tazza con tè nero

Black tea and how to prepare a good cup in different traditions

Last week we talked about the Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Today you will discover how to prepare a good cup of black tea and how it is enjoyed in different countries. I hope to encourage you to enjoy one immediately after reading, perhaps with a good cucumber sandwich. Just like the Brits do for their five o’clock-tea.

Black tea

Black tea is completely oxidized. After oxidation the leaves are dried and sometimes aromatized. For aromatized black tea, almost exclusively Chinese tea is used.

The finer and more delicate a tea is, the less it needs to be modified with additions.

Blended black tea

There are classic blends such as the English breakfast tea which consists of a lot of black Ceylon tea and less Assam tea and is a combination of the strong, dark flavor and a fresh lemony taste. The «Freesia del Nord blend» instead consists of several strong Assam teas and additions of other black teas such as Ceylon or Sumatra.

Aromatized Black Teas

Traditionally they are flavored with spices, for example in India they use cinnamon, cardamom, cloves etc. = Chai. Today they are also flavored with fresh flowers or with fruity aromas, or smoked. There is no limit to imagination. The dried flowers found in flavored teas are mostly decorative.

The best known flavored black tea is Earl-Grey, aromatized with Bergamot oil. There are many legends around this creation. It is said that during a storm the charge of tea was reversed and mixed with the Bergamot oil on board of a boat. Lord Grey didn’t want to throw away the charge but tasted it first. He liked it and so he decided to sell it.

Tea Preparation

For very precious teas it is worth weighing the tea, you need about 12 g of tea leaves for 1 litre of water., as a rule of thumb you can calculate one teaspoon per cup and one for the teapot. It is better to prepare tea so that it is too strong to be able to lengthen it, rather than a weak tea that can no longer be improved. Large leaves should be infused longer, while cut leaves or powdered teas are ready faster.

Before making tea, you should preheat the teapot and cups with hot water. Black tea has an infusion time of 3 to 5 minutes. The tea leaves must be completely covered with water. After the infusion time, you can filter it and it is ready to be enjoyed.

Ways to enjoy black tea
East Friesland (North of Germany on the Dutch border)
  • Put a “Kluntje” (raw sugar) in the cup
  • Pour the tea
  • At the end “n’ Wulkje” (a cloud) of fresh liquid cream

Do not mix but enjoy in three layers:

  • First the cream: the sky
  • Then the tea: water
  • Finally, the sweet of sugar: the earth
English five o’clock tea
  • Mixtures of different black teas, rather strong, an Earl-Grey is also fine
  • Enjoyed with sugar and milk
  • Always with small delicacies like cucumber/salmon sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, biscuits etc.
Russian Tradition
  • Strong, often smoked black teas
  • Prepared in a Samowar
  • With sugar and lemon
  • Accompanied with blini, fruit or Warenji (preserved fruit like jam) that is taken in the mouth while the tea is drunk over it.
Tibetan Tradition
  • The necessary amount of tea is grated from a tea tile and heated with water for a long time.
  • It is poured into wooden, ceramic, silver or jade bowls, depending on the wealth of the person
  • For Butter-tea Salt and Yak butter are added to the tea
  • There is also sweet tea with sugar and milk
tea tile
Tea tile
Turkish Tradition
  • Preparation similar to Russian preparation (Samowar)
  • It is drunk with sugar but never with milk
  • Served in glasses

And here’s a recipe for cucumber sandwiches:

Cucumber sandwiches

Ingredients for 6 sandwiches:

  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 6 slices of bread
  • 60 g of butter


Peel the cucumber and cut it into thin slices. Marinate for 30 minutes with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Cut the crust from each slice of toast bread and cut it diagonally. Spread the butter on the bread and put the marinated cucumber slices, then cover with another slice of bread.

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