What's Up with 'Black' Tea and 'Red' Tea?
After all, isn't it really a kind of golden brown?
It is like that internet meme with the dress that looks one color to some people and a different color to others. How can a simple drink made from fermented leaves look one color to one group of people and a different color to another group?
The truth is that for most of Chinese history tea was drunk green and unfermented, or later, semifermented. It may have been as late as the Qing dynasty (17th century) that fermentation became widespread. Around that time Dutch traders noticed a big difference in color among some of the products they were being offered. It was the British in Fujian that jumped on the chance to adopt the product as their own.
The fermented Puers and other teas could be safely stored in a ship and would actually improve with age as they were carried over the ocean to 'High Tea' tables in dearest England. The bricks of dark tea had a distinctive look, and they likely named it 'Black' after this rather than the drink. the name stuck.
For the Chinese, 'Red' is a lucky color and while its a stretch to think the golden color of the tea really is red, for passionate lovers of Puer, Lapsang Soucong and others, the earthy and even metallic and smoky flavors that put other people off are exactly what they love.
Call it what you want, we love this tea family for preservation qualities, its effect on digestion and its woody and earthy flavors!