Dark tea is one of the six tea types, next to green tea, white tea, yellow tea, wulong tea, and red (black) tea. All tea types are defined by the processing techniques used to transform the freshly picked tea leaves.
Teas belonging to the dark tea type are characterized by their post-fermentation, a processing step which is unique to this tea type. The leaves go through a fermentation phase, often pile-fermenting, after having had their oxydation stopped by intense and short heating (kill-green). The term ‘post-fermented’ stresses this order of actions. The processing steps before, in-between, or after these two steps are different for each variety.
The best know varieties are Pu’er Tea from Yunnan Province, Liubao Tea from Guangxi Province and Anhua Dark Tea from Hunan Province. The different soils, tea plants and additional processing steps give each of these varieties their unique taste.
Dark tea is not black tea
The tea type commonly referred to as ‘black tea’ in English is called ‘red tea’ in Chinese. The sign 黑 (hei) used to describe post-fermented tea in Chinese can be translated as ‘black’ or as ‘dark’. To avoid any confusion, post-fermented tea is referred to as ‘dark tea’ in English.