?s about black tea

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Oct 30th, '13, 12:41
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?s about black tea

by ethan » Oct 30th, '13, 12:41

My hope is that advice can be given to allow for greater enjoyment of black tea. Some advice may be for all black tea, some for specific types or a specific tea.

What is your recommended preparation for drinking black tea straight? (Temperature, time, tea to water ratio, etc.) What do you get from varying your preparation? Do you find it beneficial to experiment w/ various pots, etc?
What are you getting (flavors, mouthfeel, etc.) that is different between different types of black tea, e.g., darjeeling 1st, 2nd, & autumn flushes?
What differences are there for you between hand-rolled & CTC; expensive single estates & cheaper single estates?
Are you able to store your tea for a long time? How does the tea change over time in ways that you like or dislike?

I ask because: 1. I have found myself enjoying black tea more since experimenting w/ parameters. (Now I often shorten steeping time, especially the 1st infusion; &, sometimes I use water a little cooler than boiling.) 2. I am tempted to buy tea from Nepal that seems to be a reasonable total cost (if bought in large quantity), but I worry that I won't stay so interested in it over time.

I hope this leads to commentary that is interesting & helpful to others & goes in directions besides the above. (E.g. I get only 1 good infusion from some black tea, 2 from others, & 3 from 1)

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Nov 19th, '13, 13:27
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Re: ?s about black tea

by AlexZorach » Nov 19th, '13, 13:27

ethan wrote:What is your recommended preparation for drinking black tea straight?
I nearly always brew black tea with boiling water; a rare exception are some Darjeeling first flush teas, but even those I usually brew with boiling water. If I know nothing about a black tea, I aim for 1 teaspoon of leaf (more if the leaf is large / loosely-packed) and a 3 minute steeping time. For finely broken tea I often start with a 1-2 minute steeping time, and for very large-leaf tea I sometimes start with 5. Some teas I settle on a steeping time as long as 8 minutes (like Ahmad Tea's Ceylon OPA or Kalami Assam) but I never start that long.

I find brewing temperature and steeping time are more important than brewing vessel, but in some cases brewing vessel can have an influence. My preferred way for brewing black teas is in a mug with a basket infuser.

I can't really answer all your questions fully because they go so deep...you'd have to ask more specific questions.

In general I prefer orthodox tea of medium to high grade tea, but I'm sometimes disappointed by higher grades, and sometimes pleasantly surprised by broken-leaf or even CTC tea. High-quality, fresh CTC tea can be really good.

I find orthodox black tea stores really well, if you store it properly. CTC tea I've pitched after 2 years (I noticed some Yorkshire tea, which was finely broken CTC, precipitously declined from rich, malty, and somewhat complex, to a harsh and rather boring cup 2 years later). I have some 2-ish year old large-leaf Ceylon in my cupboard and it tastes about like the day I opened it.

I don't notice a great correlation between price/cost and how much I like a tea...whether by estate or even grade. Sometimes I like higher grade teas but they can often be higher in caffeine and milder in flavor, and sometimes I want something either lower in caffeine, or just really dark and robust.

I definitely recommend trying teas from Nepal. You don't need to buy in large quantity if you're unsure of whether or not you'll like it...many companies, like Upton Tea Imports, or Rare Tea Republic / Republic of Tea, sell Nepalese tea in small samples.

About multiple infusions, I find high grades of whole-leaf, orthodox black tea nearly always yield multiple infusions gracefully. Chinese black teas of high grade, like golden monkey from Fujian, or some Yunnan teas, often work best for this. I've occasionally gotten 3-4 cups out of some teas, brewing Western-style (3 minute+ steepings). With Gong Fu brewing you can get even more. I rarely do gong fu brewing with black teas.

Hope this helps you gain some sort of insight!

Nov 19th, '13, 18:15
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Re: ?s about black tea

by ethan » Nov 19th, '13, 18:15

thanks , Alex.
I posted the ?s because I was thinking about ordering a kilogram of tea from Nepal. (The minimum for that company).
I got some samples of darjeelings because Nepalese tea is reportedly very similar. Experimenting w/ the darjeelings, I'd come to feel that they are surely black tea; yet, some are close to oolong. So, I sometimes try using water cooler than boiling, but that was not encouraging. Infusing < 3 minutes (after a lifetime of 3 minutes being the minimum time for black tea) has revealed more flavors & gave me hope.
I may be crazy because I did not enjoy any of the darjeelings a lot & some not at all; yet, came to believe that I would ultimately be happy owning a lot of black tea to drink regularly. (Feel free to laugh, I know it is irrational.)
I did order the Nepalese tea & will probably post comments, though I don't think many teachatters care about black tea.

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Nov 19th, '13, 18:58
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Re: ?s about black tea

by sherubtse » Nov 19th, '13, 18:58

ethan wrote: I may be crazy because I did not enjoy any of the darjeelings a lot & some not at all; yet, came to believe that I would ultimately be happy owning a lot of black tea to drink regularly. (Feel free to laugh, I know it is irrational.)
Not crazy at all. Rather, you are experimenting and discovering both what you like and what you don't.

Best wishes,
Last edited by sherubtse on Nov 19th, '13, 19:56, edited 1 time in total.

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Nov 19th, '13, 19:19
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Re: ?s about black tea

by Devoted135 » Nov 19th, '13, 19:19

I find darjeelings to be very different from other blacks more popular in western markets (e.g. ceylon, assam, keemun). Much like lapsang souchong, I found darjeeling to be startling and aggressively different than I expected. However, I now crave both teas frequently, and try to always keep some in my pantry. :)

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Nov 19th, '13, 22:27
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Re: ?s about black tea

by Tead Off » Nov 19th, '13, 22:27

High grade Indian and Nepali teas are generally my favorite black teas. They have a fruitiness and are aromatic, giving a slightly tart or astringent quality that is very pleasing to my palate. Darjeelings, Nilgiri Hills, and Eastern Nepali teas really satisfy me in ways that Chinese/Taiwanese reds don't. Not that I don't like those black/red teas, but their character is quite different, often giving a cloying sweetness that I tire of. Plus, so many high mountain Indian teas are organic, well priced, and available outside of their country of origin.

I also prepare my teas much in the same way Alex has elaborated on. Choice of teapot is another matter. I use many different ones from various sources and clays. Hard to go wrong with porcelain, but good, thicker walled Yixing has served me well, too, along with some larger Japanese kyusu. For me, nothing better in the morning than a couple of cups of black tea, except for the occasional Sumatran, Torajan, Cambodian, or Indian coffees. :D

Nov 22nd, '13, 22:06
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Re: ?s about black tea

by ethan » Nov 22nd, '13, 22:06

My order of Nepalese teas arrived. I'll write about them as I try them in the thread for Black tea of the day....
Thanks for the encouragement. The "tea journey" is finding teas for oneself & finding things in oneself to enable one to embrace tea (teas) (& perhaps thus life) for greater.....

Nov 28th, '13, 04:46
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Re: ?s about black tea

by ClarG » Nov 28th, '13, 04:46

Unless the black tea is a Darjeeling I use boiling water.

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