All tea come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis, with the exception of herbal teas. Classification or categorization of tea is determined by how much a tea is oxidized during preparation. Black tea is fully oxidized; more oxidized than all other tea types, as a result it is 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 tea allows it retain its flavor for many years, unlike green tea. This has made it the more popular option among teas. Black teas are normally named after the region from which they are derived – Assam tea, Darjeeling tea, Nepali tea, etc. Black teas brew from reddish brown to dark brown. They are the most popular type of tea in the West, although green tea has seen a rise in popularity in recent times. China is majorly associated with black tea but India is the largest exporter in the world. Other black tea producing nations are Kenya, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Australia and Indonesia.
The leaves of the broad Camellia plant are plucked and allowed to wither under the sun. then, they are crushed to activate the oxidation process. During oxidation, the leaves are allowed to turn black before they are fired in oven – an action which halts the oxidation process. If they are all prepared in this same way, how are they differentiated? As with everything else black tea is affected by variations in terroir and cultivation. Beyond that, differentiation is made by grading. Teas are graded by the amount of buds they incorporate in production. Preparation of loose black tea requires the use of pure water at 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 black tea. 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 come with ripe fruit.
Black leaf tea has a flavor that feels like a blend between coffee and red wine. Tasting the tea, 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 have some have more body than the rest. Ultimately, its taste 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”.
Black tea contains 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, its effects are not as strong as coffee, and not as immediate. Caffeine content in all teas in general have more to do with terroir than with the type of tea. Processing does not noticeably reduce or increase caffeine content. If you are concerned with caffeine please try or decaffeinated black teas.