Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world and between all types of tea, it's the black tea that's the most popular. But did you know that even black tea has numerous variations in terms of flavour?
Each tea growing region of the world yields its own peculiar kind of tea and the method of processing leads to further changes in flavour. And if you're someone who truly loves tea, you shouldn't confine yourself to only one type of black tea when there are simply so many varieties that the world has to offer!
So, here we've created a small guide to help you find the best black tea for yourself. Let's get started with understanding what black tea really is and what makes it so special and widely loved?
Black tea is one of the various tea types produced from the leaves of the shrub Camellia sinensis. Black tea is said to be the strongest in terms of flavour when compared with the other ‘true’ teas (teas which are produced from the same plant as black tea, i.e., Camellia sinensis, such as - Oolong tea, White tea, Pu’erh tea, and Green tea. The general agreement on Black tea being the strongest in flavour is due to the fact that it is more oxidized than the other ‘true’ teas.
For those of you who don't know about oxidation, it's one of the most important steps during the processing of tea in which a series of chemical reactions result in the browning of tea leaves and the produces the flavour and aroma. Oxidation results in the lovely reddish-brown colour of tea when the tea is brewed.
Black tea has been known to provide several benefits to its drinkers, such as — improving the health of the Heart, improving Gut health, keeping Blood Sugar levels in check, improving Focus, and improving overall health in various other ways.
Black tea also contains antioxidants called ‘flavonoids’, which are beneficial for heart health. Studies have found that regularly drinking black tea may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Further, the best black teas contain polyphenols and antimicrobial properties which help improve gut health by inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria in the gut; and it is a great unsweetened beverage that can help in reducing blood sugar levels.
Not only this, but black tea is also actually a better alternative to get an energy boost as compared to coffee.
Also read: Is high caffeine tea better than coffee?
Black tea also helps in improving focus due to its content of caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine, which increases alpha activity in the brain, resulting in improved focus and alertness. Consuming antioxidants present in black tea may help decrease the risk of chronic disease and improve the drinker’s overall health.
Most of us tend to love having a piping hot cup of tea after a long day, for some of us, it might even be at the start of the day. Now that we have established the goodness of black tea for our health, let us look at the various ways in which we can ensure to get a hold of the best quality black tea for our consumption.
Choosing the best quality Black tea
Now, let us talk about the characteristics we should look for when we are choosing the best quality of Black tea. In the tea industry, tea leaf grading is the process of evaluating products based on the quality and condition of the tea leaves themselves.
For Black tea, the highest grade of tea is “Pekoe”, which is also classified further into other tea grades. Any “Pekoe” grade tea implies that the tea leaves are ‘whole’. Whole leaf tea is not broken or torn during production. Orange Pekoe is the finest among all of them.
The further classification depends on how many adjacent young leaves are picked. There might be one, two or none of the adjacent leaves picked. The best quality of tea grade is the one that has only the leaf buds that are picked by the fingertips.
The “broken pekoe” tea grades refer to the crushed form of tea which is used in teabags. These are the lower grades of tea as they consist of fannings and dust that are sometimes the residues of the crushing process.
Five regions that produce the best Black tea
Apart from tea leaf grading, another factor that plays an important role in determining the quality of tea is the region of cultivation. The climatic conditions and the elevation also affect the final flavour of the tea. So, let's talk about some of the best black tea growing regions in the world.
Keemun (also known as Qimen hong cha): Keemunis from the Anhui Province of eastern China. High-quality Keemun teas are noted for their unique aromas and flavour, which is described as smooth, fruity, and evocative of wine.
Ceylon tea: Ceylon tea hails from the island nation of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has a huge range of altitude in a limited space, its terroirs produce a variety of flavours. Ceylon teas are generally rich and quite strong, with hints of spice in its flavour sometimes.
Perhaps the most popular flavoured tea in the western nations, Earl Grey is said to be flavoured with a mixture of natural and, sometimes artificial, citrus flavours.
Ceylon tea is used as a base for Earl Grey teas sometimes, and the distinctive flavour makes it a popular ingredient in tea-flavoured chocolates, baked goods, and many more food items.
India: In India, Assam, Darjeeling, and the Nilgiris are known to be the producers of premium Black tea; Assam tea tends to have a strong, rich, and ‘malty flavour, while Darjeeling Black tea is said to be more subtle and aromatic, it is also known as the ‘Champagne of teas’ due to the light golden colour that it attains, when brewed.
The Nilgiris produce an exquisite blend of Black tea which is said to be both brisk in flavour and delicately fragrant at the same time.
Ruby Black / Red Jade: Taiwanese black teas are often called Ruby Black or Red Jade. In recent years, the quality of these blends has come to improve immensely. These teas are typically produced during the summer harvest in Nantou, Taiwan.
These blends tend to be sweeter in flavour when compared to the rest of the Black teas.
Lapsang Souchong: Originally from the mountainous Wuyi region in the province of Fujian in China, Lapsang Souchong tends to be quite popular amongst people who like bitter flavours, such as smoked meats, roasted coffee beans, and somewhat bitter chocolates.
Choosing the best Black tea for Iced tea
Rarely anything stops avid tea-drinkers from drinking their favourite beverage throughout all seasons, let us take a look at the various blends and infusions of black tea which work well as iced-tea so that we have the respite of having our favourite beverage, even during the hot summer months.
Lemon Kandy: teakruthi’s Lemon Kandy is Ceylon black tea infused with lemon peel and marigold petals. Harvested from the Kandy District in Sri Lanka, Lemon Kandy comes out to be a dark orange colour when brewed; it has a fresh, citrusy aroma, and leaves the drinker with a light and tangy taste in their mouth.
The Vitamin C present in lemon peel in Lemon Kandy helps in boosting the drinker’s immunity against cold and flu. Additionally, the antioxidants present in both the lemon peel as well as the black tea aid with digestion and acid reflux; drinkers of Lemon Kandy also get the health benefit of a reduced risk of heart disease and a reduced risk of certain cancers in both men and women. Lemon Kandy is a great choice for an iced-tea during the summers!
Zen Mint: Do you enjoy the mint flavour in your iced tea? teakruthi's Zen Mint is Ceylon black tea infused with mint leaves which provide the drinker with a cool and spicy taste. The infusion brews up to be orange in colour and gives off a refreshing peppermint aroma.
In particular, Zen Mint offers the health benefit of providing relief from Diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Constipation. The infused mint also helps with bad breath and serves as an antispasmodic that can provide a much-needed relief from a bad cough, a bonus for those of us who get sore throats easily even in the summer months, if you ask us!
Two Seasons: teakruthi's Two Seasons is a black tea infused with ginger root and peach. Selected from the Uda Pussallawa region in Sri Lanka, the ginger in Two Seasons boasts a subtle spiciness that meshes very well with the strong flavour of the black tea, and the sweetness of the peach balances them out perfectly.
The infusion turns out to be copper in colour upon being brewed and gives off a fresh and gingery, yet slightly smoky aroma. This infusion offers the drinker several health benefits, as ginger is a valuable source of Magnesium and Vitamin C, among other minerals that boost immunity. The ginger in the infusion also helps combat inflammation in the body and drinking Two Seasons as an iced-tea can be immensely helpful for relieving nausea as well as soreness in the limbs which can occur when one is out and about in the summer months.
So Berry Ceylon: Do you like your iced tea with a slight fruity flavour? Then this black tea infusion is perfect for you. teakruthi’s So Berry Ceylon is a real treat for those who love fruits, especially berries because this one is a black tea infused with a bouquet of berries- with strawberries and blueberries being the prominent ones in the mix- along with apples and sultanas!
Harvested from the Ruhuna region in Sri Lanka, So Berry Ceylon brews up to be a lovely bright pink in colour, and leaves you with a delicious taste of fresh berries and apples. When it comes to the health benefits of this infusion, So Berry Ceylon is a gift to your heart! The combination of all the infused fruits - apples, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries - is said to improve your good cholesterol, your blood pressure, and improves the function of the platelets present in the blood.
Ceylon’s Peach: For the fruity black iced tea lover, there's another flavour to explore. teakruthi’s Ceylon’s Peach is a black tea infused with apricots, apples, petals of marigold and hibiscus, along with liquorice root. Harvested at its peak from the Southern region of Sri Lanka, this infusion gives off a fragrance of baked apricots and turns out to be pink in colour when brewed.
Ceylon’s Peach tastes of a fruity mixture of apricots and peaches. It helps in reducing the bad cholesterol levels as well as keeping the blood pressure in check. This fresh and fruity infusion is perfect for making into iced-tea during the summer!
Rainforest Indulgence: teakruthi's Rainforest Indulgence is pure black tea hand-plucked from the shade of the Sinharaja Rainforest in Sri Lanka. This tea offers a unique and woody flavour of malt and leaves a strong taste of the same in the drinker’s mouth.
This pure black Ceylon tea turns out to be a reddish-orange colour when brewed and serves as an incredible alternative to coffee as it provides a healthy dose of caffeine to make you alert and get you going even in the form of iced tea.
The best Organic Black tea
If you want to drink the best black tea, then you should definitely explore organic black tea. The best organic black teas are grown using only plant-based organic fertilizers along with dung from grass-fed cows. This makes the entire process free from chemicals and the natural nutritional value of the tea is conserved.
Organic Gold: Organic Gold turns a burnt gold colour upon brewing and gives off a smokey and herbaceous aroma. It has a strong flavour and tastes a tad bit burnt. Due to its strong flavour, Organic Gold is a great alternative for coffee!
Organic Bloom: Organic Bloom is a certified organic grown black tea from the Harrington Estate of Sri Lanka. This Ceylon tea gives a strong copper colour when brewed, and its taste and aroma are mild and refreshing.
Organic Orange: Organic Orange is named so because it gives an orange colour when brewed. Organic Orange has a floral fragrance and tastes light and mellow, this is a great choice if you want your tea to be organic, but do not prefer to drink strongly flavoured ones.
All the black teas in teakruthi's 'Organic’ range are sourced from an estate in Sri Lanka’s Dambulla region where only plant-based and organic matter is used to grow them. This range is USDA Organic, Fairtrade and European Organic certified to attest to the amazing quality of teas that it offers.
The best Loose-leaf Black tea
One of the best ways to experience the authentic flavours of black tea is by brewing a cup of loose leaf black tea. Loose-leaf black tea tastes much better than teabags and is much healthier for you.
We have brought you our top picks for every type of loose-leaf tea you might have your preference towards, take a look below!
Colonial Mornings: This black loose-leaf tea gives a reddish-amber colour upon brewing. It gives off a fruity fragrance and tastes slightly sweet, slightly spicy, the clean balance of flavour in this tea makes it a good choice for breakfast.
Afternoon Ritual: Do you feel drowsy during the day? This black loose-leaf tea gives off an aroma of warm honey and chocolate, with faint notes of apricots. It turns a strong copper colour upon brewing and tastes sweet and fruity, which makes Afternoon Ritual a delicious choice for drinking in the afternoon.
Wild Monsoon: You can tell a lot about a tea based on where it grows. This tea grows in an area nourished by high humidity and monsoon season and surrounded by diverse wildlife. Dark gold in colour, this tea is mild, malty, and fine, and delivers to your pallet a lively flavour that tastes like adventure.
Well, there you have it, all of our recommendations for any of the true teas that you might want to try! Have a look, choose a tea according to your wishes, and sip away!
- D. Hervert-Hernández & I. Goñi (2011) Dietary Polyphenols and Human Gut Microbiota: a Review, Food Reviews International, 27:2, 154-169, DOI: doi.org/10.1080/87559129.2010.535233
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