The August 2014 edition of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal included my article on the rise of sales of dark teas in the U.S.
I talked with Bill Waddington of TeaSource, and Kevin Gascoyne of Camillia Sinensis Teahouse. Both companies see the potential of dark teas. Dark teas have a tradition of being considered a health beverage. They can age and develop more mature taste profiles. Some can even be stored and increase in value with proper ageing. As Numi tea has done with pu’er, blends of dark tea will likely increase. At this point in time, many dark teas have the advantage of being less expensive than pu’ers, and less susceptible to the market bubbles and fluctuations pu’er has experienced.
Dark teas have a long road ahead of them before they will be found in most tea retail menus. When you consider that 85% of U.S. tea is served iced, and about 65% of tea consumed is from teabags, the slice of the pie graph that represents loose leaf dark teas and pu’er is paper thin.
As Gascoyne noted in the article, dark tea sales in China are also increasing, meaning that a larger portion of dark tea stays within its home country and never reaches the U.S. Economic opportunity may also see the resurgence of other dark tea producers. Hubei Province used to create praiseworthy dark teas. Anhui Province’s Liu An Basket Tea is being revived from obscurity.
If you are looking to explore the many varieties of dark teas, look for these:
Hunan Province dark teas, including Fu Brick and log (a.k.a. tael) tea
Guangxi Province – Liu Bao dark tea
Anhui Province – Liu An basket teas.
Note that basket teas and others may also be described by the location where they were aged rather than by the place where they were produced. Guangdong Province, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia were some of several locations where dark teas were collected and aged.
With each of these teas, avoid loose versions. Look to buy either entire cakes, bricks, or logs, or portions cut or broken off from the whole.