Black tea is a type of tea that is more oxidized than oolong, green, and white teas. Black tea is generally stronger in flavour than the less oxidized teas. All four types are made from leaves of the shrub (or small tree) Camellia sinensis. Two principal varieties of the species are used – the small-leaved Chinese variety plant (C. sinensis var. sinensis), used for most other types of teas, and the large-leaved Assamese plant (C. sinensis var. assamica), which was traditionally mainly used for black tea, although in recent years some green and white teas have been produced.
In Chinese and the languages of neighbouring countries, black tea is literally translated as "red tea" (Chinese 紅茶 hóngchá, pronounced ; Japanese 紅茶 kōcha; Korean 홍차 hongcha, Bengali লাল চা Lal cha, Assamese ৰঙা চাহ Ronga sah), a description of the colour of the liquid. In contrast, the English term black tea refers to the colour of the oxidized leaves. In Chinese, the literal translation "black tea" of the Chinese term 黑茶 (translated into English as dark tea) is a commonly used classification for post-fermented teas, such as Pu-erh tea. Outside China and its neighbouring countries, the English term red tea more commonly refers to rooibos, a South African herbal tea.
While green tea usually loses its flavor within a year, black tea retains its flavour for several years. For this reason, it has long been an article of trade, and compressed bricks of black tea even served as a form of de facto currency in Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia into the 19th century. Although green tea has recently seen a revival due to its purported health benefits, black tea still accounts for over ninety percent of all tea sold in the West.
In Canada, the definition of blended black tea is a blend of two or more black teas of the leaves and buds of Camellia sinensis that contain at least 30 percent water-soluble extractive, with 4 to 7 percent ash. Unblended black tea contains at least 25 percent water-soluble extractive, with 4 to 7 percent ash. Packaging of black tea is based on the packaging guidelines from the country of origin.
Generally, unblended black teas are named after the region in which they are produced. Often, different regions are known for producing teas with characteristic flavors.
Black tea is often blended and mixed with various other plants in order to obtain a beverage.
Masala chai has been widely recognised and adapted in the West by the locals to their liking since its introduction by the British East India company, with changes in the ingredients and the method of preparation more suited to western consumers.
The tea is then ready for packaging.
Black tea is usually graded on one of four scales of quality. Whole-leaf teas are the highest quality, with the best whole-leaf teas graded as "orange pekoe." After the whole-leaf teas, the scale degrades to broken leaves, fannings, then dusts. Whole-leaf teas are produced with little or no alteration to the tea leaf. This results in a finished product with a coarser texture than that of bagged teas. Whole-leaf teas are widely considered the most valuable, especially if they contain leaf tips. Broken leaves are commonly sold as medium-grade loose teas. Smaller broken varieties may be included in tea bags. Fannings are usually small particles of tea left over from the production of larger tea varieties, but are occasionally manufactured specifically for use in bagged teas. Dusts are the finest particles of tea left over from production of the above varieties, and are often used for tea bags with very fast and harsh brews. Fannings and dusts are useful in bagged teas because the greater surface area of the many particles allows for a fast, complete diffusion of the tea into the water. Fannings and dusts usually have a darker colour, lack of sweetness, and stronger flavor when brewed.
Generally, 4 grams of tea per 200 ml of water. Unlike green teas, which turn bitter when brewed at higher temperatures, black tea should be steeped in water brought up to 90–95 °C. The first brew should be 60 sec., the second brew 40 sec., and the third brew 60 sec. If your tea is of high quality, you can continue to brew by progressively adding 10 sec. to the brew time following the third infusion (note: when using a larger tea pot the ratio of tea to water will need to be adjusted to achieve similar results).
Standard black tea brewing
A cold vessel lowers the steep temperature; to avoid this, always rinse the vessel with +90 °C water before brewing.
The more delicate black teas, such as Darjeeling, should be steeped for 3 to 4 minutes. The same holds for broken leaf teas, which have more surface area and need less brewing time than whole leaves. Whole-leaf black teas, and black teas to be served with milk or lemon, should be steeped 4 to 5 minutes. Longer steeping times makes the tea bitter (at this point, it is referred to as being "stewed" in the UK). When the tea has brewed long enough to suit the drinker's taste, it should be strained before serving.
The ISO Standard 3103 defines how to brew tea for tasting.
The biggest producers of black tea in the world are:
Plain black tea without sweeteners or additives contains caffeine but negligible quantities of calories or nutrients. Some flavored tea with different herbs added may have less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. Black teas from the Camellia sinensis tea plant contain polyphenols known as thearubigins and theaflavins.
Meta-analyses of observational studies have concluded that black tea consumption does not affect the development of oral cancers in Asian or Caucasian populations, esophageal cancer or prostate cancer in Asian populations, or lung cancer. Black tea consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of stroke. A 2013 Cochrane review of randomized controlled trials greater than 3 months duration concluded that long-term consumption of black tea only slightly lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressures (about 1-2 mmHg). A 2013 Cochrane review concluded that long-term black tea consumption lowers the blood concentration of LDL cholesterol by 0.43 mmol/L (or 7.74 mg/dL), but overall this research remains inconclusive.