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I thought it would be interesting to write a brief little article on the history of black tea.
It is not something that people often think about but knowing a little about how this fantastic beverage came into being should be a fun and interesting diversion.
So let us have a look at how this wonderful drink sprang to life from humble beginnings.
A Quick Look Back
The History of black tea traces back in the Chinese Ming Dynasty in 1590.
The first black tea Lapsang Souchong was produced in the region around Wuyi Mountains in Fujian province.
Initially, during this mid17th century, this tea was also called red tea.
It brought a great diversity because before, only green and oolong teas were consumed.
Leading to the introduction of the tea on Fujian province, the army from Jianxi entered and camped close to the tea factory. During this unscheduled camping, there was a delay in the production of tea.
Resulting in tea leaves laying for long periods. In the process, the tea leaves turned to dark red due to lengthy oxidation.
As a solution to the delay, a farmer decided to speed up the drying process by placing the leaves over a fire of pine wood. The results were a smoky tea which was termed as Lapsang Souchong.
It later paved the way for the growth of black tea in China and the rest of the world.
The Popularity of Black Tea
The popularity of black tea evolved back in colonial times. The planting and production of black tea extended into western countries. And into it their colonial holdings.
According to research, the Dutch were the first ones to bring black tea to Europe back in 1610. In England, it arrived in 1658. As a result, it gained fame in England’s American colonies throughout the 1700s.
As a catalyst to the consumption of tea, England enlarged its sugar imports from its Caribbean colonies. According to reports, England consumed two and a half pounds of tea to seventeen pounds of sugar per capita by the 1800s.
In the same era, another leap in the production of black tea came in the Assam region of India.
Discovery of a tea plant-camellia Sinensis assamica was made in 1823. It was a major achievement in the production of black tea because it was more hearty and produced bold black tea.
The two aspects raised the demand for black tea. After realizing the potentials in black tea, both economically and in terms of health. The English people began to plant tea gardens in India’s Darjeeling region, close to Nepal.
The diverse varieties of black tea became the exports to England because India was one of the British colonies. As similar to the start of green tea in Europe, the sales of black tea were very high.
In most cases, it was most preferred by the aristocracy in the society. as such, it was an indication of wealth and status in society.
Due to its popularity, Princess Catherine introduced black tea to the British palace. Ever since it has been recognized as a staple in Great Britain.
In the United States, it has been termed as a dream tea. The concept has attracted ninety percent of sales of black tea in total. When comparing the sales of black tea to other varieties in the United States, they are promising.
This is due to extensive scientific discoveries conducted in the United States to enhance the flavor and significance of black tea. The current studies show that black tea has very minimal negative effects on the body of the consumer.
In extending the popularity, Sri Lanka and Africa have joined China and India in the production of many marvels of black tea.
The support over the new varieties originates from the accessibility of education and intensive discoveries in these states.
In recent times, people are falling in love with black tea. The reason is that it has a bold flavor, versatile and can give a boost of energy.
Black Tea Varieties
Black tea exists in different varieties in the world. They have diversity in caffeine content, strengths, and origin. Assam is the most commonly used black tea that originated from the Assam region in Northeast India.
Being among the tastiest types, Assam has a strong and full-bodied taste. In some occasions, consumers prefer to pair it with milk for flavor balance.
It is common among the Irish and English breakfasts with high caffeine content.
Ceylon is another variety that originates from Sri Lanka. In terms of tasting notes, Ceylon has an aromatic, refreshing and citrusy taste.
Most commonly found in iced tea drinks due to its citrusy and flavorful taste.
These are the most common types of black tea.
Other varieties available in the world include; Darjeeling, Yunnan tea, Earl Grey, Keemun tea, and Lady Grey tea.
How Black Tea is Grown and Processed
Both green tea and black tea come from the same Plant-Camellia sinensis. The difference comes from the way the plant leaves are processed.
For the black tea, the tea leaves are left to oxidize fully before they are processed by heat and dried.
The process of oxidation plays a major role in turning it into a black color after the interaction of oxygen with the plant cells of tea. Also, the oxidation process alters the flavor profile of black tea. In the same way, it helps in adding malty, fruity and the smoky notes on the tea.
The processing of black tea has two Methods-Orthodox and Non-Orthodox. Based on Orthodox, it is referred to as a time-consuming method.
The leaves remain whole and sometimes partially broken through the whole process. After removing them from the garden, the tea leaves are withered to decrease moisture.
In the process, they are rolled in a set of ways to bruise the leaves and start the oxidation process.
On the other hand, Non-Orthodox is an improved version of tea processing. To save on time, the tea leaves are cut into fine pieces. The change in size makes the oxidation process simple.
Creating a one-dimensional and consistent black tea.
The method is also called Crush-Tear-Curl (CTC). It is also more common with the end consumers than the orthodox one.
Black Tea Processing Methods
- Orthodox processing
- Withering ‘Rolling ‘Oxidizing/Fermentation ‘ Drying (110C/65C).
- Non-Orthodox processing: Withering
- ‘Cutting/Curling/Tearing Oxidizing/Fermentation ‘ Drying (130°C/90°C).
Worldwide Revenue for Black Tea
Based on the global black tea market dynamics, the rising popularity of black tea has attracted many consumers in the world.
It is greatly influenced by the introduction of varieties of flavors that meets different consumer needs in the market.
Statistically, the current worldwide revenue for tea was around $50b annually in 2017 (Statista.com). China and India are the largest contributors to black tea revenue worldwide contributors to global revenue.
The Big Finish
The larger story of black tea is quite a bit longer, but this should do as a brief look at what is the world’s second most popular beverage. Behind only water. Even among teas, none can rival black tea worldwide.
It is funny to think that this fantastic drink came into being because someone left their tea leaves out too long and it has been an upward trajectory ever since. I, for one, am grateful that it turned out the way it did.
Thanks for visiting and have a wonderful day.