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What is Dark Tea?

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I’ll be honest, finding information on Dark Tea is laughably difficult. There are blurbs here, and there, and a few blogs about it, but none of my books have much to say on the topic beyond, “This is how you brew dark tea…”

Let’s answer the initial question: What is dark tea?

All tea starts as the same genus species, Camellia sinensis. Dark tea starts its life the exact same way a green tea does. It is withered, goes through a de-enzyming process, and is rolled or shaped. The next step in the dark tea making process can go one of many ways. Aged dark teas are pressed into a form, and naturally fermented over a period of several years. These teas tend to have a truly mellow, sweet flavor, significantly less tannic than black tea. A second option for the drying, or "maocha" process is accelerated fermentation, which is still very delicious, it just takes much less time, and can sometimes include the use of added bacteria to speed the process up.

Dark Hearts

Dark Hearts: One of our favorite dark teas

BACTERIA?! WHAT!?

Calm down. Dark tea is probiotic. Have you ever noticed that food with probiotics or other bacteria (yogurt, blue cheese, etc) tend to be a little on the sour side? Dark tea is the opposite. Regardless of which method is used to dry the tea, natural, or accelerated, every dark tea I have ever tried has been smooth, a little earthy, but a little sweet, which is convenient, as I’m not too much a fan of sour things.

Now there is a sub category of dark tea that you may be familiar with. Pu-erh, or Pu-ehr, or Puer, or 普洱茶 (Pu-erh is my favorite. I’m sticking with that) is a style of dark tea that is made specifically in the Yunnan Province of China. It’s characterized by a deep, earthy flavor, and is incredibly tannic. The production is similar, not always the same, but that’s a blog post for another day. All you need to know right now is all pu-erh teas are dark teas, but not all dark teas are pu-erhs.

Alright, so now that you know what dark tea is, I'm going to confuse you. In China, they refer to dark tea as 'black tea', and what we traditionally call black tea, they refer to as 'red tea'. Additionally, 'red tea' is another coloquially used term for rooibos, which is a South African herb that is brewed like tea, but that's a topic for another day.


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