Best Black Tea Flavors for Fall
As the nights become a little cooler and the sun sets a little earlier, the onset of Fall is the perfect time to explore the different flavors of black tea. There are a few that stand out as classic favorites. Some of the black teas I recommend here are naturally flavored while others get their flavor simply from their terroir, processing and blending.
There are thousands of tea estates around the world that produce tea. Each estate crafts a unique tea based on the process and drying of the tea leaves. Each region gives its own distinctive flavor.
All black teas are fully oxidized, producing a hearty rich deep flavor of amber colored liquor, making them perfect for fall. As always, the fresher the tea the better the tea experience.
The Birthplace of Tea
The Yunnan province of China is thought to be the birthplace of tea. Some of the wild growing tea trees are purported to be about 1,700 years old, which is simply amazing. These trees are still giving after all these years. These old growth camellia sinensis trees are never pruned.
The Yunnan province is also known for producing some of the very best black tea, more so than any other part of China.
Here are my top five picks for classic black teas that are perfect for the cool autumn weather:
Black Dragon Pearl
Black Dragon Pearl is one of my favorite teas. This is the tea I drink every morning as I slowly awaken to the day before me.
Black Dragon Pearl comes from the southern Yunnan province in China. This black tea version of the popular Dragon Pearl is naturally sweet and smooth with a touch of earthiness.
Only the highest quality leaves and buds are selected and expertly rolled into a large pearl-like shape before the leaves can dry. I love watching this amazing golden-tipped large leaf tea steep, as each pearl gently unfurls delivering a superb tea experience.
You can infuse this tea in a tea sack of sorts, but please don’t. You will get much better flavor if you let them fully open naturally without constraint, as in a large infuser or leave them be in your cup.
Black Dragon Pearl is a full-bodied infusion with subtle cocoa notes, producing a beautiful coppery-amber color. It’s smooth and sweet on its own but stands up well to added milk or sweetener, too. It’s also very forgiving since it doesn’t turn bitter if you accidentally over steep it.
The tightly rolled nuggets of the Black Dragon Pearl contain its own mystery, aroma, texture and hue as intriguing as its name.
How Black Dragon Pearl Tea is Made
The Leaf Chief/Master Taster Cynthia at Adagio Tea gave me some information on the background of Black Dragon Pearls.
“Our Black Dragon Pearls are from Yunnan, where they get their smooth, sweet, and rich character. The leaves are plucked and go through the black tea making process. After oxidation and while still pliable, they are kept warm on a heating pad of sorts to keep them supple. This fills the room with a wonderful aroma of the leaves.”
Black tea is fully oxidized, producing a hearty rich flavor. This means that once the first two leaves and bud are plucked they are then allowed to “wither” to reduce the moisture in the leaf.
Once withered to a satisfactory moisture content, the leaves are rolled. The rolling releases the flavonoids setting up the enzymatic process for oxidation. Once fully oxidized the leaves are set out to dry and cool.
Cynthia adds, “They are hand rolled into the pearl shape and twisted into nylon mesh to keep their shape while they dry. It looks kind of like a bunch of grapes when a bunch of them are twisted into the mesh. When completely dry, the pearls are released from the nylon.”
Just the idea that each pearl comes from hand picked tea and is then hand rolled adds to the beauty of the Black Dragon Pearl tea.
Earl Grey is an international best seller and one of the most popular flavored teas in the west. The distinctive flavor of Earl Grey comes from bergamot oil.
Bergamot is a Mediterranean citrus fruit. The bergamot fruit has a very generous rind and is prized for its fragrant essential oil by perfumeries and tea blenders.
Some tea blenders use natural bergamot oil while others use an artificial oil. When a natural oil is used it will say “oil of bergamot.” Natural bergamot has a subtle but intense flavor. And it’s not easy to find.
Tea Blending is a CraftSince Earl Grey is a blended, flavored black tea, the exact blend of black tea used, as well as the choice and amount of bergamot oil will greatly effect its flavor. Here is where the craft of the tea blender is so very important.
The black tea used as a base for Earl Grey is a blend and often comes from China, India or Sri Lanka. The main black tea base for Earl Grey commonly uses a blend of rich Assam tea from India with other black teas.
The best way to achieve an excellent Bergamot flavor is to use an all-natural bergamot oil from Italy. Italian bergamot oil is very expensive, but is the preferred oil.
When it comes to food you can’t mistake the Italian’s passion for excellence. Italian Bergamot oil makes the Earl Grey tea a tad pricey, but it’s definitely worth it.
English Breakfast is an all-time favorite. It is a blend designed to be consistent across harvests and provide a strong morning cup of tea. Every tea company designs its own secret blend of breakfast teas.
The English Breakfast black tea blend is often made with a quality China Keemun from the Anhui province. The Keemun gives it a deep rich flavor that goes nicely with the addition of milk making it a superb morning tea.
Irish Breakfast tea, on the other hand, is a black tea blend using Assam tea from India as part of its primary base.
Either one makes a delightful morning cup.
Masala chai is a powerful blend of tea, herbs and spices cherished for centuries in India.
Masala means ‘mixture of spice’ in Hindi. Chai rhymes with ‘pie’. Chai is the word for tea in many parts of the world. So when we mistakenly say “chai tea” in America, we are really saying “tea tea.” Masala chai is simply tea (chai) with a spice mix (masala).
This sweet spiced tea from India is made from rich black tea and spices. Each blend is unique but most include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper. Traditional Indian chai spice blends are designed to promote health and peace of mind.
All chai spice blends use cardamom. It is the most important and also the most expensive spice in the mix. In fact, cardamom is one of the most expensive spices in the world. The good news is you don’t need a lot of it to flavor your tea.
A Little Bit About Cardamom
Cardamom is revered for it’s medicinal properties dating back to Egypt’s Ebers Papyrus in 1550 BCE. The Ebers Papyrus is the Egyptian document of herbal knowledge and is one of the oldest and most important medical documents of the time.
Indigenous to the hills of southern India, cardamom is used in many recipes for its’ sweet and savory wellness qualities. Cardamom is known as a digestive aid and appetite stimulant. It also acts as a diuretic and antioxidant. The seed is often chewed as a breath refresher.
Cardamom is a good source of Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, iron and manganese.
Keemun tea is a black tea produced in the Anhui province of China. It is famous for its rich flavor, fiery amber liquor and toasty aroma. It is smoky, slightly malty and smooth, with an aromatic finish.
Adagio has an excellent Keemun. It's strong, smoky, sharp, but with maltiness and body. It also has a fruity aroma. If you like a dark beer or a red wine, this may be a good choice for you. Keemuns are perfect evening teas. They also pair well with biscuits or chocolate. In China, Keemun is typically drunk without milk or sugar, although many prefer it with some sweetening.
About the Author:
Mary Ann Rollano is a health and wellness writer and tea connoisseur. You can find her blog at Life Is Better With Tea, which celebrates the joyous and healthy benefits of tea.