Black tea results from the full oxidation of the bud and first two leaves of the tea plant. Like green and white teas, a high quality black tea is picked early in the spring and contains a high ratio of bud-to-leaf. Unlike other teas, leaves destined for black tea production are brought down the mountain and spread thickly on the ground or in troughs where they will wither for up to 18 hours. Withering drives moisture out of the leaf and begins the conversion of delicate “juices” within the leaf into more complex liquoring compounds. The oxidation begins at this stage and continues into the rolling process. After being sorted by size, the withered leaves will be twisted, compressed, and turned multiple times, breaking down cell walls and allowing enzymes to mix with polyphenols. This brings more compounds into contact with the air and special oxidation chambers are then used to feed oxygen through thin layers of rolled leaves. Once the tea master determines oxidation is complete and the flavors and aromas properly developed, the leaves will be dried, cooled, and packaged for sale.
Grown and produced similarly all over the world, black tea is graded and sold by its size of leaf and point of origin. High quality black teas are of whole leaf with “tips” or leaf buds included and labeled “Flowery Orange Pekoe” (FOP). Names like: Assam, Darjeeling, Yunnan, and Ceylon refer to the region where the tea was grown.
Black Tea: 3-5 minutes