You may be familiar with tannins from wine. They give it a dry, astringent flavor. They do much the same thing for tea as they do for wine, giving it a drier taste and fuller body. Tannins got their name from their use in tanning leather. The tannins from oak trees are traditionally used to tan animal hides. Therefore, if you’re looking for that classy leather-bag, understands wine, and has taste in tea aesthetic, tannins pretty much rule your life.
Tannins are made by all of these plants as a means to deter predators. They are especially prevalent in unripe fruit. The taste is supposed to drive predators away, but, like caffeine, it has instead made them more attractive to human predators.
Black teas tend to be very high in tannins, while oolongs have less, and green and white teas have almost no tannins. This is because tannins are released when organic matter breaks down, and black teas are oxidized. Oxidation is a process of breaking down the leaves, which is similar to leaves changing colors in the autumn. Green and white teas contain catechins, which break down into tannins when the leaf oxidizes. These tannins are what give a black tea its dark color.
There is a confused public perception that tannins are bad for you. Tannins are actually a type of antioxidant, and quite healthy. The myth comes from the fact that their name is similar to that of tannic acid, which is entirely different, and much less healthy.
A tea which is high in tannins is called tannic. While tannins can be bitter and astringent, they also give tea a fuller taste, with more body. Teas which are lower in tannins can come across as more watery and thin. Some of the teas which are highest in tannins are East Frisian, while Darjeeling and Yunnan teas are very low in tannins.
Do you like teas with more tannins, or less tannins? Do you want to know how high in tannins your favorite tea is? Tell or ask us in the comments!