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Black tea is the most well-known variety of tea in the West. Known as "red tea" in China, black tea leaves are fully oxidized. In the case of most black teas, younger leaves are picked before being withered, rolled, fully oxidized, and fired. While created originally in China, black teas are now cultivated worldwide. Some of the most famous black teas come from the Indian regions of Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri as well as Sri Lanka. The use of machines is becoming more common, but the best black teas are those entirely done by hand. Machine-processed teas tend to be of lower quality and are generally used in tea bags.
The long-standing trend in black tea, taken from the British, has been to create "blends". For centuries, tea companies take various kinds of tea to create a particular flavor or character-for example, a strong breakfast tea or a delicate afternoon tea. And just like a perfume house, several older tea companies are known for their signature blends. But as the quality and character of tea harvests can vary greatly year to year, tea companies rely on the skills of tea blenders to take different teas from the year's harvest to create the same taste again and again.
However, another trend in black teas has recently taken off. The new vogue, imported from continental Europe, is estate teas, meaning teas that come from a single tea garden or estate from a particular year. Like a good wine, estate teas can capture the particular character of region and the year's weather. Because of their unique character, estate Darjeelings have gained global popularity in particular and can often be auctioned for thousands of dollars per pound. Of course, because estate teas are at the mercy of the elements, quality can vary dramatically year to year.
With both blends and estate teas, it is frequent to see black teas divided into broken leaf and full leaf categories. A broken-leaf tea consists of leaves that have purposely broken into small pieces during processing. The smaller size allows the water to extract more of the tea leaves' components in a short period of time. For this reason, broken leaf teas tend to be more brisk and higher in caffeine, making them an excellent morning teas to be paired with milk and sugar. Full leaf teas, on the other hand, tend to be more refined and gentler on the palate. While there are exceptions, like many of Assam's full leaf teas, these teas are traditionally taken later in the day without anything added.
FAMOUS CHINESE BLACK TEAS:
KEEMUN – Keemun is a high grade of the famous Keemun varietal grown in Qimen, Anhui Province. Only the delicate buds are used to make this tea which is twisted into fine gold-tipped strands. The flavours that characterise this tea are well-rounded and mellow, with hints of wine and spice
LAPSANG SOUCHONG– Renowned for its distincitve smoky flavour, Lapsang Souchong leaves are traditionally smoked over pine wood fires, using wood that comes from the surrounding valley, the smokiness slowly suffusing the leaves. The tea is dark, rich, fruity and of course - smoky. .
YUNNAN(Dian Hong) – One of the most popular and famous black teas in China, but little known outside of the country. Dian Hong has a caramel fragrance aroma and a rich, sweet, robust flavour with a hint of plum. It is a relatively new tea, only around 100 years old.
Yunnan Gold Pearl- Gold-flecked, marble-sized black tea pearls which have been hand-rolled from high-grade Yunnan Gold leaf tea into perfectly compressed spheres. Produced in the Feng Qing Mountains, Lincang, China. Flavours of plum and caramel are produced when these easy-brewing pearls are infused.
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