Black Tea Introduction/History
Posted by Susan Lutfallah on May 6, 2009
Black tea is a variety of tea that is more oxidized than the oolong, green, and white varieties – however, all four varieties are made from leaves of Camellia sinensis. Generally speaking, black tea is stronger in flavour and contains more caffeine than the less oxidized teas. Two principal varieties of the species are used: the small-leaved Chinese variety plant (C. sinensis sinensis), also used for green and white teas, and the large-leaved Assamese plant (C. sinensis assamica), which was traditionally only used for black tea.
In Chinese and Chinese influenced languages, black tea is known as “crimson tea”, which is perhaps a more accurate description of the colour of the liquid. In Chinese, “black tea” is a commonly used classification for post-fermented teas, such as Pu-erh tea. In the West, the expression “black tea” is also used to describe any cup of tea without milk (“served black”), similar to coffee served without milk or cream.
While green tea usually loses its flavour within a year, black tea retains its flavour for several years. For this reason, it has long been an article of trade, and compressed bricks of black tea even served as a form of de facto currency in Mongolia, Tibet, and Siberia into the 19th century.
The tea originally imported to Europe was either green or semi-oxidized. Only in the 19th century did black tea surpass green in popularity. Although green tea has recently seen a revival due to its purported health benefits, black tea still accounts for over ninety percent of all tea sold in the West.
Assam Black Tea
Assam is a black tea named after the region of its production; that is, Assam, India. Assam tea is manufactured specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Masters) – in fact, this tea is known for its body, briskness, malty flavour, and strong, bright color.
Assam teas, or blends containing Assam, are often sold as “breakfast” teas – for example, English Breakfast tea, Irish Breakfast tea, and Scottish Breakfast Tea are common generic names.