All teas, including black teas, come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis, with the exception of herbal teas. Classification or categorization of teas is determined by how much the leaves are oxidized during preparation. Black tea leaves are fully oxidized; more oxidized than all other teas, and as a result, they are richer than others in taste and flavor.
Black teas are derived from Camellia plants Var. and the subspecies, Assamica. This differentiation and the level of oxidation in the production of black teas allow them to retain their flavor for many years, unlike green teas. This has made them a more popular option among teas. Black teas are normally named after the region from which they are derived, such as Assam, Darjeeling, Nepali, etc. Black teas brew from reddish-brown to dark brown. They are the most popular types of teas in the West, although green teas have seen a rise in popularity recently. India is the largest exporter in the world. Other nations that produce black teas are Kenya, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Indonesia.
The leaves of the broad Camellia plant are plucked and allowed to wither under the sun. Afterward, the leaves are crushed to activate the oxidation process. During oxidation, the leaves are allowed to turn black before they are fired in an oven—an action that halts the oxidation process. If all black tea leaves are prepared in this same way, how are they differentiated? As with everything else, black teas are affected by variations in terroir and cultivation. Beyond that, differentiation is made by grading. Teas are graded by the number of buds incorporated during production. Preparation of loose-leaf black teas requires the use of pure water at its boiling point. If the water is cooler, the steep times can be longer to compensate for the lower temperature.
Astringency plays a major role in the taste and feel of loose-leaf black teas. Astringency is loosely defined as a dry, rough, or fuzzy sensation on the palate that occurs when eating or drinking something. This sensation is a result of the sourness and bitterness which often is associated with ripe fruit.
Black tea leaves have a flavor that feels like a blend of coffee and red wine. When tasting teas, your palate registers a raisin-like sweetness, a gentle lingering acidity, astringency, and a rich, velvety body. Although similar, black teas have different flavors. While some have more sweetness and astringency, some, like our popular Pu-Erh Tea, have more body than the rest. Ultimately, the taste of black teas is a measured crispness resulting from the various influencing factors, leaving it sweet but tart. It is not uncommon to hear this feel referred to as “brisk.” The flavor, quality, and black teas’ other hard-to-describe factors are called mouthfeel. Some of our most popular black teas include our Assam Organic Tea and our mild Blue Sapphire Tea.
Black teas contain some caffeine, which acts as a stimulant for the nervous system. However, with a lower caffeine content than coffee (about 1/3), and the presence of tannin, black teas' effects are not as strong as coffee, and not as immediate. The caffeine content in all teas, in general, is linked to terroir. Processing does not noticeably reduce or increase caffeine content. If you are concerned about caffeine, please try our decaffeinated black teas.
Please try our loose-leaf black teas. Whenever possible, we offer organic versions of our loose-leaf teas.