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Understanding the Characteristics that Make Dark Tea Blends Appealing
Believe it or not, black tea comes from the same plant as green. The darker color, stronger taste and higher caffeine content of black blends come from a processing method that includes both drying and oxidizing.
The many types of dark tea come from various parts of the world. Varieties such as Lapsang Souchong, Yunnan and Keemun hail from China while Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon and Nilgiri come from India. Africa is known for its Kenyan teas. Each has its own flavor profile ranging from strong and malty to light and bright. However, there's more to choosing a black tea than just deciding on a flavor. Getting the best possible cup of tea requires attention to several details.
Assess Leaves for Freshness
Loose tea leaves should be as whole as possible and have a luster that suggests freshness. Though black blends retain their flavor in storage for longer than green, a dull leaf is a sign of stale tea. Leaves should give off a full fragrance with no hint of burning or any "off" odors.
Examine the Brew
After making a cup or pot of tea, look closely at the resulting color. Black tea should be a rich, red shade that's clear and not cloudy with a bit of a shine. The darker the color, the higher the grade of tea and the more flavor it will have. This is why choosing whole leaves is so important. Broken, low-grade leaves don't impart as much taste, resulting in a bland brew that you can't truly enjoy.
Before tasting the tea, smell it as you did with the leaves. It should also have a full-bodied scent that doesn't diminish significantly as the tea cools. A smell that doesn't linger could be indicative of an artificial flavoring method rather than an authentic black blend.
Be Mindful of Taste
Tea tasting can be likened to wine tasting in that it should be undertaken with care and attention. Every type of tea has a unique flavor, with darker teas leaning toward rich and full with overtones of smokiness or malt. There should be no hint of bitterness or unusual flavors; the true essence of the tea should be all that comes through.
Sip the tea carefully and swirl it around in your mouth. This brings the brew to all the different parts of your tongue, allowing you to experience every aspect of the taste. Don't be afraid to hold the tea in your mouth for a while and truly savor it.
Gourmet black blends of tea such as those offered by Tea Forté are more enjoyable when you take the time to check each characteristic of the leaves. The fresher, fuller and more aromatic the tea, the better the final brew will be and the more you'll be able to enjoy it with your meal or snack of choice.