A typical power battle was in place. In the 19th century, the British Empire asserted its supremacy over the world thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Tea, a synergistic fusion of various flavors, posed a threat to the existing quo. In the 17th century, Chinese tea first made its way into the English market. Soon, local tea preferences spread to the point where the mighty British empire failed to close a trade deficit with China. Of course, the Chinese were meticulous in protecting the techniques for cultivating and processing tea. Queen Victoria, who had never been deterred, gave the order to her dependable courtiers to investigate the viability of cultivating tea in one of her colonies. The race to control the world’s tea market commenced at that point.
Black Tea Comes Into Its Own: A Brief Overview
The Bruce brothers were leading the charge to control the tea market. In Assam, Robert Bruce (not to be confused with Scotland’s 14th-century ruler Robert the Bruce) started his journey. Maniram Dewan, an Assamese aristocrat, assisted Robert in learning about the tea plants that the local Singpho people grew. Charles Alexander carried on Robert’s pioneering work of growing Assam tea for English tastes after Robert’s untimely passing. While this was going on, Lord William Bentinck established his renowned Tea Committee in 1834 to investigate the viability of tea planting in India. Mr. George James Gordon, the Committee’s secretary, was sent on a mission to China by him, and he returned with Chinese Bohea tea seeds. Bohea, a variety of black tea grown in the renowned Wuyi tea region, which also yields Lapsang Souchong, is also known as Wuyi tea (another popular black tea). After winning the First Anglo-Burmese War, Britain declared the Assam tea area to be an English protectorate in 1838. In Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri around 1850, the Chinese Camellia sinensis var. Sinensis coexisted with the indigenous Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Compared to the Chinese variety, the assamica offers more flushes (new growths within a season). Since the indigenous assamica type produced a more attractive tea, many 19th-century tea specialists referred to the introduction of the Sinensis variety as a “curse.” Fortunately, the majority of the tea grown in the aforementioned three areas was of the assamica variety, which gave rise to the stronger-flavored black tea.
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These areas now produce white, green, and oolong teas as well. The various techniques used for frying and burning the tea leaves are what distinguish green from black tea the most. Green tea leaves are never fired; they are just fried over low flames. The leaves are roasted in iron pans and then burnt over slower fires to create black tea, which results in darker leaves. It’s crucial to understand that while black tea can be manufactured from green tea, the opposite is not possible. The caffeine concentration of black teas is often higher than that of green, white, and oolong teas. They also have less in them.
Black Tea Grades: The Basics
In general, there are 4 primary grades based on flush, leaf size, and processing technique. Orange Pekoe (OP), Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP), fannings, and dustings are what they are called. Full leaves—not tips or buds—make up Orange Pekoe. You can also describe any of the four varieties as flowery, tippy, or golden. For instance, GFBOP and TGFOP respectively stand for “Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe” and “Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe,” respectively. In the language of tea, Orange Pekoe often refers to whole-leaf black tea of a middling grade (consisting of the upper two leaves and bud of the plant). In other words, “orange pekoe” refers to a classification term rather than a specific kind of citrus-flavored tea. Last but not least, dustings and fannings are broken-leaf teas, with the latter appearing as a fine tea.
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Popular Types of Black Tea & Blends
Assam Black Tea
The Assam region of India is where this tea is predominantly cultivated. A good Assam tea has a strong aroma that isn’t overwhelming. A first sip could reveal tannins and astringent characteristics. However, a smooth finish is provided by a complex aftertaste of roasted barley and creamy chocolate.
Darjeeling Black Tea
Only in Darjeeling, India is this premium black tea produced. Darjeelings from the first flush are absolute heaven. First flush Darjeelings are the first harvests of the year and produce the freshest, most aromatic teas. The assamica/Sinensis hybrids created by Lord William Bentinck and his Tea Committee in the 19th century may also be the source of modern Darjeelings. There are typically four Darjeeling flushes: the spring (February to May), the summer (May to June), the monsoon (July to September), and the autumn (October to November). The flavors of second-flush Darjeeling are highly praised by many black tea lovers. The coveted Darjeeling is also referred to as the Champagne of Tea because of its robust muscatel flavor, which is unmatched by any other tea in the world.
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Ceylon Black Tea
The Chinese Sinensis variety of tea was introduced by the British in 1824 and was the source of the first tea plants in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). By 1840, the British were flooding the island colony with Assam tea seeds. They were so effective in achieving their tea hegemony objectives that Ceylon became the top exporter of tea in the world in 1965. Black teas from Ceylon have rounded, fruity aromas with hints of chocolate.