Black tea encompasses most tea drunk in the UK today from breakfast tea blends to single origins such as Assam & Ceylon. To make black tea the tea leaves are rolled after withering; a process releasing enzymes in the sap beginning oxidation - darkening the leaves and creating a richer taste with more strength. Most black tea is fully oxidised (90-100%). Lighter black teas such as Darjeeling and Nilgiri are less oxidised and have more green in the leaf, such teas should not be drunk with milk. Our black teas below are roughly ordered from light to fully oxidised; from fresher to more deeply flavoured.
Water temp: 95-99C. Water should always be freshly drawn, ideally filtered and caught just under the boil.
Washing the tea: Optional Chinese practise to remove any dust and impurities and wake up the tea leaf. To do this steep the leaves in boiling water for just 10 secs, swirl and discard the water. This also serves to warm your teapot for first use.
Western brewing: Use 1-2 heaped teaspoons (2.5-4g) per 200ml cup steeped for 2min30s (light taste) - 3mins30s (strong). Use the same leaves for a second infusion infusing slightly shorter for 2-3 minutes. Using just 2.5g infused for 2mins30s suits the lighter, more astringent black teas such as Darjeeling, Nilgiri etc. Using 3.5-4g suits nearly all others. If you like it strong the key is to use more, not brew for longer. Always add milk to the cup first, then pour the hot tea on top!
Gong-fu style: Use 5-7 grams (4+ teaspoons) per 100ml, repeatedly steeped for short periods, eg. 15-20 secs for a first steep (after washing the tea), then increased by 10+ secs each infusion until the flavour has gone. Adjust for personal preference, shorter if too strong, longer if too weak. Best done in a small brewing vessel, eg. approx 150ml.
Cold infusion: Infuse 3-4g in 500ml cold water for 4-6 hours for refreshingly crisp iced tea, or overnight - experiment!