Black tea

Black tea is a type of tea that is more oxidized than oolong, green, and white teas. Black tea is generally stronger in flavour than the less oxidized teas. All four types are made from leaves of the shrub (or small tree) Camellia sinensis. Two principal varieties of the species are used – the small-leaved Chinese variety plant (C. sinensis var. sinensis), used for most other types of teas, and the large-leaved Assamese plant (C. sinensis var. assamica), which was traditionally mainly used for black tea, although in recent years some green and white teas have been produced.

In Chinese and the languages of neighbouring countries, black tea is literally translated as "red tea" (Chinese 紅茶 hóngchá, pronounced [xʊ̌ŋʈʂʰǎ]; Japanese 紅茶 kōcha; Korean 홍차 hongcha, Bengali লাল চা Lal cha, Assamese ৰঙা চাহ Ronga sah), a description of the colour of the liquid. In contrast, the English term black tea refers to the colour of the oxidized leaves. In Chinese, the literal translation "black tea" of the Chinese term 黑茶 (translated into English as dark tea) is a commonly used classification for post-fermented teas, such as Pu-erh tea. Outside China and its neighbouring countries, the English term red tea more commonly refers to rooibos, a South African herbal tea.

While green tea usually loses its flavor within a year, black tea retains its flavour for several years. For this reason, it has long been an article of trade, and compressed bricks of black tea even served as a form of de facto currency in Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia into the 19th century.[1] Although green tea has recently seen a revival due to its purported health benefits, black tea still accounts for over ninety percent of all tea sold in the West.[2]

In Canada, the definition of blended black tea is a blend of two or more black teas of the leaves and buds of Camellia sinensis[3] that contain at least 30 percent water-soluble extractive, with 4 to 7 percent ash. Unblended black tea contains at least 25 percent water-soluble extractive, with 4 to 7 percent ash. Packaging of black tea is based on the packaging guidelines from the country of origin.[4]


Generally, unblended black teas are named after the region in which they are produced.[5] Often, different regions are known for producing teas with characteristic flavors.

Region Tea Native name Origin Description
China Congou (Fujian)
Tǎnyáng-gōngfū (坦洋工夫) Tanyang Village, Fu'an, Fujian Province The king of the Fujian Artisan Red Teas. One of the three Famous Fujian Reds.
Zhènghé-gōngfu (政和工夫) Zhenghe County, Fujian Province One of the three Famous Fujian Reds, with a slight honey flavor.
Báilín-gōngfu (白琳工夫) Bailin Town, Fuding, Fujian Province One of the three Famous Fujian Reds.
Lapsang souchong Zhèngshān-xiăozhŏng (正山小种) Wuyi Mountains, Fujian Province Dried over burning pine, thereby developing a strong smoky flavour.
yínjùnméi (银骏眉) A higher grade version of Zhengshan xiaozhong (aka. Lapsang Souchong)
jīnjùnméi (金骏眉) One of the highest grade red teas in mainland China.
Keemun Qímén-hóngchá (祁门红茶) Qimen County, Anhui Province One of China's Famous Teas. The aroma of tea is fruity, with hints of pine, dried plum and floweriness.
Dianhong (Yunnan) Yúnnán-hóngchá (云南红茶) / diānhóng (滇红) Yunnan Province Well known for dark malty teas and golden bud teas.
Yingdehong Yīngdé-hóngchá (英德红茶) Yingde, Guangdong Province The tea has a cocoa-like aroma and a sweet aftertaste, one can find a peppery note.
Jiu Qu Hong Mei (Nine Winding Red Plum) jiǔ-qǔ-hóng-méi (九曲红梅) Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province This tea is characterised by tight fishhook-like leaves with a lustrous black color. The infusion is brightly reddish and has a long smooth aftertaste.
Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Rìyuè-tán-hóngchá (日月潭紅茶) Sun Moon Lake, Nantou City, Nantou County Honey rich tones, sweet osmanthus, cinnamon and peppermint.
India Assam Ôxôm cah (অসম চাহ) Assam Sate Full bodied, strong and distinctively malty tea from the lowlands of Assam. It is the highest produced tea in the world.[6]
Darjeeling Dārjiliṁ cā (দার্জিলিং চা) West Bengal State Thin bodied, floral and fruity tea from Darjeeling with defining muscatel tones. Today often processed as a mixture of black, green and oolong elements, though still classed as black.
Kangra Kāngada cāy (कांगड़ा चाय) Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh State It produces basil-cinnamon, java plum-blueberry blends and Chinese hybrids that is varied with others as a pale liquor, it has a subtle pungency with a vegetal aroma.[7][8]
Munnar Mūnnār cāya (മൂന്നാർ ചായ) Munnar Town, Idukki District, Kerala State This variety produces a strong bodied golden yellow liquor with refreshing briskness and a hint of fruit. It has a medium toned fragrance, that is akin to malted biscuits.[9]
Nilgiri Nīlakiri tēnīr (நீலகிரி தேநீர்) Nilgiris District, Tamil Nadu State Intensely aromatic, strong, and fragrant tea from the Nilgiri Hills of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Korea Jaekseol (Bird's tongue) jaekseol-cha (작설차) Hadong County, South Gyeongsang Province Jaekseol tea is golden, light scarlet in color and has a sweet, clean taste.[10]
Nepal Nepali Nēpālī ciyā (नेपाली चिया) Similar to Darjeeling tea in its appearance, aroma and fruity taste, with subtle variation.
Sri Lanka Ceylon Silōn tē (සිලෝන් තේ) It is grown on numerous estates which vary in altitude and taste. High-grown tea is honey golden liquor and light and is considered to be among the best teas in terms of its distinct flavor, aroma, and strength. Low-grown teas are a burgundy brown liquor and stronger. Mid-grown teas are strong, rich and full-bodied.
Turkey Rize Rize çayı Rize, Rize Province, Black Sea Region Characterised by its strong taste, when brewed it is mahogany in color. Traditionally served with beet sugar crystals.


Black tea is often blended and mixed with various other plants in order to obtain a beverage.

Blend Description
Earl Grey tea Black tea with bergamot oil.[11]
English Breakfast tea Full-bodied, robust, rich and blended to go well with milk and sugar.
English afternoon tea Medium bodied, bright and refreshing. Strong Assam and Kenyan teas are blended with Ceylon which adds a light, brisk quality to the blend.
Irish breakfast tea Blend of several black teas: most often Assam teas and, less often, other types of black tea.
Masala chai Combines black tea, spices native to the Indian sub-continent, milk, and a sweetener such as sugar or honey; a beverage from India, possibly consumed for many centuries, in the Ancient kingdoms of the region, before the arrival of the Europeans. Though the possibility of a pre-colonial tea culture still remains disputed, one can argue without any doubt that the post-independence Masala chai has played a significant role in India's modern tea consumption culture, making it the largest tea consumer in the world.[12]

Masala chai has been widely recognised and adapted in the West by the locals to their liking since its introduction by the British East India company, with changes in the ingredients and the method of preparation more suited to western consumers.


  1. After the harvest, the leaves are first withered by blowing air on them.
  2. Then black teas are processed in either of two ways, CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) or orthodox. The CTC method produces leaves of fannings or dust grades that are commonly used in tea bags but also produces higher (broken leaf) grades such as BOP CTC and GFBOP CTC (see gradings below for more details). This method is efficient and effective for producing a better quality product from medium and lower quality leaves of consistently dark color. Orthodox processing is done either by machines or by hand. Hand processing is used for high quality teas. While the methods employed in orthodox processing differ by tea type, this style of processing results in the high quality loose tea sought by many connoisseurs. The tea leaves are allowed to completely oxidize.[13]
    • Orthodox: The withered tea leaves are heavily rolled either by hand or mechanically through the use of a cylindrical rolling table or a rotovane. The rolling table consists of a ridged table-top moving in an eccentric manner to a large hopper of tea leaves, of which the leaves are pressed down onto the table-top. The process produces a mixture of whole and broken leaves and particles which are then sorted, oxidized and dried. The rotorvane (rotovane), created by Ian McTear in 1957 can be used to replicate the orthodox process.[13] The rotovane consisted of an auger pushing withered tea leaves through a vane cylinder which crushes and evenly cuts the leaves, however the process is more recently superseded by the boruah continuous roller, which consists of an oscillating conical roller around the inside of a ridged cylinder.[13] The rotorvane can consistently duplicate broken orthodox processed black tea of even sized broken leaves, however it cannot produce whole leaf black tea.[14] The broken leaves and particles from the orthodox method can feed into the CTC method for further processing into fanning or dust grade teas.
    • CTC: "Cut, tear, curl" or "Crush, tear, curl" black teas is a production method developed by William McKercher in 1930. It is considered by some as a significantly improved method of producing black tea through the mincing of withered tea leaves.[15] The use of a rotovane to precut the withered tea is a common preprocessing method prior to feeding into the CTC [13] CTC machines then further shred the leaves from the rotovane by passing them through several stages of contra-rotating rotors with surface patterns that cut and tear the leaves to very fine particles.[13]
  3. Next, the leaves are oxidized under controlled temperature and humidity. (This process is also called "fermentation", which is a misnomer since no actual fermentation takes place. Polyphenol oxidase is the enzyme active in the process.) The level of oxidation determines the type (or "colour") of the tea; with fully oxidised becoming black tea, low oxidised becoming green tea, and partially oxidised making up the various levels of oolong tea.[16][17] This can be done on the floor in batches or on a conveyor bed with air flow for proper oxidation and temperature control. Since oxidation begins at the rolling stage itself, the time between these stages is also a crucial factor in the quality of the tea; however, fast processing of the tea leaves through continuous methods can effectively make this a separate step. The oxidisation has an important effect on the taste of the end product,[17] but the amount of oxidisation is not an indication of quality. Tea producers match oxidisation levels to the teas they produce to give the desired end characteristics.
  4. Then the leaves are dried to arrest the oxidation process.
  5. Finally, the leaves are sorted into grades according to their sizes (whole leaf, brokens, fannings and dust), usually with the use of sieves. The tea could be further sub-graded according to other criteria.

The tea is then ready for packaging.

Tea grading

Black tea is usually graded on one of four scales of quality. Whole-leaf teas are the highest quality, with the best whole-leaf teas graded as "orange pekoe." After the whole-leaf teas, the scale degrades to broken leaves, fannings, then dusts. Whole-leaf teas are produced with little or no alteration to the tea leaf. This results in a finished product with a coarser texture than that of bagged teas. Whole-leaf teas are widely considered the most valuable, especially if they contain leaf tips. Broken leaves are commonly sold as medium-grade loose teas. Smaller broken varieties may be included in tea bags. Fannings are usually small particles of tea left over from the production of larger tea varieties, but are occasionally manufactured specifically for use in bagged teas. Dusts are the finest particles of tea left over from production of the above varieties, and are often used for tea bags with very fast and harsh brews. Fannings and dusts are useful in bagged teas because the greater surface area of the many particles allows for a fast, complete diffusion of the tea into the water. Fannings and dusts usually have a darker colour, lack of sweetness, and stronger flavor when brewed.


Generally, 4 grams of tea per 200 ml of water.[18] Unlike green teas, which turn bitter when brewed at higher temperatures, black tea should be steeped in water brought up to 90–95 °C. The first brew should be 60 sec., the second brew 40 sec., and the third brew 60 sec. If your tea is of high quality, you can continue to brew by progressively adding 10 sec. to the brew time following the third infusion (note: when using a larger tea pot the ratio of tea to water will need to be adjusted to achieve similar results).

Standard black tea brewing

  • Brew temperature 90-95 °C
  • Standard 200 ml water
  • 4 g of tea
  • Brew times: 60-40-60-70-80-(+10) seconds

A cold vessel lowers the steep temperature; to avoid this, always rinse the vessel with +90 °C water before brewing.

The more delicate black teas, such as Darjeeling, should be steeped for 3 to 4 minutes. The same holds for broken leaf teas, which have more surface area and need less brewing time than whole leaves. Whole-leaf black teas, and black teas to be served with milk or lemon, should be steeped 4 to 5 minutes.[19] Longer steeping times makes the tea bitter (at this point, it is referred to as being "stewed" in the UK). When the tea has brewed long enough to suit the drinker's taste, it should be strained before serving.

The ISO Standard 3103 defines how to brew tea for tasting.[18]

Major producers

The biggest producers of black tea in the world are:[20]

Company Brand Share
Unilever Lipton 17.6%
PG Tips
Associated British Foods Twinings 4.4%
Tata Global Beverages Tetley 4.0%


Plain black tea without sweeteners or additives contains caffeine but negligible quantities of calories or nutrients.[21] Some flavored tea with different herbs added may have less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. Black teas from the Camellia sinensis tea plant contain polyphenols known as thearubigins and theaflavins.[22]

Meta-analyses of observational studies have concluded that black tea consumption does not affect the development of oral cancers in Asian or Caucasian populations, esophageal cancer or prostate cancer in Asian populations, or lung cancer.[23][24][25] Black tea consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of stroke.[26][27] A 2013 Cochrane review of randomized controlled trials greater than 3 months duration concluded that long-term consumption of black tea only slightly lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressures (about 1-2 mmHg).[22][28] A 2013 Cochrane review concluded that long-term black tea consumption lowers the blood concentration of LDL cholesterol by 0.43 mmol/L (or 7.74 mg/dL),[22] but overall this research remains inconclusive.[21]

See also


  1. Bressett, Ken. "Tea Money of China". International Primitive Money Society Newsletter (44, August 2001).
  2. "Tea's Wonderful History". Archived from the original on 3 August 2002. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  3. "Health benefits of black tea - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  4. Branch, Legislative Services. "Consolidated federal laws of Canada, Food and Drug Regulations". Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  5. Growing Black Tea plants, TeasyTeas, 2014, archived from the original on February 24, 2014, retrieved February 17, 2014
  6. "Tea production (2015-16)" (PDF). Tea Board of India. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  7. "Himachal to revive Kangra tea industry - Times of India". Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  8. "Kangra Tea - Grades and Characteristics - Teabox". 15 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  9. "Types of Tea & Different Tea Varieties in India – Assam, Darjeeling, Kangra & Nilgiri". Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  10. "Hadong Jaeksul Cha". Slow Food Foundation. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  11. Richardson, Ben (6 April 2006). "Bergamot growers get whiff of success". BBC News.
  12. "India, the largest black tea consumer in the world". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Varnam, Alan H.; Sutherland, J. M. (1994), Beverages:Technology, Chemistry and Microbiology, Springer
  14. Heiss, Mary Lou; Heiss, Robert J. (2007), The story of tea: a cultural history and drinking guide, Random House
  15. Harbowy, Matthew E.; Balentine, Douglas A.; Davies, Alan P.; Cai, Ya (1997), "Tea Chemistry", Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 16 (5): 415–480
  16. "Black Tea Oxidization". Tin Roof Teas. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  17. 1 2 "Oxidation of Tea - RateTea". Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  18. 1 2 ISO3103, "ISO 3103".
  19. Upton Tea Imports, "A Brief Guide to Tea" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-11-23. Retrieved 2006-10-21.
  20. Current Status and Future Development of Global Tea Production and Tea Products, Alastair Hicks (PDF), April 2009
  21. 1 2 "Black tea". Medline Plus, US National Library of Medicine. 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  22. 1 2 3 Hartley L, Flowers N, Holmes J, Clarke A, Stranges S, Hooper L, Rees K (June 2013). "Green and black tea for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease" (PDF). Cochrane Database Syst Rev (Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis). 6: CD009934. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009934.pub2. PMID 23780706.
  23. Wang W, Yang Y, Zhang W, Wu W (April 2014). "Association of tea consumption and the risk of oral cancer: a meta-analysis". Oral Oncol (Meta-Analysis). 50 (4): 276–81. doi:10.1016/j.oraloncology.2013.12.014. PMID 24389399.
  24. Zheng J, Yang B, Huang T, Yu Y, Yang J, Li D (June 2011). "Green tea and black tea consumption and prostate cancer risk: an exploratory meta-analysis of observational studies". Nutr Cancer (Meta-Analysis). 63 (5): 663–72. doi:10.1080/01635581.2011.570895. PMID 21667398.
  25. Lin YW, Hu ZH, Wang X, Mao QQ, Qin J, Zheng XY, Xie LP (February 2014). "Tea consumption and prostate cancer: an updated meta-analysis". World J Surg Oncol (Meta-Analysis). 12: 38. doi:10.1186/1477-7819-12-38. PMC 3925323. PMID 24528523.
  26. Shen L, Song LG, Ma H, Jin CN, Wang JA, Xiang MX (August 2012). "Tea consumption and risk of stroke: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies". J Zhejiang Univ Sci B (Review). 13 (8): 652–62. doi:10.1631/jzus.B1201001. PMC 3411099. PMID 22843186.
  27. Larsson SC (January 2014). "Coffee, tea, and cocoa and risk of stroke". Stroke (Review). 45 (1): 309–14. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.003131. PMID 24326448.
  28. Liu G, Mi XN, Zheng XX, Xu YL, Lu J, Huang XH (October 2014). "Effects of tea intake on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials". Br J Nutr (Meta-Analysis). 112 (7): 1043–54. doi:10.1017/S0007114514001731. PMID 25137341.
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