Our selection of black teas comprises purely orthodox teas. Simply put, that means tea that is produced using traditional methods which aim to keep the leaf as whole as possible. The other type of black tea, which makes up around 95% of worldwide black tea production, comes from a more industrialised process known as Crush, Tear & Curl (CTC). The clue is in the name, The CTC method entails crushing, grinding and compressing the leaves into very small pieces suitable for teabags. Generally speaking, the larger the leaf particles, the more mellow and complex the flavour of the tea. We do not stock CTC tea or teabags in our shop.
As a black tea drinker, you may have noticed the letters that often appear after a tea’s name. These letters are only used for teas from countries other than China and signify the state of the leaves and the grade of tea. In theory, the more letters after a tea’s name, the better. Taking the example Darjeeling First Flush Thurbo Moonlight FTGFOP, DJ 10, 2022.
Darjeeling is the region in which the tea is grown. First Flush means the first picking period of the year. Thurbo is one of the 87 gardens in Darjeeling. DJ10 2022 is the invoice number, in this case, the tenth invoice of the year 2022 from the garden Thurbo.
The addition of “Moonlight”, indicates that this is a specially produced tea, with every step of the way taking place under the watchful eye of the senior estate manager. Considered by some connoisseurs to be the height of gourmet tea, ‘Moonlight” teas are rare and highly sought after. Made from the best quality leaf from the earliest days of the first flush harvest, their plucking and production requires great skill, careful processing and precise timing.
The description of leaf grades can be broken down as follows:
SFTGFOP = Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
Tippy means that the tea has a lot of flavoursome buds.
Golden refers to the tips that turn golden brown after oxidation.
Flowery refers to the floral aroma that of the tea.
Orange means that this tea would have been good enough for the Dutch nobility, the House of Orange (the Dutch were the first Europeans to import significant volumes of tea into Europe).
Pekoe is an adaption a Chinese word which refers to the fine white down on the tea bud.
Great Britain is famous for its blends. Classic English teas such as Breakfast Tea, Afternoon Tea and Earl Grey are blends. Back in the 19th century, when British tea companies wanted to make the strong flavours of Indian teas palatable to the middle-classes in the UK, they started mixing – blending – different teas with each other. The most famous blend of all is Earl Grey, which simply means a tea or blend of teas to which bergamot oil or flavouring has been added. The advantage of blends is that while orthodox teas vary from harvest to harvest, the actual mix of a particular named blend can be adapted to ensure that the finished blend is always consistently good.
With the exception of some first flush Darjeeling teas, black tea should be steeped at around 95°C. The volume of tea to water should be between 12-15g of tea for 1 liter of water.
When making orthodox teas the producers try to keep the leaves as whole as possible. This means that some of black teas need much more volume to get the right amount for a liter of water than others (think feathers and coal). We suggest weighing the dry tea leaves before you try a tea that is new to you for the first time, that way you will get the right amount of the tea and know how many teaspoons (or tablespoons!) to use in the future.
As with all types of tea, the leaves should be given as much room as possible to open up. For convenience’s sake we recommend using a teapot with a removable sieve. Otherwise let the leaves brew loose in the teapot, and pour the tea through a sieve to another vessel to pour or drink from.