All tea leaves are green when harvested. High in the Himalayas, tea pickers are hard at work, plucking only young and the most flavorful leaves from the plant, called Camellia sinensis. Although tea plants flourish in tropical climate, the best organic black teas are those grown in high altitudes where the clouds and cool mountain air comfort the tea plant and moisturize its leaves.
After the tea leaves are picked, they are inspected and sorted and withered. All of this is done by hand. As water from the leaves evaporates, the natural process of fermentation begins to take place. Fermentation, also known as oxidation, is the reason why organic black tea is black.
Unlike the fermentation done with wines, tea fermentation does not produce alcohol. Instead, enzymes naturally contained in the leaves are released, oxidizing the leaf in the process and turning it brown just like a tea leaf in the fall when it changes color from green to brown.
By increasing heat and high humidity in a process called firing (the leaves are exposed to high temperature over fire or commercial ovens), the fermentation of organic black tea accelerates. As a result of these conditions, it is only a matter of hours before green tea is turned to what is known as organic black tea.
There are several different types of organic black tea. They are called ‘organic’ because they were purely grown organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers or commercial pesticides. The types of organic black tea depend on the name of the region where the Camellia sinensis plant is grown. Below are the top three organic black tea, valued for their rich taste and color.
Considered by most to be the finest of Chinese black teas, Keemun organic black tea is actually a style of tea rather than the name of a region. Keemun is grown in many regions of China and Taiwan. Because of its smooth taste and aromatic flavor, Keemun organic black tea is often referred to as the “Burgundy” of teas. Chinese Keemuns are especially rich and flavorful. Higher grades of Keemun are also sweet, fruity, and pleasantly full-bodied with a delicate smoky nuance.
Keemun is great by itself. But if you want a slightly different taste, the tea also goes well with a bit of milk and sugar.
Named for the Darjeeling province in northeast India, this fine drink is another organic black tea worth trying. Often referred to as the “Champagne of teas,” Darjeeling is praised for its aroma and delicate flavor. Incidentally, the Darjeeling region also produces excellent green and oolong teas – both known for their delicate tastes. The organic black teas are delicately flavorful but still full-bodied and succulent with a wide range of flavors from floral to nutty and sometimes with subtle muscatel notes.
Another organic black tea from China and Taiwan, Lapsang Souchong is also a style of tea with an intensely strong smoky flavor that many find, if not particularly delicious, then intriguing. The flavor is produced by drying the leaves over a smoldering pine fire. This organic black tea is made from larger leaves that contain lower amounts of caffeine, making it a popular evening drink.
Lapsang Souchong is not for everyone’s palate. If you want to experiment a little with your organic black tea, try some and decide for yourself.