Black Teas

Black tea is the term used to describe a variety of tea that undergoes a more extensive oxidation process than green, oolong and white teas. All four of these tea varieties are actually made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, with black tea generally exhibiting a stronger flavor and containing more caffeine than the other varieties.

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In China and other counties with a similar linguistic culture, tea commonly goes by the name “crimson tea”, which is a more accurate description of its colour. The name black tea is still appropriate however, since it could be used to refer to the colour of the oxidized tea leaves 茶葉推介. The term “black tea” is also commonly used in China to describe various post-fermented teas, among them Pu-erh tea. In other countries-particularly in the West-“red tea” is commonly used to describe rooibos, which is a South African herbal tea or tisane.

This tea can actually hold its flavor for up to several years, as opposed to green teas, which typically lose their flavor within a year. This is the main reason why it is a popular item of trade, and why compressed blocks of black tea have even been used as a form of currency in countries such as Mongolia, Tibet, and Siberia well into the 19th century. Black tea was even used in Tang Dynasty China as a cloth dye by the lower classes who could not afford the higher quality dyes available at that time.

The tea that was originally imported to Europe from China was of the green or semi-oxidized variety. It wasn’t until the 19th century that black tea overtook green tea in popularity, and while green tea has enjoyed a sort of revival in recent years due to its reported health giving benefits, black tea still reigns as one of the most popular teas around, accounting for more than ninety percent of all the tea sold in the West.

China is the homeland of Chinese tea. Tea from China, along with silk and porcelain, became known to the world over a thousand years ago and is today one of China’s most valuable exports. The Japanese adopted the habit of drinking tea in the 6th century, but it was not introduced to Europe and America until the 17th and 18th centuries.

According to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree, while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water. It is impossible to know whether there is any truth in this story, but drinking tea has been a part of Chinese culture for many centuries. In 800 A.D. a writer named Lu Yu, known as the tea sage, wrote the Tea Classic. It was shortly after this that tea was first introduced to Japan by Japanese Buddhist monks who had traveled to China to study.

People throughout China drink tea daily because of its healthful properties. Various kinds of tea are grown in the vastly differing geographic locations and climatesof China. Chinese teas generally fit into five classifications.

Green Tea
Green tea is a very lightly fermented (dried) tea that keeps its original color during processing. This category consists mainly of Longjing tea of Zhejiang Province, Maofeng of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province and Biluochun produced in Jiangsu.

Note: The term fermentation when applied to tea is something of a misnomer, as the term actually refers to how much a tea is allowed to dry. The drying may be stopped byeither pan frying, baking or steaming the leaves before they are completely dried.

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