Black Tea - Tea, Tea Accessories & Recipes - The Tea Kitchen

Black Tea

Black tea is one of the most popular types of tea on the market and has numerous exciting health benefits. Learn more about the origins of black tea, how it is produced, and why you should take the time to enjoy a warm cup.

Origins 

The first black tea is credited to China. It can be traced back to 1590 in the Fujian Province. Dutch merchants brought black tea back to Europe in 1610. Green tea was and remains more popular in China, but black tea held up better travelling over long distances, so it became the smart export. Black tea became particularly important to England, where at first only the wealthy enjoyed the beverage, drinking the expensive import to communicate status and importance. Tea became a mark of British royalty in 1662, when Portugal’s Princess Catherine married England’s King Charles II and presented crates of Chinese black tea as her dowry.

Catherine of Braganza, Queen of Britain, wife of Charles II (Public Domain)

But as tea became more readily available, it became a drink of the common people. Great Britain conquered lands in the West and East indies where tea could be manufactured, further contributing to the good’s rise. Now Great Britain didn’t have to import tea from foreign powers; it could control its own supply on tea plantations in its colonies. Tea’s popularity also increased in England and throughout the world as sugar emerged as a popular additive. Like tea, Great Britain also manufactured sugar in its territories. By the mid 1800s, afternoon teas became an important way for European women to gather and gossip, and a cup of tea could be enjoyed by all, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Production

Like all tea, black tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. If left alone, this plant will sprout a white flower with yellow stamens and bear a fruit with a green shell.

Camellia sinensis in bloom | By Juni from Kyoto, Japan – Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

But in order to make drinking tea, the evergreen family plant is harvested before it blooms. Two main forms of camellia sinensis are used to make black tea: 1) Camellia sinensis sinensis, which is native to China, grows best in cool, mountainous areas, and is dormant in the winter, and 2) Camellia sinensis assamic, which is native to India, grows best in warm, humid temperatures, and can be harvested year round every 8-12 days.

Black tea is the most oxidized of teas—meaning it’s exposed to oxygen for enough time to turn its leaves brown and black. In general, to make black tea, tealeaves are plucked, withered and rolled, oxidized, heated, and then dried.

Black tea may be native to China and India, but it is grown all over the world, with notable production in Kenya, Sri Lanka, Iran, Vietnam, Indonesia, Tuerkey, and Argentina.

A tea plantation in Sri Lanka | By Adbar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Health

Black tea boasts many advantages. The antioxidants in tea keep cell DNA from breaking down, keeping many diseases at bay. According to a 2010 study from the University College of London, drinking black tea allows you to calm down quicker than those who don’t drink black tea, and when confronted with a stressful event, those who drink black tea even produce less cortisol (the stress hormone). A 2007 study from Finland’s National Public Health Institute found that drinking tea was also associated with a lower risk for developing Parkinson’s Disease. And a 2013 study from Penn State concluded that drinking hot tea was inversely associated with obesity; it also found that tea drinkers had smaller waists and lower BMIs than non-tea drinkers.

WebMD lists an array of other benefits associated with drinking black tea as well, including a reduced risk of diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol, kidney stones, and osteoporosis. The caffeine in tea also promotes alertness by increasing heart rate. Too much caffeine isn’t good for your heart, but drinking 1-4 cups of tea a day is perfectly healthy.