Black tea (or red tea, as it is known in China and Japan) is what most people in the West think of when they think of tea. It is made from camellia sinensis leaves which have been allowed to blacken by oxidation before being dried, in a reaction which greatly increases their caffeine content, while destroying some but by no means all of the antioxidant flavonoids which give tea its anti-cancer properties (although whether these compounds retain their beneficial effects when the tea is drunk with milk has been called into question by experiments measuring antioxidant levels in the blood of tea-drinking subjects). A cup of black tea has about three times as much caffeine as the same amount of green tea, about twice as much as a cup of oolong and about half as much as a cup of really strong black coffee. Oxidising the tea also allows it to keep for much longer, which was an important consideration in the days when it could take many weeks or months for the tea to make it to Europe from its origins in the far East; this is probably the main reason black tea caught on in Europe in a way that green tea and oolong never quite have, although both are now gaining popularity with today's faster methods of transport.
Black tea can be consumed on its own, although the bitterness and astringency of all but the lightest of black teas take some getting used to. Darjeeling and scented black teas aside, it is more usual to drink it with milk, which does a lot to take the edge off it, or with lemon juice, which replaces some of the cheek-puckering astringency with citrus sourness. With lemon, it can be chilled and served as iced tea, enhanced by herbs like mint. In some parts of the world basil is often added. Black tea is also available flavoured with vanilla, ginger, apple, toffee and any number of other aromas. In India black tea is brewed strong and milky with spices like cardamom, cloves and ginger to make what we have come to know as chai in the English-speaking world, although originally the word just means tea.
Sometimes the phrase black tea is used specifically to refer to tea without milk, in the same way black coffee means coffee without milk; this can be the source of some confusion, especially when people think of green tea or oolong as 'black' because they are drunk without milk...
Kinds of black tea:
Ways of taking black tea:
- Chai (Indian spiced tea - high chai is chai with cannabis)
- Devon cream tea (with scones & jam)
- English tea (black tea, usually a blend, served with milk and often sugar; see PG Tips, Tetley, etc.)
- How to make a decent cup of tea (opinion is divided...)
- Iced tea (chilled black tea, often served with lemon, mint and other flavourings - see also sweet tea, fruited iced tea, Italian iced tea and peach iced tea)
- Lemon tea (either with lemon juice squeezed in and perhaps slices, in the Russian style, or lemon flavouring the dry tea)
- Russian tea (often taken with jam)
- Yak butter tea (Tibetan, salty)
- Camel tea (black tea and Drambuie; Twisted Tea is another alcoholic tea drink)
- See also Things to Put in Tea
* not noded