Tea World

Lesson 23

Black Tea-its origin

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The history black tea in China can be traced back to the late Ming Dynasty, when the first black tea called Lapsang Souchong, was produced in the area around Wuyi Mountain in Fujian province. This high mountainous area was called Lapsang and the small leaf tea trees Souchong and hence the name.

Until the invention of Black Tea (also known as Red Tea in China)  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. 

Let us know from a Chinese story how the Black variety came into being.

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. In China, these so-called “Black Teas” are actually known as Red Tea (Hong Cha) because of the reddish colour of the brew.

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