Black tea originates from China and was introduced to India and Sri Lanka by merchants in the 19th century. Also known as fermented tea in China, black tea is made from the leaves of the shrub Camellia sinensis after the processes of withering, rolling, fermenting and drying. It is much more oxidized and stronger in flavor than green tea and white tea. Actually, the soup of black tea is red, however, its oxidized leaves are black, hence its name.
Generally speaking, black tea is processed in two ways in China, CTC (crush, tear and curl) and orthodox; each has its own style and both go through the following four processes.
The newly-picked tea leaves are first withered by blowing air onto them until their veins are transparent.
The withered leaves will be rolled into strips either by a rolling machine or by hand. The rolling machine process results in a mixture of whole leaves, broken leaves and fine particles. The hand process is used for producing high-quality tea, which is highly valued by tea tasters and blenders.
As the most important step in making black tea, fermentation refers to the process where rolled leaves are oxidized under a suitable temperature and humidity for five to six hours, after which the leaf veins turn reddish-brown owing to the oxidizing action.
The newly-fermented leaves are supposed to be baked at a temperature of about 80°C for six hours or so, and can be packed after they cool down.
Black tea is planted in different provinces of China and has many varieties but there are three main types: Xiaozhong black tea, Gongfu black tea and Broken black tea.
Xiaozhong Black Tea
As the oldest black tea of China, Xiaozhong black tea is further divided into Zhengshan Xiaozhong and Waishan Xiaozhong, of which the former is planted in Tongmuguan, Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province, and it’s divided into an oriental flavor and a Western flavor. Waishan Xiaozhong is planted in Zhenghe, Tanyang, Gutian and Shan counties of Fujian Province.
Gongfu Black Tea
Gongfu black tea is native to China. Gongfu has two meanings, one of which refers to the fact that more effort is supposed to be made in the infusion of black tea, and the other refers to the fact that you should take your time to fully enjoy the tea. Gongfu black tea has many varieties, each of which has its own unique flavor and is often named after the region where it’s produced, and below are the famous brands of Gongfu black tea for your reference.
Qimen Gongfu Black Tea
Qimen Gongfu black tea originates from Qimen County of Anhui Province, featuring an orange-red soup, sweet fruity flavor and orchid fragrance. Its major brands include Qixiangyuan, Likou and Sirun.
Dianhong Gongfu Black Tea
Dianhong Gongfu black tea is mainly distributed in Lincang, Baoshan and Fengqing of Yunnan Province, and it features golden buds and darker tea leaves. The brands include Yunnan Gold and Yunnan Pure Gold.
Minhong Gongfu Black Tea
Minhong Gongfu black tea is composed of Zhenghe Gongfu, Tanyang Gongfu and Bailin Gongfu. Zhenghe Gongfu tea originates from Zhenghe, Fujian Province; Tanyang Gongfu tea is distributed in Fu’an, Zherong, Shouning, Xiapu and Zhouning of Fujian Province; and Bailin Gongfu tea is planted in Fuding of Fujian Province.
Huhong Gongfu Black Tea
Huhong Gongfu black tea is widely planted in Anhua, Changsha, Lianyuan, Liuyang, Taoyuan, and Pingjiang of Hunan Province.
Ninghong Gongfu Black Tea
Ninghong Gongfu black tea is produced in Xiushui, Wuning and Tonggu of Jiangxi Province.
Chuanhong Gongfu Black Tea
Chuanhong Gongfu black tea is mainly distributed in Yibin and Ya’an of Chongqing Province and Chongqing, and the famous brand is Liuhemingju.
Yihong Gongfu Black Tea
Yihong Gongfu black tea is mainly planted in Yichang and Enshi of Hubei Province, with Yiyanghong Gongfu as its highlighted brand.
Yuehong Gongfu Black Tea
Yuehong Gongfu black tea is planted in Shaoxing, Zhuji and Sheng counties of Zhejiang Province on a large scale.
Fuliang Gongfu Black Tea
Fuliang Gongfu black tea originates from Jingdezhen of Jiangxi Province. Jingdezhen was called Fuliang in ancient times.
Xianghong Gongfu Black Tea
Xianghong Gongfu black tea refers to the tea planted in Shimen, Cili, Sangzhi and Dayong of west Hunan Province.
Taiwan Gongfu Black Tea
Taiwan Gongfu black tea refers to tea produced in Wenshan, Taibei of Taiwan, and the brands are highlighted by Chiyue black tea and Riyuetan (Sun Moon Lake) black tea.
Yuehong Gongfu Black Tea
Yuehong Gongfu black tea originates from Chao’an of Guangdong Province, with its famous brands highlighted by Yingde black tea and Guiling black tea.
Tieguanyin Black Tea
Tieguanyin black tea is produced in Huangbo Village, Lantian Town, Anxi County of Fujian Province.
Broken black tea is widely planted in Yunnan Province, Guangdong Province, Hainan Province and Guangxi Province, and it’s mainly grown for export. Broken black tea is classified into various types according to its shape, including tablet tea, fanning tea and dust tea.
Black tea is a tasteful beverage with potential health benefits. You’ll wind up with a tea that's too bitter and strong to drink if you're not familiar with the basic techniques. Here are five steps to make a perfect cup of black tea.
Before making a cup of black tea, you’re supposed to get a clean tea set (such as a kettle and cups), tea and water prepared.
Measuring Out the Water and Tea into the Cup/Kettle
Measure out the desired amount of black tea leaves (3 to 5 grams) and put them in the cup. If a kettle is used, you’re advised to infuse 80% of the water into the kettle.
Boiling Water and Pouring it into the Cup/Kettle
Boil water, and pour it into the cup; if a kettle is used, you should put the tea into the kettle (on a pro rata basis, usually 1:50) after the water has boiled.
Observing the Color and Smelling the Fragrance
Steep the tea leaves for 2 to 3 minutes; then you’re highly advised to observe the red soup and smell its fruity fragrance.
As the tea cools down, you can fully enjoy its delicious taste.