Black tea refers to those leaves which have been plucked, withered and allowed to fully oxidize, creating dark brown to nearly black colors in the final leaf, and resulting in a liquor that is reddish to golden brown. In the west, we use the term “Black Tea” as it relates to the actual appearance of the leaves, whereas in China it is the liquor of the infused leaves that is used to name the tea. Thus in China what we refer to as Black Teas are usually Called Red Teas.
Unlike Green Tea, which can become bitter when water that is too hot is used to brew, Black Teas can take freshly boiled water. What is still important is the brew time. Black teas, brewed with water just off the boil, can steep best between 2 and 5 minutes.
Four our Victorian Breakfast, we recommend steeping for 3 to 4 minutes. This classic breakfast style tea is a Ceylon leaf grown at 1,000 feet, and performs well when steeped up to 5 minutes for some drinkers- though the tanins will be more prominent past 4 minutes, meaning the flavor will be tarter and more drying on the palate.
Our Imperial Breakfast, which uses the same Ceylon tea with the addition of Organic Rose Petals, will brew better at 2 minutes. This is because the subtle, sweet Rose Petals will be overpowered by the tea if steeped longer.
Our lovely Keemun can steep for up to 4 minutes, as the malty, smoky qualities become more apparent with longer time in water.
The best way to decide how to steep black tea is to begin timing your own infusions. Using your favorite brewing method, start steeping your preferred black tea and a timer in stop watch mode- try steeping at 2.3.4 and 5 minutes, starting anew batch each time. With patience and persistence, and using the time guidelines, you will find your sweet spot.