Red tea was discovered by mistake when Chinese tea growers mistakenly neglected to process their green tea. It oxidized, and turned brown.
Red tea was named Hong Cha in Chinese (which translated to red tea in English) because of the reddish color of the tea nectar.
It is important to note that red tea is commonly called black tea in Western cultures. In asian cultures and in China where it originates, it is called red tea.
How Red Tea is made
There are four basic stages involved in the production of red tea, withering, rolling, oxidation and firing.
Withering. This softens the leaves and reduces the moisture content. The leaves are spread out in a thin layer in warm air for up to 18 hours, or until the moisture content has been reduced to about 55 to 70%. The tea leaf is then soft and pliable and ready for rolling.
Rolling. This step starts the oxidation process by breaking the leaf’s cells and releasing the natural juices. This is done with a rolling machine that presses and twists the leaves and exposes more of the leave for the next stage.
Oxidation. The leaves start to darken in color and aromas of red tea are now present. The leaves are broken up following rolling, and spread out in thin layers in cool, humid air and left to oxidize for 20 to 30 minutes or more, depending on climate and air temperature.
Drying. This step stops the oxidation process and gets the tea ready for sale.
Ying De Hong
Jiu Qu Hong Mei
RED Tea History
The history of red tea in Europe began in the 17th century when European explorers first reached China. The first documented record of tea in Europe is from 1610, when Dutch merchants first brought back Chinese red tea from China, and then sold it widely all around Europe. In England it was at first sold at high prices that only the aristocracy could afford. It quickly became popular as a drink to indicate your wealth and position in society.
In 1662 when princess Catherine from Portuguese married King Charles, she brought several crates of Chinese red tea as a dowry. That introduced red tea to the British palace. As we know the rest is history and red tea has been a constant in the life of British royalty.
In 1840 the Duchess Anna Telford introduced the idea of afternoon tea. As the prices of red tea slowly became more affordable, a cup of tea in the morning and afternoon tea quickly became wildly popular with all levels of British society. Today drinking red tea is almost synonymous with British society.