Black & Oolong Tea
“Humanity has always rediscovered itself over a cup of tea”~ Okakura Kakuzo
Black Tea & Oolong (Wu-long) tea
Black tea is probably the most common form of tea drank in today’s Western world. Tea, or Camellia Sinensis (its latin, botanical name) is enjoyed all over the world, whether found in the grocery isle in the form of teabags, or in your favourite tea shop in its loose form. From the ordinary to the exotic, tea is everywhere.
Black tea is often referred to as “red tea” by the Chinese, because of its depth of color. Black tea, in a cup is not often actually black, but dark red or coppery in color.
Black tea is fermented tea. Fermentation is done to enhance the body, color, caffeine and tannin level of the tea. If you have ever looked or tasted green tea which has not been fermented, you will notice the difference in flavour and fullness. Black tea is much fuller bodied and richer in flavour than green tea.
“Orthodox” is the most common process of fermentation. Withering, rolling, roll breaking, fermentation, firing and sifting are the six operations of this process. Each operation is crucial and time consuming in its own right- but essential in deciding just the right flavour and grade. During the sifting, the tea leaves are sorted and put into different categories. These categories are: leaf grade, broken grade and fannings/dust. Usually the fannings/dust are reserved for teabags.
As a general rule: the more broken down the leaf, the stronger the tea.
Black tea is sorted into grades, which categorize the tea by the size of the leaves and their quality. When you hear about an “Orange Pekoe” tea, it is not referring to the flavour, but to the classification of the tea. “Orange Pekoe” or “O.P” is a larger leaf on a fine plucking- and “Orange” designates a “royal” tea of superior quality. There are many different classifications and generally the more letters you see in a tea’s classification the finer the grade. For instance, if you were to see S.F.T.G.F.O.P, Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, it would be the finest tea available. On the other hand, if you were to see B.P, that would mean a Broken Pekoe- which is usually reserved for blends, and is not of high quality.
There are many different regions around the world that produce tea. China, India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and Kenya account for two thirds of the world’s tea production to date. The tea plant has adapted to many climates around the world, with Europe as one of its only exceptions. You may also find tea from plantations in Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan (Formosa), Burma, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Zimbabwe and South Africa just to name a few.
Health information: Black Tea
Black Tea and Green Tea are both known for their ability to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol that can lead to stroke and heart attacks. Black tea is also said to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by fifty percent. Tea also contains a high amount of Flavonoids, which are antioxidants that fight off heart disease, and strengthen immunities.
Tea leaves also contain fluoride, which can strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities and tooth decay. Black tea has not been studied as widely as Green tea, and therefore not as many health benefits have been revealed to us.
The main components to any tea are caffeine, polyphenols (tannins) and essential oils.
Some say that tea is higher in caffeine than coffee, which is not entirely true. In its dry form, a pound of black tea has 2x as much caffeine as a pound of coffee- but from one pound of tea, you can make at least 200 cups, where you can only make about 40 cups from a pound of coffee. Fermentation increases the amount of caffeine in tea, so black tea has more caffeine than green tea, and green tea has more caffeine than white tea.
Caffeine is a health issue for many people, it is a naturally occurring drug that gives a slight boost and elevates the spirits. It is known to stimulate the nervous system, the kidneys and is a mild diuretic. Caffeine is also slightly stimulating to the respiratory system. Some health providers advise people with high blood pressure not to ingest too much caffeine. You can get around this by purchasing decaffeinated teas, or “second potting” (resteeping) the tea. A second potting is the second pot or cup made from the same tea leaves used the first time. You just run the water through as you would normally, but pour out the first cup/pot, and pour freshly boiled water over the leaves again and enjoy.
Oolong/ Wu-Long (Wu-lung)
Oolong or Wu-long tea is only semi-fermented and is often known as “Blue-green” tea. Wu-long translated actually means “Black Dragon”, and mainly grown in China, or Taiwan.
Oolong tea is fermented only 20-75% depending on where the tea is from. Oolong has a similar taste to a black tea, although some varieties may taste more woody or dusty. Oolong is not as full bodied nor does it have quite as much caffeine as black tea. It is in between a green tea and black tea as far as flavour, body and color are concerned.
Oolong tea is also widely known as the “slimming tea” said to speed up your metabolism and help you lose weight. Oolong will in fact speed your metabolism by about 4%, as will green tea and black tea. Studies have shown it is effective in weight loss, reducing bad cholesterol, and increasing fat burning.
The most important thing is to drink tea for your health and enjoyment.
So, take the time out of your busy day and enjoy the moment with a cup of your favourite tea.