Black Tea

There are so many superb and seductively delicious black teas to enjoy. Our selection includes a great variety, from rich and malty Assam tea, to the refined and honeyed Darjeeling, to the classic breakfast cup, which can even be enjoyed without milk!

Organic black tea from Dragonfly

What is black tea?

    

Central to British tea culture, ‘black tea’ refers both to the incredibly popular infusion made by steeping black tea leaves in hot water, and the leaves themselves.

Black tea leaves

  • Black tea leaves come from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, the tea bush.
  • Once plucked, these leaves are allowed (or even encouraged, by rolling) to fully oxidise – the natural process which causes browning, just like a slice of apple exposed to the air.
  • Most black teas are made from the assamica variety of Camellia sinensis, which has larger leaves and more caffeine than the sinensis variety.

Black tea infusion

  • Amber to deep-brown in colour, black tea tends to be full-bodied, rich and complex.
  • There are many types of black tea, however, with great variation between the infusions they produce.
  • For example, Assam and Darjeeling black teas are both grown and made in northern India, but Assam teas are rich and malty while Darjeelings tend to have a delicate, honeyed taste.
  • Although many people enjoy milk with their black tea, it isn’t always a necessary addition. Indeed, many high-quality black teas are most fully appreciated ‘black’.
 

Brewing

The taste of your tea is affected by a number of factors you can control. Here are our top tips for getting the very best from your Dragonfly black tea.

Water

  • Filtered or spring water makes better-tasting tea.
  • Start with an empty kettle to ensure the water is fresh.
  • Ideally, add only as much water to the kettle as you need for your cup/pot. This saves energy and avoids the need to waste the spent water when you come to make your next cup!

Temperature

  • Black tea leaves can tolerate higher temperatures than other teas.
  • However, some black teas call for boiling water, while others respond best to slightly cooler water. Do check your tea’s packaging for instructions.

How much tea?

  • Dragonfly teabags contain just the right amount of tea leaves for a mug of tea (about 250ml capacity).
  • For loose leaf tea, use 1-2 teaspoons, depending on taste preference and leaf size (you’ll usually need fewer teaspoons of smaller/more compact tea).
  • At Dragonfly, we know that how you like your tea is intensely personal. Whether you weigh your tea, measure it by the spoon or judge it by eye, we recommend you experiment to find the tea-to-water ratio that you love best.

Steeping

  • Combine the water and teabag or tea leaves (some prefer to bring the tea to the water, and vice versa)
  • For loose leaf teas, it’s ideal to use a strainer or sieve so you can remove the leaves at the end of the brewing time.
  • We recommend steeping your black tea for 2-4 minutes to allow for the release of the complex flavours and beneficial compounds.
  • Avoid brewing for longer than this to prevent bitterness.
  • For tea that’s perfect for you, try it after one minute of brewing, then every 30 seconds until it’s as you like it. Remove the teabag or leaves and enjoy!

Taste

Smooth and flavourful

  • There are thousands of black teas, with differences arising from many factors.
  • These factors range from harvesting method and production styles to provenance and Camellia sinensis variety.
  • The assamica tea bush usually produces teas with stronger, bolder flavours than the sinensis variety.
  • Assam teas, the popular Indian type made from Camellia sinensis assamica, are generally strong, malty and full-bodied.
  • While also from India, Darjeeling teas – made from Camellia sinensis sinensis – are often lightly floral, with a distinctive muscatel flavour. They produce a golden liquor and more delicate cup.
  • Lapsang Souchong, from the Chinese Wuyi Mountains, is traditionally smoked. It has a soft smoky taste and distinctive aroma, while Sri Lankan (Ceylon) teas generally brew a lighter cup with a crisp, bold flavour.
  • Perhaps the best-known teas in British tea culture are the black tea blends. English Breakfast tea is a blend which often includes Assam as well as other black teas from Southern India and East Africa. The resulting cup is robust and full-bodied with a lightly malty taste.
  • Another widely enjoyed blend is Earl Grey, which combines one or more black tea with bergamot essential oil for a delicate, citrusy flavour.

Wellbeing

Properties and benefits of black tea

  • While black tea’s sibling - green tea - is better known for its health benefits, black tea contains the same health-promoting compounds from the Camellia sinensis leaf.
  • These include caffeine, amino acids (such as L-theanine) and polyphenols (such as the catechin epigallocatechin), natural chemicals implicated in a range of health benefits.
  • The everyday ritual of preparing and enjoying a cup of black tea gives us a wonderful opportunity for self-care: a moment to pause, reflect and appreciate.

Tea Growing

Growing black tea

  • Black tea is made from leaves of Camellia sinensis, particularly the assamica and sinensis varieties of the shrub.
  • The story of black tea is rooted in the Chinese tea trade with the West. British and Dutch traders of the 18th century favoured strong, dark teas that lasted better on long voyages.
  • Chinese tea makers stepped up production of fully oxidised teas for the Western market.
  • Demand continued to grow and the black tea bush varietals and process were successfully transposed to new plantations in India, Ceylon, Indonesia and East Africa.
  • Now, black tea is grown and made across the world.

Making black tea

  • After harvesting, withering (a brief period of air drying) and rolling or bruising, black tea leaves are allowed to fully oxidise.
  • The tea leaves are then dried and sorted.
  • While modern technology has automated these processes on vast tea estates, a number of artisan black tea makers continue to produce exquisite teas with traditional methods.
  • Additions such as bergamot oil in Earl Grey tea, and aromatic spices in Chai, further expand the incredible range of black tea’s flavours and aromas.
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