By Bruce Richardson
The family of teas Western cultures consume most is that of black tea, which can be offered as single-estate, blended, or flavored. Plucked green tea leaves are allowed to wither for 12 to 24 hours. These limp leaves are in the early stages of oxidation, the principle chemical reaction that determines tea families. After the withering process, rolling machines twist and bruise the leaves, releasing the leaves’ juices. The rolled leaves are allowed to oxidize, in the manner of compost, for up to 4 hours. To halt oxidation, the now black leaves are dried with hot air, usually in a drying machine. The finished tea is cleaned, sorted, and graded before packing. A well-stocked cupboard should include at least four classic, handpicked, unflavored black teas from the major growing regions of the world.