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The Brew Journal


Getting to Know - Black Tea

Black tea is undoubtedly the most commonly drunk type of tea worldwide. Popular black teas include Ceylon from Sri Lanka, Darjeeling and Assam from India and Keemun from China. Our Elder & Cream Black Tea is made with exceptional Ceylon black tea. Some of our favourite teas are made with a blend of different black teas. For example, traditional English Breakfast tea comprises of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan black teas, while Earl Grey is usually a blend of Darjeeling, Ceylon, Assam with the addition of bergamot oil.

Today we explore how black tea is produced, the different grades of black tea and why we should be drinking black tea.

Black Tea Production

Black teas are produced either by the orthodox or CTC (crush, tea, curl) method. The orthodox method is what we refer to as "handmade" tea. Nowadays, certain machines are able to process tea leaves in a way that mimics the traditional "handmade" teas. On the other hand, CTC (most commonly employed in India and Africa) produces small pellets of tea. These two methods differ in that the orthodox method seeks to maintain the integrity of the leaf, whereas CTC seeks to break up the leaves. CTC gained popularity as it is a quicker process, minimising time and cost. Black teas produced through the CTC method are ideal for the tea bag industry, as the broken leaves infuse easily and make for a strong cup of tea. The process below refers only to the production of orthodox tea.

After plucking, the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are withered (to remove moisture) and rolled. The rolling process breaks the cell wall which results in enzymatic oxidation. This allows the aromas, strength and colour of black tea to surface. The leaves are then spread out in a controlled, humid environment for several hours until fully oxidised before firing or drying. This can be done either in the traditional manner (over charcoal), but is more commonly done in tumble dryers. The firing process removes almost all moisture in the leaf. Finally, the leaves are sorted in order of leaf size and types of leaves included in the tea.

Grades of Black Tea 

The most commonly used grading system for black tea is used in countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Africa and Indonesia. You may have noticed some teas labelled as OP, or BOP from these countries. Other countries such as China, Japan and Taiwan use different grading systems. 

Leaf Grades Broken Leaf Grades
OP (Orange Pekoe) BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe)
FP (Flowery Pekoe)
FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe)
FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe)
GBOP (Golden Broken Orange Pekoe)
GFOP (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) 
GFBOP (Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe)
TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
FTGFOP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)
SFTGFOP (Special Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe)


For whole and broken leaf grading, it gets pretty confusing fast. So let's get explain each abbreviated letter:

O - Orange: Reference to the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau

P - Pekoe: Derived from the Chinese dialect "pek ho," for white, downy "hairs" that can be found on some leaves and young buds

OP - Orange Pekoe: Refers to whole leaves without tips (unopened leaves)

F - Flowery: Denotes large leaves with an abundance of tips 

G - Golden: Contains young tips or buds that are usually golden, which are picked early in the season

T - Tippy: Contains the highest proportion of tips

F - Finest: Highest quality grade

S - Special: Reserved for the highest quality FTGFOP grade and are usually the best a tea estate has to offer

B - Broken: Denotes broken leaves

It takes years of practice for tea graders to be fully qualified to grade tea. Having visited tea factories, I have had the honour of observing how the grading takes place. It's amazing to watch experts call out the grades within a couple of seconds, simply with a quick look and by running the leaves through their fingers. I've had a hand at tea grading before, and trust me, it is as difficult as it looks!

Black Tea Health Benefits

Though green tea gets the reputation as a healthier beverage, black tea, too, has a whole host of health benefits. In fact, both contain antioxidants which prevents free radical damage to our cells, lowers LDL cholesterol levels, boosts metabolism, strengthens our bones and has shown great promise in cancer prevention. When drunk regularly, there is no denying that teas are a great source of antioxidants and a healthier choice than sipping on sugary drinks such as sodas. We strongly encourage the consumption of Kindred's teas without the addition of sugar and milk, and believe that all our teas are also best drunk this way. As our tea leaves are of premium quality, drinking them straight allows you to appreciate the notes of the tea with each infusion. 

To celebrate black teas, quote "BLACK10" upon checkout to get 10% off our black tea - Elder & Cream Black Tea! This code is valid till 30 November 2018, 2359 hours. 

In our next post, we'll explore oolong tea, one of the most complex teas to produce!

Till next time,