Types of Chinese Black Tea

The world’s most popular and widely consumed tea, Chinese black tea, originated nearly 5,000 years ago and has evolved into thousands of known varieties.

The tea undergoes extensive processing, which includes withering, rolling, oxidizing and drying, to create its deep color, satisfying fragrance and full-bodied taste.

Depending on the variety of brew, Chinese tea features flavors that hint of spice, pepper, malt or other earthy delights. Referred to as "red tea" (hong cha) in China, it typically mellows with age and grows richer and deeper in flavor.

There are three categories of black tea that result from differing production methods. These include:

  1. Souchong: This type of brew features large leaves that are rolled lengthwise and differs from other black teas of the world because of the pine-smoked aroma that is infused during processing. The tea comes from the Wuyi mountain city of Fujian province. Souchong is further segmented based on the specific geographical area in which the tea is harvested.

    Lapsang Souchong is said to be the finest in this category and is produced in Chong’An, Jianyang, and Guangzhe. Tongmuguan Souchong is produced in Tongmugaun county and Xingchong comes from areas surrounging Xingcun.There is also a variety called Smoking Souchong that is produced outside of Wuyi city.

  2. Congou: This category of Chinese black tea includes variations of Souchong that include Keemun, Yunnan, Hunan, Jiangsu, and Sichuan.

  3. Broken or Graded: An internationally accepted grading standard for broken black tea categorizes the different types based on whether the tea is Whole Leaf, Broken Leaf, Fannings (small broken pieces that are ideal for quick brewing) or Dust (tiny bits of leaf that are typically used in standard tea bags).

Among the most popular varieties are Keemun, Yunnan and Lapsang Souchong teas. Chinese tea blends are consumed around the world and integral to the culture and enjoyment in people's daily lives.

Brewing Guidelines

For each cup of tea you prepare, you will want to heat 6 ounces or 1.7 deciliters of water. You will want your water temperature to range between 205-212 degrees Fahrenheit or 96-100 degrees Celsius.

The time it takes to brew black tea correlates to the size of the tea leaf in your blend - and whether you are using loose leaf tea or tea bags. As a rule, the larger the tea leaf the longer the brewing time. As a general rule, black tea takes between three and five minutes to brew to perfection. 

According to an ancient Chinese proverb...

"Rather go without salt for three days
than without tea for a single day."

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