Red Tea

Red Tea

About Red Tea

Fermentation:  Light to strong fermentation
Growing Regions: Szechuan, Yunnan, Fujian, Guangdong
Best Seasons To Purchase:  Spring, Autumn
Pharmacological Elements: Selenium, vitamins C, E, A, B, flavonoid compounds, tannic acid, potassium, carotene

Most Popular Varieties:

1. Chen San Siew Chung Hong Cha (Red Tea)

Until the invention of Red Tea in the mid 17th century (Late Ming/Early Qing Dynasty), the majority of tea consumed in China for 2,500 years had been green un-fermented and later, semi-fermented teas. 
The story is that a passing army entered Fujian Province from Jianxi and camped at a tea factory in the Wuyi Mountain area.  This held up tea production at the factory and after the army left, the leaves produced a tea with an unusual red colour. To recoup the losses from this delay, a farmer looked for a way to accelerate the drying time and save his order. Since the army used all the charcoal in the area which was usually used for drying green tea, he placed the leaves over a smoking fire of pine wood which caused a chemical reaction in the leaves and imparted a distinct smoky and fruity (Long An) flavor to the tea. Lapsang Souchong was born and led the way for the development of a whole family of teas which became very popular in China and a staple in the West – and helped to shape modern history in the process.

There are hundreds of different teas in the Red Tea family and each one is the result of a unique process of exposing picked leaves to air, heat and moisture to facilitate fermentation of the leaves. Like Lapsang Souchong, some are exposed to smoking which imparts an additional complexity of flavor to the tea.

As with any organic material, exposure to these elements stimulates a natural enzymatic breakdown of the leaf cell structure. This chemical breakdown creates new elements such as theaflavins and other elements which were not in the original tea leaves. These fermentation processes which were carefully guarded secrets were perfected over centuries and each process gives a tea its unique aroma and flavor.

A Quick History of Chinese Red Tea

Chinese Red Tea as it is called today in the West is the name given those teas that have been fermented and the tea has a distinct red colour. This does not include the semi-fermented and post-fermented teas which produce green and black coloured teas respectively. In China, these so-called “Black Teas” are actually known as Red Tea (Hong Cha) because of the reddish colour of the brew.

True Red Chinese Teas as they are known in China are the post-fermented (aged) teas of which the Pu-Erh family of teas is the most famous. These teas are a type of fermented tea that is aged like vintage wine, continuing the fermentation process over time (post-fermentation). Paradoxically, Pu-erh tea comes in green and black varieties! For more information, see Pu-erh Teas.

The confusion in naming came about in the 17th century when Dutch and British traders noticed that the leaves were darker than the usual un-fermented green varieties consumed throughout China. The first mention of tea in European literature was in the book “Sea Voyage”, written by Lamu Soar, a Venetian.

When the British who traded in Xiamen City in Fujian province were first introduced to Red Tea , they thought they had found the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Here was a tea which had a taste they liked much better than green tea, could be shipped for long distances without spoiling and actually improved with age. And the label of “Red Tea” has stuck in the West ever since.

But history continues the confusion. Today, the vast majority of tea consumed in the West is from India. Unlike in China where all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant species, Indian tea is made from the native Camellia assamica species which has a higher (and more economical) yield, a stronger flavor and much higher levels of caffeine. Modern favourites like Darjeeling, Earl Gray and Orange Pekoe were developed by early British growers in India trying to inexpensively reproduce their favourite beverage from China.

Up to this time, the British preferred to pay the Chinese for their tea with the opium they cultivated from India. This became the cause of many wars and disputes between the two countries. So popular was Red Tea in Britain that the British Government had to stem the flow of their silver reserves to China. As the Dutch monopolized the tea trade and other countries continued to pay for tea in silver, the English found the lucrative Chinese tea markets closing to them. This problem was solved in 1848 when Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist successfully smuggled tea plants and Chinese tea experts to India to develop technologies and oversee production to optimize the profits from Red Tea. After many failed attempts, Camellia sinensis was able to grow there but eventually, production of the native Camellia assamica plant was found to be far more lucrative .
In 1874, W.S. Lyle invented the first leaf rolling machine and in 1876, George Reid invented a cutting machine that stripped the leaves from the stems and cut them
into short, thin strips. Unlike the carefully hand-picked teas from China, this mechanized “broken tea” was much more economical to produce and ship. From these beginnings, Broken Black Tea from India became a low-cost, high-profit commodity which helped fuel the British Empire of the 18th and 19th centuries and today has become a global beverage staple.

With the resurgence of the Chinese economy and growth of the Chinese tea industry worldwide, discerning tea drinkers around the world are re-discovering the New World of Chinese “Red Tea” flavours which provide the highest quality, depth and complexity of flavour made possible from whole leaves.

Storing Chinese Red Tea

Red Tea can be stored for long periods and improves with age. Also, caffeine levels tend to diminish naturally over time. We recommend a porcelain or glass container placed on a shelf, preferably not in the kitchen. The more airtight the container the better, as tea easily absorbs odours. 

Chinese Red Tea And Health Benefits

1.Reduce fat, protein and low-density “bad” cholesterol
2.Rich in fluoride, promotes dental health
3.Reduce fatigue, stimulating the central nervous system
4.Promotes strong bones
5.Enhance blood vessel elasticity and strength

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