If a English friend says “black tea” to you, don’t get mixed up with dark tea. He means hong cha (black tea). Rumor has it that the reason for this mix-n-match in names is because the west emphasizes the color of the dry leaves while the Chinese name comes from the color of the liquor. Black tea has a warm property. It helps with digestion, preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease. Drinking aged black tea could help with asthma. Drinking black tea is good for the body as well as the mind.
Black tea is fully oxidized. There are many black tea lovers around the world, making it the most popular tea in the world.
Black tea has 4 basic steps: wither, rolling, oxidizing, and drying. Withering is an important step. There are two ways to wither the tea leaves: natural withering and heat withering. The duration and the level of oxidation depends on the withering, the season, and the condition of tea leaves.
Oxidation is the key step in deciding the quality of a black tea. The oxidation promotes enzymatic browning of the polyphenols in the leaves, resulting in various oxidation products such as thearubigin and theaflavin. This gives the black tea its unique flavour.
Black tea has bright red liquor because of it’s complete oxidation.
Black tea has a rich, brisk taste with hints of sweetness. It can have ripened fruit notes, longan berry notes, or smokiness. The taste of black tea works well with milk, making it smooth and soft.
Basic types of black tea
Xiao Zhong Hong Cha (小种红茶, xiao zhong black tea):
Zhengshan Xiao Zhong (Lapsang Souchong), Yan Xiao Zhong, etc.
Gong Fu Hong Cha (功夫红茶, gongfu black tea):
Qimen (keemun) Gong Fu, Dian Hong Gong Fu, Yi Hong Gong Fu, Chuan Hong Gong Fu, Min Hong Gong Fu, Hu Hong Gong Fu, Yue Hong Gong Fu, etc.
CTC black tea：
Dust, Pekoe dust, Broken Orange Fannings, Pekoe Fannings One
Xiao Zhong Hong Cha:
- Look: tight and sturdy.
- Color: dark with luster, rich red liquor.
- Aroma: high and lingering with pine wood notes.
- Liquor color: thick, deep golden.
- Taste: rich with dry longan berry taste.
- Brewed leaves: thick and smooth, bronze color.
Gong Fu Hong Cha:
- Look: tight and slim, uniform means better quality. Loose and big leaves are lower quality.
- Color: dark with luster is good. Uneven color, dull, grey leaves are lower quality.
- Aroma: rich and complex is good. Unpleasant aroma, grassy, low aroma profile is lower grade.
- Liquor color: red and rich liquor with a golden ring in the cup is good. Less bright or cloudy liquor is lower grade.
- Taste: Rich and complex is good. Bitter and astringent is lower grade. Rough, light in taste is low grade.
- Brewed leaves: bright is good, non uniform color is lower grade, deep dull leaves are low grades.
CTC black tea:
- Look: uniform in shapes matching each grades quality requirements.
- Color: dark with luster with red tones.
- Aroma: high grades have a high aroma profile, with fruity, floral notes, resembling jasmine sweetness.
- Liquor color: red and bright. Dull and cloudy is lower grade.
- Taste: rich, strong, bold is good. Light in taste is lower grade.
- Brewed leaves: red and bright is good, dull and mixed color is lower grade.