Sweet and spicy. A hint of chocolate. The sweet fragrance of orchids. These distinctive flavors are what set black tea apart from other teas. Don’t get me wrong though. All of four types of tea – white, green, oolong, and black – come from the leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but there are differences that may be as subtle as a hint of flowery aftertaste or as blatant as the color of the brew.
What Separates Black Tea from Other Teas?
Black tea has always been valued for its unusually flavorful taste and rich color and aroma. But if all tea types come from the same plant, what makes black tea stand out? What gives it its distinct flavor? Why is it darker in color?
The difference may come from where which part of the plant is used to make the tea. In the case of white tea, the leaves used are those found only on the branch tips, particularly the leaf bud and possibly the first two leaves under the bud. That actually accounts for the extremely delicate taste of white tea.
On the other hand, black tea is made from the mature leaves of Camellia sinensis. The leaves are fully developed. When steeped and processed, the resulting flavor has a natural tang and loaded with richness.
Another source of distinction is that black tea, unlike green tea and oolong tea, is fully oxidized during processing. This is actually another reason why black teas are more full-bodied and robust in taste, compared to green tea, which is more delicate and fresh-tasting.
Black Tea Types
There are several different kinds of black tea available in the market today. Often, the difference lies in the names, which are usually taken from the districts in the countries where they are grown. Hence, you may have heard of Assam (India), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Yunnan (China). Each of these black tea types possesses different characteristics, depending on the local conditions in the various regions where they are grown.
Besides often being named for the district in which they are grown, black teas were originally classified according to what leaves on the tea plant was plucked. While white tea is picked once a year every spring from leaf buds, the reformed tip – which includes the leaf bud and the first two leaves under bud – can be picked to make black tea. This led to classifications that range from Pekoe (pronounced ‘PECK-oh’) to others such as Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe and Tippy Golden Flowering Orange Pekoe.
What Black Tea Contains
Virtually all teas produced from Camellia sinensis naturally contain caffeine. The difference in processing does not change this caffeine content. So black tea, oolong, green, and white tea have approximately the same amount of caffeine, falling within a range of 25 to 60 mg of caffeine in a 6-oz. cup.
In addition, black tea contains several antioxidants that are good for the body. You may have heard of the many health benefits of green tea. The reason, of course, is the rich antioxidant content of green tea. And because black tea is made form the same plant as green tea, that jus goes to show how beneficial black tea can be to your health as well.
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