Now this is probably the most common type of tea and most people in the world and mostly in the western world are used to some sort of black tea. Known as red tea in China, it can range quite a bit in quality – from the stuff that makes it into the tea bag up to a high quality loose leaf tea.
There are many different types and I like Darjeeling black teas the best. As mentioned I will have to do a separate block on Darjeeling teas due to the beauty and complexity but I truly enjoy this tea. Tasting and experiencing these teas is as close as it gets to a wine tasting region such as Bordeaux in France. It is a region which celebrates different estates and growing seasons, called flushes, and even years. Nothing to me is so special in the tea world than to welcome the new arrival of the first flush of a Darjeeling tea. Somehow Germans have developed a true passion for this type of tea and I am happy to be part of it. I remember the summer of 2015. While most people spent their time on the beach, I was tasting 6-7 different Darjeeling’s in the kitchen and documenting my tasting notes in a tea journal.
Early in my tea studies I started experimenting a lot with scented black teas. I was on a mission to find the most interesting Earl Grey. The pick finally went for an Earl Grey based on an organic first flush Darjeeling with premium Bergamot oil from Sicily and some blue Spanish cornflower for appearance. Quite a spectacular tea but there are quite a number of different types. There is still a bit of mystery surrounding the origin of this flavored tea which I find fascinating. I like a good story around my tea.
Chinese Black teas are quite fascinating and there are a lot of varieties. I like Golden Yunnan both because of its beautiful appearance and bold taste, a tea that can hold some milk or sugar. I am fascinated by black teas from many different countries, probably starting with India and Sri Lanka but not limited to those. Black teas come from across the globe: Kenya, Tanzania, Portugal, Russia, Argentina, Australia… just to name a few. I was very happy to have visited a tea factory in Kenya (see earlier post on the subject on my site) and learned a lot about the processing of a type of black tea.
While I will remain a strong advocate for loose leaf tea, the role of CTC (Crush Tear Curl) black teas cannot be underestimated as they play a huge role in a lot of different cultures. They are a big component of street teas, vendors which sell you a cup of tea on the fly. A lot of Chai teas are built on this type.
Brewing black tea is quite easy as the tea can take boiling water, it is more the time you have to watch in order not to make this tea too strong. By experimenting with black tea and if you like with milk and sugar, you can achieve the perfect combination of strength and taste.
Black tea is embedded in my culture and my tea history. I used to drink a lot of strong black tea from a Samovar in Russia, my family would serve tea from this majestic tea making tool all day long. Russians normally use a strong black tea to which hot water is added from the big samovar water tank.
Also in Germany, which is more of a coffee drinking culture, we have some interesting black tea traditions. Ostfriesen is a region in northern Germany were tea culture is deeply embedded with their own way of serving tea. Bases for this tea is a strong blend of black teas. A piece of sugar is placed in the tea cup (a ‘Kluntje’) over which the tea is poured. You will hear the typical crackling sound as the tea is poured. A dash of cream is added (a ‘Wulkje’, as it forms a cloud in the tea). You don’t stir the tea liquor but you drink it with the different components dancing in your mouth together as you drink the tea; quite an amazing experience.
And last but not least I would like to mention a special black tea – grown and processed in England at the Tregothnan tea estate. This way tea made full circle in this period of tea culture and it is an interesting and very rare tea to experience.