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Exploring Black Teas

"A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth..."

Quote byGeorge Eliot

A place can leave a strong impression

The landscape of our hometowns shape our memory and character. Similarly, black teas can grow in different locations, and the "tender kinship" with the earth leaves its impression on the teas we love.

Of course, it is not the Earth alone who shapes the destiny of black teas in our cups. The development of varieties of tea plants, cultivation, harvesting, and processing of tea leaves involve human activity. Depending on who you ask, the human factor is responsible for 40% - 60% of the final character of tea. Still, the resulting teas reveal how people seek to work in harmony with what Nature gives to the teas of a location.

To understand this better, it may be useful to compare and contrast a few black teas.

Yunnan Gold vs Nilgiri

China's Yunnan Province and India's Nilgiri Mountains are great places to grow tea. Both areas generally have a subtropical climate with micro-climates that have cooler, moist summers and mild winters. Yunnan and Nilgiri are rich in biodiversity.

In the case of our Yunnan Gold and Nilgiri teas, the key difference is how different tea varieties grow and are processed in these distinct environments. The Da Ye cultivar (believed to be a sub-branch of the Camellia sinensis var. assamica variety) is frequently grown in Yunnan Province. As a result of processing this leaf from this location, Yunnan Gold develops golden, fuzzy buds and produces a deep amber-red liquor. A rich flavor profile that may include black pepper, malt, cocoa, and sweet almond oil can be found.

Nilgiri Black Teas

Are bolder and brisker in comparison to Yunnan black teas. Nilgiri teas can offer that lightly puckery bite often sought in breakfast teas.

If you're not sure which to choose, why not buy both and create your own blend? Combining Yunnan Gold and Nilgiri will bring the best of these two prime tea growing locations.

Assam vs Keemun

Assam may be warmer and wetter than Anhui Province's Qimen (Keemun), but Keemun's cooler temperatures may add a stress that pushes the leaves toward their unique flavors. Both Anhui and Assam are subject to monsoon weather patterns.

Keemun and Assam differ in tea plants grown in each region. Keemun cultivars spring from the C. sinensis line, whereas Assam is the namesake of the C. assamica varieties grown there.

Assam Teas

Assam teas have bolder flavors and a sharper briskness but can still have a smooth finish. When tasting an Assam, like our Mokalbari, aromas of tobacco, caramel, and roasted grains may be present.

It bears repeating that these black teas are also well-suited to blending. Both Keemun and Assam teas have been used in black tea blends for decades. With a little experimentation, your ideal ratio of aroma and brisk punch can be found.

Keemun Teas

Keemun teas have developed a reputation for wine-like characteristics, rose, and fruity aromas. It is one of the the most well-known black teas from China.


It is nearly impossible to talk of black teas without mentioning Darjeeling teas. Many consider Darjeeling teas to be the finest black teas available due to their distinct aromas and flavour. As such, it is often referred to as the champagne of teas.

Try these teas out for yourself

If you'd like to further explore the world of black teas, you could select our Indian Tea Taster.

Or, you could compare Keemun teas from different seasons. Currently, Wan Ling Tea House has keemun black teas from 2014, 2011, and 2009.

Also consider comparing teas from different estates in the same region. Estates express their uniqueness from other nearby estates in the way they elicit distinguishing characteristics from their teas.

Try tasting a Harmutty, Molkalbari, Satrupa, and Tingalibam Assams in a side-by-side comparison and see what differences you detect.

In the end, it appears that the native land leaves its mark on the tea plant, the people who create the teas, and those of us who savor the black teas from each of these places.

For Further Reading:

Learn more about different types of black tea - Black Tea Types
or about the different places teas are grown - Tea Regions

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