in a cup of tea whereas a cup of coffee has roughly double that amount.
For whole leaf tea, less caffeine is extracted into the cup of tea when compared to a cup of crushed and broken leaves tea. Pouring away the first steeping will reduce the amount of caffeine drunk with your cup of tea, but flavor will also be affected thus the second steeping will be less strong and less flavorful than the first.
Black tea – calories
Taken plain without the addition of milk or sugar, a cup of black tea has negligible calories.