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The History and Varieties of a Full-Bodied Brew
Though all of the types of tea labeled as black come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, each offers a different flavor thanks to its origins, the processing method and special flavors that are infused in the leaves during production. Discover all that the blends available at Tea Forte have to offer and the best ways to enjoy them.
A Brief History of Dark Teas
More than one legend exists to explain the origins of black tea. One hails from the time of the Ming Dynasty and claims that a shift from compressed tea cakes to loose leaves prompted a change in processing that led to the discovery of the fermentation that creates black blends. Another says that soldiers passing through the village of Tong Mu stopped green tea production and piled up the leaves, which then oxidized and turned black.
A more practical explanation states that the Chinese discovered the fermentation process that produces the full flavor of dark tea during a time of heightened tea production. These teas not only had a stronger taste than green teas; they also lasted longer in storage, making them preferable for trade.
Origins and Types
To make black tea, leaves are harvested, withered and rolled, with the highest quality types being rolled by hand. Using a controlled process, the leaves are then oxidized and dried to produce a deep color and full flavor. The final step is to sort the tea into different grades by leaf size.
Common black varieties of tea include Chinese types such as the smoky Lapsang Souchong and the fruity, aromatic Keemun. The heavy malt flavor of Assam hails from India as does the lighter, flowery Darjeeling. Nilgiri is another Indian tea with a strong taste and distinctive aroma. Ceylon tea is grown at many different altitudes in Sri Lanka to produce a wide range of flavors.
You can enjoy any of these teas as-is or as part of popular tea blends. Earl Grey is one of the most well-known with its citrusy overtones that come from the oil of the bergamot orange. English and Irish breakfast teas include a mixture of different black types of tea, usually Chinese and Indian, for a rich brew that jump-starts your morning. Chai tea gets its distinct spiciness from the addition of cloves, cinnamon and other seasonings.
Brewing and Enjoying Black Tea
Black blends contain the most caffeine out of all tea types, making them suitable substitutes for coffee in the morning. The rich flavors go well with breakfast foods as well as thick, creamy desserts and heavily spiced foods. To get the most out of every cup, steep one to two teaspoons of loose leaves or one Tea Forté pyramid infuser in just-boiled water for three to five minutes. Add honey, lemon or milk to taste and enjoy.