The black tea you usually drink is “oxidized tea.” This article is all about the most commonly consumed tea: oxidized tea (black tea).
What is oxidized tea (black tea)?
Oxidized tea is a tea whose leaves have been fully oxidized. “Black tea” is oxidized tea.
There are many cultivars and types of tea, but there are basically only two kinds: Chinese and Assam. Most types of oxidized tea are made from Assam tea trees, whose leaves are easier to oxidize.
Features of oxidized tea’s (black tea’s) flavor, aroma, color
Oxidized tea (black tea) is featured by a beautiful red color and aromatic, glamorous, gentle scent and flavor. Of course, oxidized tea (black tea) varies a lot in flavor and aroma by the production area’s climate and natural features. In particular, the world’s three major black teas; namely, Darjeeling tea from India, Uva tea from Sri Lanka, and Keemun tea from China have distinctive flavors and aromas, which are totally different from our usual black tea from a plastic bottle or a tea bag. The wide variety features oxidized tea (black tea) and attracts us.
Features of oxidized tea ingredients
Besides the leaf’s original ingredients, oxidized tea (black tea) contains ingredients produced by the oxidation of tea leaves. Theaflavins and thearubigins are representative of the ingredients that produce an aromatic scent and make a beautiful red color of the tea.
Features of oxidized tea process
As its name suggests, oxidized tea is a tea that has undergone oxidation. Black tea goes through the process called rolling to activate oxidative enzymes that are important to produce the tea’s aroma, flavor, richness, and liquid color. Then it undergoes the processes including oxidation, drying, and sorting (grading) to hit the shelves of stores.
Oxidized tea (Black tea)
Lastly, let us see oxidized tea’s production areas and origin.
Major production areas of oxidized tea
In Japan, the mainstream is green tea. In fact, black tea is produced in over 20 countries and accounts for 70% of the world’s tea production. In particular, the following areas are well-known.
India is famous for black tea. Its production volume of black tea is by far the largest in the world and amounts to 1 million tons per year. Darjeeling tea from India is chosen as one of the world’s three major black teas. Its pleasant aroma is praised as “the champagne of black teas.” It is also consumed a lot in Japan. For your information, Assam tea, which is as famous as Darjeeling tea, is also from India.
Black tea from Sri Lanka is called “Ceylon tea” and beloved all over the world. Sri Lanka is the producer of Uva tea, one of the world’s three major black teas. Sri Lanka is growing tea mainly around a chain of mountains. Tea in Sri Lanka is graded according to the altitude. The production volume of black tea is the second largest in the world and amounts to 320 thousand tons.
Most Japanese people think of Kenya as a coffee producer. However, it actually produces the third largest amount of black tea in the world, or 300 thousand tons, closely behind Sri Lanka. They export it mainly to Europe. Surprisingly, their history of tea is long. They started making tea plantations during the First World War.
China produces “Keemun tea,” one of the world’s three major black teas, while we only think about its Chinese tea such as oolong tea. In fact, China is the birthplace of black tea. The annual production volume is 50 thousand tons. Although the number is comparatively less than the other black tea producing countries, the volume is rapidly increasing with the recent focus on black tea production.
Japanese black tea
It is less known but Japanese black tea has been produced since the Meiji Period. The high-quality Japanese black tea won a gold prize at an international food competition. It would suit everybody’s tastes with easy-to-drink, mild flavor and aroma.
Indonesia’s black tea production is currently only the 4th in the world. However, the country had as much black tea as India until the Second World War burned off their tea plantations. Their tea has similar features to Ceylon tea. Its characteristic mild, easy-to-drink flavor somewhat lacks richness so it is mainly used for blending. The annual volume is 130 thousand tons.
The origin of black tea
The history of tea originated in China. It dates back to a period before Christ. However, the history of black tea is comparatively new; it started after 1720. Black tea has several possible origins, but it is likely that “Wuhan tea,” a semi-oxidized tea, which was collected in Fujian Province, became the mainstream of tea in Western Europe, and developed into today’s common black tea after trials and errors including the increased degree of oxidation. Later on, Assam cultivars suited for black tea were found in India, which promoted tea cultivation in India and other surrounding countries like Sri Lanka. Then, black tea spread all over the world.