No Leaf Unturned: Black Tea


Whereas green teas are fired soon after picking to preserve their verdant color, black teas are rolled in order to bruise the leaves and encourage them to undergo a natural plant process known as oxidation. After rolling, black teas are arranged in shallow piles and left to rest while oxidation occurs. During this time, the moist, sticky tea leaves change from green to reddish shades ranging from amber to copper to ruby. In fact, black teas are referred to as "red tea" (hóng chá) due to their red color. The pace at which oxidation occurs, controlled by the ambient temperature and humidity in the oxidation room, is an important factor in the flavor development of black tea.
The Category Colors of Tea

The tea rolling process Originating in Fujian, China, black teas are some of the most well-traveled in the history of tea. Today, black teas are grown in all major tea regions, especially in India, Sri Lanka, China, Southeast Asia, and Africa. This range of landscapes and growing climates creates a diverse collection of regional flavor profiles to explore.

Altitude is an important indicator of the essential character of black teas. Low elevation farms tend to produce more malty and full-bodied black teas, whereas high elevation gardens often yield brisk black teas with floral or fruity aromatics.

Tea leaves after rolling: pre-oxidation stage

Rolled Tea Leaves in Oxidation Stage At the outset of the tea trade, green teas could not "survive" the long voyage to Europe. Being oxidized, black tea made for a more chest-stable and seaworthy product. Carried through history, black teas rapidly expanded in popularity, and today it is no surprise that they are most widely consumed type of tea in the world.

One of the legacies from the early days of the tea trade is that black teas often take the place names of their origins. As you embark on your hóng chá journey, sample regionally to explore the nuances of black tea's diversity.