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China Black Tea

China Black Tea

The Chinese call it hong cha (red tea), but don’t let the name confuse you. China black tea couldn’t be any farther in both taste and color from what Westerners call “red tea” – roibboos tea.

Like all typical teas, China black tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant grown originally in the Yunnan Province of China and available only for export to the foreign markets. Today, China black tea is still a favorite among tea drinkers, especially the English where black tea is constantly the main ingredient in English tea breakfast.

The Chinese call it hong cha because of the color of the infused liquid and the red edges of the oxidized leaves. At one time, it is said that China black tea was considered of lesser quality and not desired by the Chinese themselves, and was therefore exported. This is probably why, to this day, black tea is what everyone outside of China thinks of when talking about tea, whereas, tea in China is understood to mean green tea. Regardless, the black teas of today have come a long way from being considered as low quality tea.

Antoher name for China black tea is Congous – its name in the international tea trade business. The name actually comes from the Chinese term gong fu or kung fu. Northern Congous are also referred to as Black Leaf Congous, “the Burgundy of China teas”, and Southern Congous as Red Leaf Congous, “the Claret of China teas.”

How to Make China Black Tea

The first step in making China black tea after plucking the leaves is to allow them to wither. Next comes rolling, the purpose of which is to break open the surface of the leaves and allow the remaining moisture or sap to escape and coat the surface of the leaves. This sap is what contains the polyphenols or tannins, which are said to be powerful antioxidants and give teas their health benefits.

After rolling, the leaves are exposed to the air and controlled conditions of heat and humidity to oxidize or ferment them. In the process, the polyphenols are oxidized as well and transform into compounds called theaflavins, which gives the leaves a bright coppery red color. Another chemical reaction occurs and the theaflavins form into another compound called thearubigins, which ultimately render China black tea its final dark brown or black color.

The theaflavins are also associated with the “brisk” flavor and brightness of China black tea. The thearubigins, on the other hand, are responsible for the tea’s strength and color. After a few hours, when oxidation is complete, the aroma of China black tea changes from a “leafy” smell to a “fruity” one.

The last step is drying and firing. This is when China black tea is subjected to extreme heat – sometimes in an open fire – in order to change the color of the leaves to its characteristic black color.

China Black Tea Types

* Ching Wo (Fujian Province) – includes Lapsang Souchong and Panyang
* Dayeh (Yunnan Province)
* Dian Hong (Yunnan Province)
* Hainan (Island of Hainan, South China Sea)
* Keemun (Keemun County, Anhui Province) – includes Mao Feng, Hao-Ya, and Ji Hong
* Orange Pekoe
* Pingsuey (Lung Ching, Hangzhou district of Zhejiang Province)
* Yi Chang (Hubei Province)
* Yunnan
* Zao Bei Jian (Sichuan Province)

KEYWORD: “China Black Tea” = 13
DENSITY: 2.3 %


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