In the previous article we detailed the development of tea flavour profiles, specifically, Japanese and Chinese Green teas, White tea, and rare Yellow tea. All teas are lightly oxidised which gives them their delicate aromas and flavours.
Today we are going to delve into fully oxidised teas such as Black, and Pu’Erh tea. Each of these has a rich history as well a complex production method that would require their own article. In fact, I will take the opportunity to talk about Oolong tea in a separate article.
Black and Pu’Erh teas are fully oxidised and during this process the tea leaves turn a dark colour and develop different flavour profiles than green teas. It is important to be aware that all tea originates from the same plant variety, Camellia Sinensis.
Camellia Sinensis Assamica is a larger leafed variety originating in Assam district of India and which is used for the production of black tea. This tea tree loves the warm, moist climate in subtropical forests.
Camellia Sinensis Sinensis is a smaller leafed variety native to China and is used to make green and white teas. It evolved into a shrub that thrives in mountains in a cool, dry and sunny climate.
Many hybrids have evolved over time from the Camellia sinensis plant. These include: Green, White, Yellow, Oolong, Black or Pu-Erh teas. The flavour profile is based on the level of oxidation and the way in which the oxidation is halted (as discussed in our previous article). These processes determine which type of tea we get to enjoy.
Black teas are produced by two different methods. The orthodox method, where tea leaves are plucked and dried slowly to allow for a reduction in moisture. They are then rolled using a variety of methods to bruise the leaves. Next, the leaves are left to fully oxidise in order to achieve the desired colour and flavour. At the optimal level of fermentation, the leaves are dried or fired to stop the oxidation or fermentation process. The leaves are processed using a sieve and are then separated and graded based on quality. Alternatively, the non-orthodox or CTC method can be utilised. This method is similar, however the leaves are cut in to small pieces to speed up the overall production process. The latter method, creates black tea with a very strong and robust flavour. This type of product is traditionally sold in tea bags.
Assam tea is native to the world’s largest tea-growing region, Assam in India. The rainy, tropical climate produces tea with bold and malty characteristics.
Darjeeling teas are a softer, herbaceous black tea that can vary from season to season as they are grown in the smaller, mountainous tea-producing regions of India. Darjeeling is often used as a base for Chai tea.
Ceylon teas are usually strong with a hint of spice. Tea plantations often cover cool mountains as well as humid tropical areas across Sri Lanka.
Kenya is a fairly young producer of tea, as the country was introduced to tea as late as the 1900s. Despite this, the locals quickly learned the tricks of the trade, and are now the leaders of CTC style black tea used for export.
Did you know that black teas have their own classification? However, the classification is not an indication of the tea’s quality. Below is some more information:
Orange Pekoe comes from the name of the Dutch royal family “Oranje” . They were the first traders to bring tea to Europe and it is therefore not a surprise that the royal family has been associated with them ever since..
Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP) is in fact, the top grade of black tea. During the harvesting period, only the bud and the two to leaves are plucked.
Fine Grade is covered by the FTGFOP classification, where the ‘F stands for ‘fine’ or the FSTGFOP classification, where the ‘SF’ stands for ‘super fine’. Alternately, the numbers ‘1’ or ‘2’ can be utilised to classify the tea.
Post-fermented tea aka Pu’Erh is the most oxidised form of tea and is often associated with an overly expensive aging process. If you are interested to know whether the aging process adds anything to tea, the answer is yes. Pu’Erh tea gets mellow and improves with age like a fine wine. Pu’Erh teas are native to Yunnan Province in China where the processing methods have been, and are still a well-guarded secret.
The distinct earthy, mineral soil flavours of Pu’Erh tea come from sun drying and fermenting the tea leaves. Once fermentation is halted, the tea leaves are aged and packed into bricks or cakes.
As with the other teas, there are several different varieties of Pu’Erh. These varieties fit into two common categories; Ripe Pu’Erh tea aka ‘cooked Pu’Erh’ goes through a man-made fermentation process rather than being naturally aged. Raw Pu’Erh on the other hand is not aged at all and can taste more like green tea.
Check out one of my favourite cocktail recipes below:
Chocolate & Soil
60 ml Soil Vodka*
5 ml Passion fruit syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, stir 10 – 15 times and strain into a glass over ice.
- Garnish with a mint spring and a squeeze of grapefruit peel.
20 gm Good quality Pu’Erh tea
700 ml Chocolate Vodka (Mozart white)
⅓ pc of Vanilla Pod
- Combine all ingredients together and allow to sit and infuse (only stirring occasionally) for 15 min or longer (depending on your preference.
- Once infused, strain, bottle, label and keep refrigerated.
Bartender’s note: “Black teas carry strong, deep flavour profiles that can resemble any brown spirit.”