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How to Brew the Perfect Loose Leaf Black Tea

Black loose leaf tea is one of the most popular tea families in the world, with different varieties, including English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast and Chai. 

You’ve likely heard of English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast, and Chai tea. These are all varieties of black tea, one of the most popular tea families in the world. You can enjoy them with your breakfast, during afternoon tea, or anytime you want a warm, nourishing beverage that’s low in calories (about 2 calories per cup).

Today we’re going to introduce you to the wonderful world of loose leaf black teas. We’ll share its health benefits, history, brewing instructions, and introduce you to some of our favourite black tea blends. 

Health benefits of black tea

Aside from having a great, distinctively strong flavour profile, black tea also has many possible health benefits, including: 

  • Decreasing cell damage
  • Promoting overall health
  • Reducing blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Decreasing body fat
  • Boosting heart health
  • Lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol
  • Improving gut health
  • Repairing lining of the digestive tract
  • Reducing the risk of some cancers
  • Improving focus

How are black tea leaves harvested?

Black tea is best harvested in cooler temperatures and from trees at higher altitudes

Black tea leaves come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which all green, white or black tea comes from. The harvesting and processing process gives each tea a distinct flavour profile that makes them easy to distinguish.

Mature trees can produce leaf harvests for several years and black tea is best harvested in cooler temperatures and from trees at higher elevations. When there are 2-4 new leaves on a shoot, pick the top two leaves and bud for the tea. 

Harvested leaves are left to wither for 18 hours to naturally lose their moisture. Then they must be rolled without tearing because tearing breaks the membranes that release the flavour juices. After 18 hours, the leaf rolls are fermented to create the signature black tea aroma and flavour. The last step is firing the leaves in a large oven. 

This whole process is done to preserve the essential oils in the leaf so they remain dormant until exposed to boiling water. This process helps dried black tea leaves last longer than green tea leaves and gives them a strong flavour profile. 

Black teas are relatively “new”

Black tea is a relatively new variety. It was born in China in the 17th century when the Chinese began experimenting with fermenting tea leaves to extend its shelf life. They discovered the oxidized version of green tea leaves produces a distinct flavour and it became known as black tea. 

When it was brought to England a century later, it was an expensive and exotic delicacy. Eventually, Brits began their own production of these leaves to increase supply and drive prices down in order for more people to enjoy this new beverage. 

Today, many countries have made their own local black tea blends, and it’s beloved as a hot beverage, an iced tea, and in many tasty recipes and sweets. 

How to drink loose leaf black tea

Black tea is one of the few teas you can steep in boiling water, which opens up the essential oils in the leaf and adds to its distinct flavour profile.

Drinking black tea from loose tea leaves tastes great, as long as it’s brewed under these ideal conditions:

  • Water temperature: Boiling (100oC)
  • Water quality: Fresh or filtered water
  • Tea leaves: 1 tsp per 236 ml of water

To brew black tea:

  • Boil your water and add 2-3 grams (about 1 tsp) of loose leaf black tea. 
  • Let it steep for 3-5 minutes (Steep it longer for more robust flavours)
  • Strain the tea leaves from the hot water completely and serve. 
  • You can use the leaves more than once, but you will lose some flavour every time. 

Black loose leaf tea is one of the few teas that should be brewed in boiling water. The exception is Darjeeling black tea which can get bitter if steeped too hot for too long. That tea should be steeped at 85 C for less than 3 minutes. 

Shelf life of black tea leaves

All loose leaf tea is best fresh. Because black tea leaves are fermented, they last longer than other teas. It’s still best to consume it within 18 months, but if stored correctly in tin or aluminum foil bags, it can keep for several years if unopened. 

Healthy black tea blends

Black tea takes on new flavour profiles when it’s blended with other leaves and natural favours. Here are our current black tea blends that we’re loving right now:

English Favourites Tea: Earl Grey

English Favourites Tea: English Breakfast

English Favourites Tea: Lady Londonderry 

English Favourites Tea: Russian Earl Grey

Flavoured Black Tea: Blueberry

Flavoured Black Tea: Chocolate Mint

How to choose good quality black tea

Like many products, there are premium quality varieties and cheaply-produced ones. To ensure you’re getting the full benefits and authentic flavour of black tea, here’s what to look for:

  • Ensure the tea leaves are dried without extra moisture or unexpected smells
  • Leaves with a rolled appearance are likely of higher quality
  • Leaves with silver or golden tips are likely of higher quality
  • For lighter teas, choose spring or autumn harvested leaves
  • For more robust teas, choose summer harvested leaves

You can also browse our selection of our premium black tea leaves harvested from around the world and blended with complementary flavours. 

Browse our Black Tea selection to choose one of our many varieties and blends. 

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