Growing Black Tea

The biggest manufacturers of black tea are Sri Lanka, India, China, Indonesia, Kenya, and Nepal. Black tea is manufactures in the same way as green tea, from a plant Camellia sinensis.

This is a plant that grows only in warm climates up to 2000 meters above sea level. The higher it is, the better the quality of tea is, that is, better taste. In lower altitudes leaf grow in about one week, while in higher altitudes it takes several weeks.

Black tea as green tea comes from the same plant. This bush like evergreen tropical plant of Latin name Camellia sinensis. Camellia sinensis is a plant with solid, leathery and elliptical leafs and white flowers. This plant as well as first tea (green tea) was discovered by emperor Shen Nung. Since that time tea was constantly drank  in China and so the culture of drinking tea was developed. This tea was difficult to ship to Europe. It lost quality and had to be specially preserved, and because of its price it was out of reach from most citizens. Its price grew more and more, and tea became more popular.

After the fight between English and Chinese monopolists, English by the end of XIX century starter to grow tea in India and Ceylon (its former colonies). English look for a tea with a taste that would suit Europenas more and would be easier for transport. They allowed the leafs to oxidize more during processing. As the result, black tea was made.

Black tea is especially good for transport because leaf of black tea can hold its quality better than than green tea. For that reason it found a wide market and today it is the most popular tea in the west, more popular even than green. This makes it very famous and most consumed (even though  is known for its extraordinary healing properties, black tea sells 70% more than green tea). Main difference between properties (healing, taste, look, color…)  of green and black tea is the procedure for producing black tea. With green teas the most important is to prevent oxidation while in the case of a black tea the most important is to achieve oxidation. So, in the west all oxidized teas are called black tea, and in Chine black teas are called “bitter” tea for their characteristic taste.

Processing of black tea

Processing of black tea is different than procedure for processing green tea. The procedure consists out of several phases: harvest, winding it, rolling it, screening, oxidation and drying.

HARVEST: Leafs are picked by hand, sometimes by machines.

WINDING: the procedure is performed when leafs wither, soften and lose moisture (they lose about 40% moisture). The procedure start when picked leafs are brought to the factory, and lasts for about 20 hours. Leafs are put in darkened rooms in shelf and then winding starts by pumping in air (temperature around 25C) by fans  or leafs are sent through ventilation tunnels.

ROLLING: This procedure is important because it prepares leafs for oxidation. Leaves are rolled for around 30 minutes. By rolling leafs lose essential oils and juices. This process is done in three ways:

  1. First way is rolling with needle rolls
  2. Second ways is rolling with the eccentric plates
  3. Third way is when leaves are cut with two knives. This is the latest method, and it is different from others because oxidation begins immediately.

SCREENING: This is about sorting broken leaves that were created during rolling. Leaves have to be separated according top their size by screening.

OXIDATION: This is the most important phase in the entire procedure. It lasts around 1-3 hours. In a oxidation phase organic substances dissolve in simpler substances. The procedure consists out of stretching and moisturizing of leaves (especially if they are too dry), air must contain around 90% moisture, temperature must be above 20C (in the process itself the temperature is higher).

The color of properly oxidized leaf is copper reddish. From oxidation aroma depends and therefore it is important that is uninterrupted. It’s not good if oxidation is interrupted to soon, and too late (leaves lose aroma).

DRYING: This process, some call frying. It is about drying, that is, air flow that is very dry and hot because moisture in leaves must be reduced (3% moisture). Finished leaves have dark, that is, black color.

This procedure is very important because if leaves have too much moisture mold occurs.