Tag Archive for Black Tea

Tea 201 - Chinese Black Teas

Black tea, known in China as red tea, is the most common product produced by our favorite Camellia sinensis plant.   It’s the most consume type of tea in the world; however, it is the least popular style in China.  The quality range is also greater than any other tea grown.  It is the Chinese black tea that is known for its highest quality compared to the other mechanically harvested and grown in places like India, Sri Lanka and Kenya.

There is a lot of debate among tea scholars as to when black tea was actually invented.  But everyone definitely agrees that tea appeared in the Chinese market by the 16th century.  Obviously for that to happen, the origin of tea production had to have gone back farther.

There are those who argue that black tea was created during the beginning of the Ming Dynasty around 1391.    Tea drinking in general had become accepted in Chinese society but was traded in the form of tightly compressed tea cakes.  These teas were considered worth their weight in gold.  At its peak, the tea trade was very well known for its wealth and corruption.

At the beginning of the Ming dynasty, under the rule of Ming Hong Wu Lian decided to put a halt to the corruption by ordering the end of the production of the tea cakes.  With the production halted, the monasteries that produced tea were stuck with tea and nothing to do with it.   The Wu Yi Shan’s monasteries began attempting to try pan-friend loose leaf green tea.   They were never successful because they could not get the teas to stop oxidizing.  This is typical of black tea.   Thus green tea was created by the time the 16th century rolled around.

Fun history, no?  Are you a fan of black tea, dear readers?

Tea 201 - Indian CTC Black Tea

CTC sounds like a company’s acronym, no?  While it is an acronym, it actually stands for the process that defines this type of black tea: crush, tear, and curl.

The CTC method was invented in the early 1930s by W. McKertcher.  Its popularity spread quickly a crossed India and Africa.  Unlike normal teas that are rolled in the final stage, CTC is actually passed through a machine of cylindrical rollers containing hundreds and hundreds of small sharp “teeth.”  Because of this process, about 80% to 90% of the factory’s production is of small particles (fannings) for tea bag blends.  It is fully oxidized and machine processed making it less expensive and considered to be less quality than what is considered “orthodox.”  CTC is usually a conglomeration of tea leaves harvested from more than one plantation during the first harvest.  They are then blended together which allows for consistency in their flavor.

CTC tea is drunk typically by the general public in India and in the usual manner: boiled in a combination of milk, water and sugar.  This is done simply because CTC is considered to have a bitter taste due to its supposed “low quality.”  In all honesty, the flavor of the CTC tea is purely based on whether or not the harvest was of good quality or not.  This tea is popular due to the fact that the tea can be mixed with other herbs, spices and creams as well as manipulated to appease the taste buds of the drinker.

There is the question as to whether or not CTC retain most or any of the same health benefits of normal teas.  This is because of the process that such a question is raised.

In the end, the popularity of this tea relies solely on the tea drinker. What do you think, dear readers? Do you like/drink CTC?  If so, do you drink it straight or do you manipulate it in anyway?

Tea 201 - Indian Black Tea - Assam vs Darjeeling

Indian Teas: Assam vs Darjeeling

Indian Teas: Assam vs Darjeeling

Assam and Darjeeling…some of you may have heard those words thrown around (I know I have).  They are both black teas grown in different regions of Indian (the Assam and Darjeeling regions…guess which ones came from where).  Oh, and they both have good amounts of caffeine.  That is as far as the similarities go.


Assam tea is said to be darker and redder in color than Darjeeling.  According to some, Darjeeling does not change color when brewed.


According to the Tea Board of India, the Darjeeling leaves are smaller than Assam.  Darjeeling are also said to have fine hairs on the underside, which are lost during drying.


Assam is easier to grow and stronger in flavor, which makes it a preferable candidate to brands for Lipton, Tetley or Celestial Seasonings.  Assam grows year round.  The region of Assam is also considering larger than Darjeeling.  Darjeeling, on the other hand, has four separate growing periods, which produce smaller loads.  There are 80 Darjeeling tea gardens in less than 70 square miles compared to the 800 tea estates in Assam.


Darjeeling is harder to grow than Assam therefore making it more expensive.  It also has a shorter harvesting season than Assam.


It is said that brewed Assam is stronger in flavor than Darjeeling.  The Tea Board of India describes Darjeeling as having a flavor like a ‘delicate muscatel.’  This lends itself to comparing Darjeeling teas as the ‘champagne of teas.’

There is also a lesser known third type of Indian tea called Nilgiris, or Blue Mountain, which is found at the southwestern tip of India.  This type of tea can be harvested year round.  In fact, Nilgiri produces for a rare type of tea called ‘frost tea.’  This tea is created when the leaves are harvested in winter after receiving a gentle coating of frost.

Cool, no?  What do you guys think?

Tea 201 - English Tea

While the English are known for drinking copious amounts of tea, we all know by now that they did not invent the leaf.  So…how did the leaf migrate from Asia to the British Isles?

Tea first reached Europe by the way of Dutch and Portuguese traders in 1610.  There is a legend that King Charles II grew up in exile in Portugal and become accustomed to drinking tea.  In fact, he married Catharine of Braganza who was both Portuguese and an avid tea drinker.  It is said that when she came to England to marry the monarch, she brought with her a casket of tea.  She was known as England’s first tea-drinking queen.

It is also said that it was the coffee houses of London that brought the teas for the masses.  One of the first was a house owned by Thomas Garway who started selling the drink and leaves in 1657.  In as 35tt3e as three years, he began advertising the selling of tea at £6 and £10!

Tea gained popularity in the 1700.  However, it was to the distress of the tea owners as it cut their sales of gin and ale.  This was also bad news for the government who depended on the revenue of liquor taxes.  In 1676, the government tried to slow the growing popularity by putting a tax on tea.  By the mid 18th century, the tax had reached as high as 199%!  So the Brits created a whole new industry: tea smuggling.

Once tea became more accepted and the taxes lifted, this allowed for the creation of a new tea custom: Afternoon tea.  It is said that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford created the idea of afternoon tea as a bridge to gap lunch and dinner.  This eventually led to the popularity of cream tea for not only the high classes but the working classes as well.  This then enabled tea to embed itself into all aspects of British culture.

What a fascinating history, no?  I love a good cup of Cream Tea, don’t you?

Morning Cup #55 - Decaf Breakfast Tea

Morning Cup Logo

A little on the groggy side this morning I dove straight for this Breakfast Tea from Taylors of Harrogate. So groggy, I failed to notice it was decaf!

Thankfully this tea is brisk enough to wake me up by force without the caffeine.

The aroma is nice, light and malty. I sensed some hint of a honeyed touch. The flavor is malty, strong and brisk. Could use a lump of sugar and a dollop of milk if you're into that sorta thing.

What's in your cup?