What is Your Cup of Tea? (3)

With green tea as an innocent, energetic teenager, and oolong tea as a sophisticated, mature lady, there must be a father figure in the tea family; it is an assertive gentleman– Black Tea.

Black tea, which the Chinese call “red tea” because of its rich red color when properly brewed, is a fully fermented tea.  With a strong full-bodied flavor and taste, black tea is the most consumed tea in the world.  It accounts for some 70% of all production and consumption.

The process of making black tea is similar to that of making oolong tea, except that the tea is fully “fermented” by allowing the oxidation process to continue until complete.  Originally, black tea was made only in China.  But after 1830, the British successfully grew Assam tea in India, which became the world’s largest tea producer of black tea.  Black tea cultivation has since spread to Africa, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and other parts of the world.

The most famous black in China are Lapsong Souchong , Keemun, and Dian Hong.  All Chinese black teas are enjoyed without adding milk or sugar, though many Westerners often do add them.   Others enjoy their black tea with honey and lemon.

Full-bodied black tea is assertive, like a successful, vigorous gentleman.  To brew it well, the water should be near boiling point.  Relating to a vigorous, assertive gentleman is very different from relating to a teenager. It’s not just that gentlemen are unafraid of challenges; they prefer challenges.  In the someway, black tea prefers water near the boiling point.  If the water is not hot enough, many qualities of the tea do not develop.  Like a vigorous, successful gentleman, black tea is straightforward and forthcoming. Unlike oolong, which can be steeped several times with increasing subtle difference, black tea does not gradually reveal different aspects with successive steepings.  Every steeping remains the same (though it may become weaker). It is what it is, and presents itself fully from the beginning.

While a youngster can quickly lose the energy of youth, a mature person has endurance.  In the same way, green tea may lose its freshness quickly, but black tea retains its flavor for years.

In the West, most black tea is sold in the form of tea blends, a combination of teas from different areas.  This allows tailoring the blend to many different customer tastes and creates a more uniform quality.  However, blending teas creates a loss of distinctiveness of teas produced at particular time in particular areas.

In a traditional family, in addition to parent and children, to have mellow and affectionate grandparents are an added blessing.  In the tea family, there is this added blessing –- Pu-erh Tea. To be continued…..