The nature of black tea

Most people have heard about black tea – but as with many of the tea terms its precise nature may be unclear to many.

So here is a handy guide to the product.

Black tea is one of the four major tea types. The other three are white, green and oolong.

It comes from the dried leaves of Camellia Sinensis, as does green tea, white tea, and oolong tea.

It is basically green tea but the leaves are further dried changing the colour and taste.

Black teas include Lapsang Souchong, Keemun, Dian Hong, Tibeti, Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Kenyan, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Turkish and Thai tea.

Black teas are often blended and mixed with various other plants. Such teas include Earl Grey, English breakfast and Irish breakfast.

In terms of its health benefits it has caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system, relaxes the airways, stimulates the heart, and acts as a diuretic.

It is also rich in antioxidants, though not as rich as green teas, vitamins E and C and help to fight free radicals that cause pre-mature aging.

Studies have shown that regular cups of black tea lowers stroke risks, that it may lower “bad” cholesterol and slow the spread of prostate cancer – as per green tea. Black tea also contains abundant tannins, astringent chemicals and soothing anti-inflammatory effects on the digestive tract and also contains fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.

When making a cup of black tea it’s best to use freshly boiled soft water, unlike green teas, which turn bitter when brewed at higher temperatures.

The more delicate black teas, such as Darjeeling, should be steeped for three to four minutes. The same holds for broken leaf teas, which have more surface area and need less brewing time than whole leaves.

Whole leaf black teas, and black teas that will be served with milk or lemon, should be steeped four to five minutes.