Monday, March 22, 2010

All about Black Tea

Black tea is the most popular tea in the Western world. It is a favored choice whether served hot and over ice. The brew features a deep reddish-brown liquor and full-bodied taste with notes that range from flowery to fruity and from spicy to nutty. The tea may also come infused with fruits, flower petals, and natural flavorings to add a unique taste and sipping variety.

To satisfy each individual's palate, black tea can be enjoyed straight from the teapot, blended with spices, complemented with lemon, sweetened with honey or sugar, and/or mixed with milk or cream. It also serves as the tea base for traditional Indian Chai tea recipes and other enticing tea blends.

Black tea is the most extensively processed of all teas, which are derived from the Camillia sinensus bush. After picking, the leaves of the plant go through a withering process where they are dried on racks for up to 18 hours until all excess moisture is removed and the leaves become supple enough to roll.

They are then rolled and cooled, which breaks down the membranes of the leaves and creates a chemical change that allows the natural juices to emerge - and the leaves to darken. Finally, the tea leaves are "fired" and heat is applied to halt further oxidation and seal in the distinctive flavor and aroma.

Types and Taste
Following are some common types of black teas and the tastes with which they are associated.
  • Assam -- rich, dark, slightly malty
  • Ceylon -- medium-strength
  • Darjeeling -- light, with a slightly flowery aroma; also made with green blends
  • Earl Grey -- light with a slight fruity flavor
  • English Breakfast -- medium classic blend
  • Irish Breakfast -- more robust than English Breakfast
  • Keemun - smooth Chinese black blend
  • Jasmine tea -- scented with Jasmine flowers
  • Lady Grey -- like Earl Grey with added lemon and orange oils
  • Lapsang Souchong -- infused with pine smoke
  • Nilgri -- robust flavor
  • Russian Caravan -- rich, hearty taste
  • Yunnan -- peppery flavored variety

Health Benefits
Flavonoids, which are highly concentrated in the tea, have been associated with a number of health benefits that include reduced the risk of stroke and heart disease.

There are research studies that link flavanoids, which are present in all blends, to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing inflammations, improving blood flow, and even helping the body maintain proper blood sugar levels. According to the USDA flavonoid database, both black and green contain 150 to 190 milligrams of flavonoids per cup. They also provide trace amounts of healthful minerals such as potassium and fluoride.

More than 90% of the world's black teas can be found on grocery store shelves, specialty tea shops, restaurants, and gourmet food outlets.

The invention of the tea bag in the early 1900s is said to contribute significantly to the tea's popularity and consumption.

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