China's black tea is not the same a black tea in the West (which is called red tea in China). 'Black tea' in China is also known as fermented tea or dark tea. It originates from China and was introduced to India and Sri Lanka by merchants in the 19th century.
It is made from the leaves of the tea shrub (Camellia sinensis) after the processes of withering, rolling, fermenting, and drying. It is much more oxidized and stronger in flavor than green tea and white tea. Actually, the infusion of black tea is red; however, its oxidized leaves are black, hence its name.
Processes of Making Black Tea
Generally speaking, black tea is processed in two ways in China: CTC (crush, tear, and curl) and orthodox. Each has its own style and both go through the following four processes:
The newly-picked tea leaves are first withered by blowing air onto them until their veins are transparent.
The withered leaves are rolled into strips either by a rolling machine or by hand. The rolling machine process results in a mixture of whole leaves, broken leaves, and fine particles. The hand process is used for producing high-quality tea, which is highly valued by tea tasters and blenders.
As the most important step in making black tea, fermentation refers to the process where rolled leaves are oxidized under a suitable temperature and humidity for five to six hours, after which the leaf veins turn reddish-brown owing to the oxidizing action.
The newly-fermented leaves are supposed to be baked at a temperature of about 80°C (176°F) for six hours or so, and can be packed after they cool down.
Classification of Chinese Black Tea
Keemun Black Tea.
Black tea is planted in different provinces of China and has many varieties but there are three main types: Xiao Zhong black tea, Gongfu black tea, and Broken black tea.
Xiao Zhong Black Tea
As the oldest black tea of China, Xiao Zhong black tea is further divided into Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong and Waishan Xiao Zhong, of which the former is planted in Tong Mu Guan, Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province, and it's divided into an oriental flavor and a Western flavor. Waishan Xiao Zhong is planted in the counties of Zhenghe, Tanyang, Gutian, and Shan, in Fujian Province.
Gongfu Black Tea
Gongfu black tea is native to China. Gongfu has two meanings, one of which refers to the fact that more effort is supposed to be made in the infusion of black tea, and the other refers to the fact that you should take your time to fully enjoy the tea.
Gongfu black tea has many varieties, each of which has its own unique flavor and is often named after the region where it's produced. Listed below are the famous brands of Gongfu black tea, for your reference.
Qimen Gongfu Black Tea
Qimen County, Anhui Province
Dianhong Gongfu Black Tea
Lincang, Baoshan, and Fengqing in Yunnan Province
Minhong Gongfu Black Tea
Huhong Gongfu Black Tea
Anhua, Changsha, Lianyuan, Liuyang, Taoyuan, and Pingjiang in Hunan Province
Ninghong Gongfu Black Tea
Xiushui, Wuning, and Tonggu in Jiangxi Province
Chuanhong Gongfu Black Tea
Yibin and Ya'an in Sichuan Province, and Chongqing
Yihong Gongfu Black Tea
Yichang and Enshi in Hubei Province
Yuehong Gongfu Black Tea
Shaoxing, Zhuji, and Sheng counties in Zhejiang Province
Fuliang Gongfu Black Tea
Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province. Jingdezhen was called Fuliang in ancient times.
Xianghong Gongfu Black Tea
Shimen, Cili, Sangzhi, and Dayong in west Hunan Province
Taiwan Gongfu Black Tea
Wenshan District, Taibei, Taiwan
Yuehong Gongfu Black Tea
Chao'an, Guangdong Province
Tieguanyin Gongfu Black Tea
Huangbo Village, Lantian Town, and Anxi County in Fujian Province
Broken Black Tea
Broken black tea is widely planted in the provinces of Yunnan, Guangdong, Hainan, and Guangxi, and it's mainly grown for export. Broken black tea is classified into various types according to its shape, including tablet tea, fanning tea, and dust tea.
Steps of Infusion for Black Tea
Black tea is a tasteful beverage with potential health benefits. You'll end up with a tea that's too bitter and strong to drink if you're not familiar with the basic techniques. Here are five steps to make a perfect cup of black tea:
Before making a cup of black tea, you're supposed to get a clean tea set (such as a teapot, faircup, and cups), tea, and a kettle of boiling water prepared.
2. Measuring Out the Tea Into the Cup/Teapot
Measure out the desired amount of black tea leaves (3 to 5 grams for 150 to 250 ml of tea) and put them in the cup or teapot.
3. Boiling Water and Pouring It Into the Cup/Teapot
Boil the water and pour it into the cup. If a teapot is used, you're advised to fill 80% of the teapot with water (to avoid spillage when pouring).
4. Observing the Color and Smelling the Fragrance
Smelling the Tea Frangance.
Steep the tea leaves for 2 to 3 minutes. Then you're highly advised to observe the red infusion and smell its fruity fragrance.
5. Enjoy It
As the tea cools down, you can fully enjoy its delicious taste.