What Is Black Tea? – Ultimate Guide for Beginners

I love black tea because it can heal my soul at any given time. It is always good to know the story behind black tea. You might be interested in different aspects of black tea, such as the black tea origin, history, making process, benefits, recipes, blends, buying, storing, and brands of black tea. This article will be a one-stop place for all your concerns regarding black tea, no matter your interest.


Black tea produce from the plant Camellia sinensis, which is a small tree or a shrub. Black tea differs from other tea such as white tea, yellow tea, green tea, and oolong tea by being the most oxidized tea. This oxidation also gives its strong and deep flavor and black color.

Black tea has many health benefits related to its polyphenols, such as flavonoids. Research shows that black tea is beneficial for blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and abnormal cholesterol levels. However, there are some situations that you need to avoid black tea also. Let’s get start.

Black Tea origin

Black tea is said to be coming from China. But in China, it is called “red tea” because of the color we get after brewing black tea.

Generally, black teas are named after the regions they produce. Different tea in various areas has its unique flavor.


Many teas have originated from China. Some of them are Congou tea, Lapsang souchong tea, Dianhong tea, Keemun tea, Yingdehong tea, and Jiu Qu Hong Mei tea.

Several teas have originated from India. Some of them are Munnar tea, Darjeeling tea, Assam tea, Kangra tea, and Nilgiri tea. Other tea origins are Jaekseol tea from Korea, Nepali tea from Nepal, Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka, Rize tea from Turkey, and Lahijan tea from Iran.

History of Black Tea

Black tea is the second most popular beverage in the world after water.

It has a rich history of 5000 years. Nowadays, people drink tea as a style and a recreational beverage.

Black tea is said to be originated in China. But until the 17th century, the Chinese only consumed green tea and oolong tea. Besides, Green tea also produces by the plant Camellia sinensis, but it’s unoxidized. Also, Oolong tea is semi-oxidized and Black tea is oxidized the most.


There is an interesting story behind the creation of black tea.

It involves an army from China who visited Fujian province in China. When the army was passing by Fujian’s province, they saw a tea mill nearby and decided to enter it for protection.

The tea mill had to stop their tea production while having the army in their place. This prevented the tea plant’s output, and tea makers left the tea leaves in the sun, making tea leaves oxidizing for a long time.

This resulted in darker tea leaves which are essentially black tea. People at the tea mill then wanted to increase the drying time of tea leaves. So, they smoked the tea leaves on pine woods to create Lapsang Souchong tea from China.

The tea mill people from Fujian’s province have discovered black tea like this. The exact process uses to make black tea today with slight modifications. Lapsang Souchong tea is one of the first teas in the world created in Fujian’s province.  

You can keep black tea for a long time without altering its quality. This is one reason why the Western world has become more interested in black tea.

They also like the dark rich flavor of black tea. When the time passed, the British became more interested in black tea, and their demand also increased. But the tea business has already been monopolized by Dutch.

So, the best option left for British traders was finding new places that can grow tea plants and make black tea.

While searching for a new business, the British saw a similar genus plant to Camellia sinensis in India. As time goes on, the black tea industry in India became very successful, and gradually they were able to acquire the black tea industry today. 

At one time in China, whipped powdered tea became popular. This was the time of the Song Dynasty in China. However, during the Yuan Dynasty, the Chinese were more likely to drink brewed black tea.

Black tea was not only drunk as a favorite beverage of people. It is also offered in rituals. Then, people wanted to add more things to black tea and test the taste.

As a result, during the 4th and 5th centuries, people began to drink black tea with other ingredients such as Spices, ginger, salt, rice, orange peel, etc. 

Black Tea making process

The black tea-making process is not that complex. However, you need to make black tea to the point of obtaining the best quality tea.

There are seven main steps in making black tea. They are;

  1. Plucking
  2. Withering
  3. Rolling
  4. Oxidizing
  5. Drying
  6. Grading
  7. Tasting
  • Step 01 – Plucking

To make black tea, we need to choose the correct type of leaves for black tea production.

When you are at the tea plantation area, it is ideal for picking up 2-3 tender leaves and buds from the tea plants. 

The reason for choosing tender leaves and buds is because these parts of the tea plant highly concentrated in polyphenols, caffeine, amino acids, and polyphenol oxidase. But if you choose mature leaves, they have less concentration of these compounds.

Having these compounds in high concentration is vital for the taste and the quality of black tea. Therefore, choosing the right type of leaves is very important.

  • Step 02 – Withering
TEA- Withering

After picking up the suitable tea leaves, you can begin the black tea-making process by withering the tea leaves. To do withering, you can evenly distribute newly harvested tea leaves over metal troughs and fans.

This will draw the air over the leaves and will wither the tea leaves. The withering process can be done for 10 to 14 hours, depending on the tea leaves’ temperature. 

Traditionally, this process took place outside with air and sunlight. With the development of technology, tea manufacturers prefer to do a withering process inside the factory to control air circulation more precisely.

They also measure and monitor humidity closely to achieve the desired moisture loss to make the tea with the desired flavor. Thanks to technology, now we can make black tea much more accessible to the desired quality.  

  • Step 03 – Rolling

The next step in making black tea is rolling. This is not a harsh and deteriorating rolling. It is more of a gentle rolling of withered and broken tea leaves.

This step is crucial to get the desired black tea color and flavor. In the rolling process, tea leaves’ cell walls will be broken and done for 5 to 60 minutes. 

Traditionally rolling is done by hand, but thanks to technology, the machines work for us. In the gentle rolling process, essential oils and enzymes are released from the tea leaves.

These essential oils, enzymes, and other compounds in black tea will then be exposed to air. Then the oxidation process begins.

Rolling tea leaves will also break down withered leaves into particles of different sizes. You need to reduce the particle size while retaining flavor. This is the key to a great cup of black tea—the particle size will change according to the roller type used in the process. 

  • Step 04 – Oxidization

The next step in making black tea is oxidization. In this step, you need to spread the rolled tea leaves in the beds for oxidation.

In this oxidation step, new and beneficial compounds for health are made, such as theaflavins. While oxidizing, tea leaves turn from light green color to golden brown color.

Manufactures will continue to oxidize until all leaves are dried out and golden brown.

  • Step 05 – Drying

The last step is drying the oxidized tea leaves. In this step, you need to place the tea leaves in the drier.

Then set the temperature of the drier to 80- 90 degrees Celsius. You need to continue the drying process for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Drying the tea leaves will essentially stop the oxidation process, and the acquired qualities of black tea leaves are locked out in place. 

  • Step 06 – Grading

Do you remember having different grades in school according to the way you performed on the exam?

The same goes for black tea.

Various grades are assigned to black tea based on the type and size of tea leaves. Tea is often graded as Orange pekoe and Flowery Orange pekoe. Both Orange pekoe and Flowery Orange pekoe teas are whole leaf teas. 

The highest quality tea has the Orange pekoe grade.

The meaning of pekoe is picking up tea as two leaves and a bud.

  1. Orange pekoe grade has teas that have whole tea leaves without buds.
  2. Flowery Orange pekoe grade includes teas with longer leaves than Orange pekoe and with buds.

Generally, tea grade is higher when there are more whole leaves and more buds. After orange pekoe, the next on the tea grade scale is broken leaves, fanning, and lastly, dust.  

Whole leaf tea has a coarser texture because tea leaves have not altered or altered very little while making tea. These coarser textured black tea leaves have a higher value because of the entire leaf use.

The medium-grade tea contains broken leaves. Fanning is produced as leftovers in the process of creating more extensive tea verities. These fannings are used mainly in teabags and have a lower quality. But you can brew these black tea fanning quickly. 

Dust is also another leftover product of tea making process. These are the finest tea particles, and like black tea fanning, dust also includes in tea bags.

Then you can use these tea bags to brew faster. The smaller particle size of tea allows us for quick brewing. Also, it gives darker color and bolder flavor when brewed. 

Tea grading criteria and terminologies change from country to country and according to the type of tea. Following are some of the black tea leaf grades available;

  1. Orange Pekoe (OP)– Thin, long, and tightly rolled leaves
  2. Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP)– Broken OP leaves
  3. Pekoe (P)– Shorter and smaller leaves than OP
  4. Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP)– longer than OP leaves but tightly rolled
  5. Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (FBOP)– Broken FOP leaves
  6. Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (GFOP)– Same as FOP leaves but has golden tips
  7. Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP)– Same as GFOP leaves but with more golden tips
  8. Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP)– Higher quality TGFOP teas
  • Step 07 – Tasting

Tea tasting does ensure the quality of the tea we drink. Physical and sensory analyses are usually done for tea.

The physical examination includes checking net weight, particle size, moisture content, water activity, the visual appearance of dry leaf and infused leaf, and brewed black tea color.

The sensory evaluation includes dry tea leaf and infused tea leaf aroma, liquor taste, aroma, mouthfeel and briskness, overall impression, blots, and staleness identification.

After following the process precisely, you will have perfect black tea with a bold flavor and richness. Now you can send the black tea for packing. The packed black tea is the thing that arrives at your home, having the best flavor, aroma, and color.

Black Tea types

There are many types of black teas in the world. Black teas with different origins have different flavors.

There are some black teas which are blends of several black teas. The types are there due to different tastes, colors, and appearances. Also, they named after their region of origin.

Following are some of these black teas around the world.

  • Assam black tea

It comes from India and is known for its bold, malty flavor. It is best to consume milk and sugar. Many breakfast tea blends contain Assam tea.

  • Darjeeling Black Tea

Comes from India. Darjeeling black tea has an herbaceous softer flavor. After brewing, it has a greenish golden color. Darjeeling tea is astringent and has a distinct mouthfeel. It is better to drink this tea without adding milk.

  • Ceylon Black Tea

Originated in Sri Lanka. Ceylon teas vary depending on where they are grown in Sri Lanka, with different elevations and climates. Ceylon tea is generally known to have a brisk and robust flavor with a spicy taste. Sri Lanka produces black tea on a large scale for the global market with higher quality.

  • Nilgiri Black Tea

This tea originates in India. Nilgiri tea displays sweet and fragrant flavors. They occasionally use in chai tea blends.

  • Yunnan Black Tea

This tea originates in China, and it has a strong flavor, with hints of honey-like sweetness. This black tea might contain a malty, tobacco, and chocolate hint of taste with light smokiness and earthiness. The chocolate notes in Yunnan teas can be so strong that you may mistake it for flavored tea.

  • Keemun Black Tea

This tea originates from China. You can get piney, malty, floral, fruity, or smoky flavors from Keemun black tea. It has a bright wine-like color and is known to be China’s most prestigious teas.

  • Kenyan Black Tea

This tea from Kenya is well-known for its bold and full-bodied flavor. Kenyan back tea mainly ships to the United Kingdom.

There are some non-traditional flavored black teas such as vanilla, chocolate, wood, smoke-flavored tea.

Nutrition Facts of Black Tea

Do you think that black tea is one of the most nutritious beverages?

The answer is yes because there are many unhealthy beverages with lots of sugar in the market. But black tea has none of those compounds in it as long as you consume the correct quantity.

Black tea does not have calorie-producing macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Instead, it has phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins.

Following are the compounds that you can find in 1 cup of black tea (240 g) [1]FoodData Central. (2020). USDA. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1104260/nutrients

Energy2.4 kcal
Potassium89 mg
Caffein48 mg

Other than these compounds, black tea has polyphenols such as thearubigins, theaflavins, and catechins. These are antioxidants in black tea, which delivers significant benefits on health.

Caffeine in black tea

Caffeine is a compound found in black teas, coffee, and green tea.

You might be taking a caffeinated drink when you want to complete today’s work at the office. However, it is essential to know how much caffeine you get with your black tea.

As mentioned before,

Black Tea has about 47mg of caffeine in one cup.

But this caffeine content changes according to the preparation method, tea variety, and brewing method.

If you add milk and spices to black tea, it might lower the available caffeine content in black tea.

For example, English breakfast tea might have less caffeine content due to blending with milk with no caffeine. Also, Ceylon black tea has higher caffeine content because it is taken as straight black tea.

However, the caffeine content in black tea is lower than that in coffee, which has about 95mg of caffeine per one cup. After black tea, the caffeine content is highest in oolong tea, followed by green tea.

Health benefits of Black Tea

Black tea is a healthy beverage that can boost your health. Black tea that you consume every day is full of antioxidants and other non-nutritive compounds. These compounds provide many health benefits, as mentioned below.

  • Antioxidants in black tea will protect you from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. Black tea removes free radicals from the body that can cause chronic diseases and damages to the body.
  • Black tea is beneficial for your heart health due to the flavonoids in it. Drinking black tea every day in moderation will reduce your risk of getting cardiovascular diseases. It is also found to reduce the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, elevated triglycerides, obesity, and dyslipidemia. 
  • Black tea may reduce LDL cholesterol which is the bad cholesterol in our body. This will reduce your risk of dyslipidemia. Lowering LDL cholesterol levels is essential because they can be built up in your arteries and blocks the arterial blood flow, causing stroke or heart failure.
  • Black tea may be beneficial for good bacteria in your gut due to the polyphenols and antimicrobial properties of black tea. This will improve our body’s immunity also. Having a healthy microflora in the gut may reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bowel diseases, and even cancers.
  • Black tea might reduce high blood pressure. Including black tea in your daily diet and also modifying the diet and lifestyle can lower your risk of getting high blood pressure or will be able to manage high blood pressure.
  • It might reduce your risk of getting a stroke. Research has shown that drinking more than three cups of black tea per day can reduce your chances of getting a stroke. Most of the strokes that occur are highly preventable through managing the diet, blood pressure, physical activity, and avoid smoking.
  • Black tea might also reduce your cancer risk due to polyphenols in black tea. This is done by regulating cancer cell growth and reducing new cancer cell development. Black tea also helps to reduce cancer cell survival. However, more research is needed to identify the link between black tea and cancer cells.
  • You might concentrate and focus better due to the caffeine and L-theanine content in black tea. L-theanine, an amino acid, increases the activity of alpha in the brain. This causes relaxation and better focus. The energy level also stays stable after drinking black tea due to caffeine content. Thus, drinking black tea will improve both your energy and focus.

Risks of drinking black tea

Can black tea cause problems even though it is good for our health? The answer is no if you are drinking black tea in moderation.

But if you drink a large amount of black tea per day, such as more than 4 – 5 cups, then you might be in some trouble.

Caffeine in black tea can cause problems when taken in higher doses. Following are the side effects you might face if you drink too much. 

  • Headache
  • Frequent urination
  • Anxiety and difficulty in sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Anemia

These symptoms can become worse if you drink other caffeinated drinks with a large amount of black tea. This can even cause seizures and passing out.

Black tea also interferes with the medications you are taking. Some medicines make caffeine stay in the blood longer than usual. Your doctor might help you figure out if your medications have a side effect when combined with black tea.

Other than causing caffeine-related symptoms, black tea can also hinder the absorption of nutrients such as iron. This is due to tannins in black tea binding with dietary iron. This is a severe problem for a vegan if you do not drink black tea correctly. The safe range for black tea for most people is 3 cups a day. 

A common problem with drinking black tea is the cause of heartburn and induced acid reflux symptoms. This is because the caffeine in black tea is relaxing the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach. This allows acidic stomach juices to flow into the esophagus and cause heartburn.

If you have any heartburn symptoms, drinking too much black tea will not be helpful, and you might need to reduce black tea intake and see if the symptoms improved. 

How to use black tea?

You can make either hot tea or iced tea with black tea.

In western countries, black tea mainly consumes as iced tea. You can also drink black tea with milk and/ sugar. Usually, milk/ sugar add to Assam black tea, Masala Chai, and English breakfast tea. 

You can add lemon and/ sugar to Earl Grey tea, Nilgiris black teas, and Ceylon black tea. The bold and deep flavor of black tea perfectly matches Western cuisines, but they also go with Indian, Sri Lankan, and Thai cuisines.  

Apart from drinking, you can use black tea for beauty. As an example, black tea rinse for hair might give you healthy and shiny hair.  

How to prepare black tea?


Although there are many types and different qualities of black tea, all of them are easier to brew. Following is the way of brewing black tea. 

  1. Take about one cup of boiling water.
  2. Then add one teaspoon of tea leaves to it.
  3. Let the tea set there for about 2 – 6 minutes to steep. Tea is steeped well when you see the color is changing to a reddish hue. However, this time depends on the type of tea you are using. Black tea, like Ceylon black tea, tastes better after a shorter steep.
  4. Now you can strain out the black tea leaves.
  5. Add sugar, milk, or lemon if you desire, and enjoy your favorite cup of black tea.

Black tea recipes

You can drink your easily brewed cup of black tea as it is. But isn’t it amazing to try some new recipes using black tea than the traditional method?

There are many black tea recipes in the world. Iced tea is the most popular way of preparing black tea. Black tea recipes range from mint iced tea to hot latte.

Following are some simple black tea recipes that you can enjoy every day.

  • Thai Iced Tea

Thai iced tea is a refreshing and sweet drink. Most importantly, it is simple to make in the kitchen. The bases for Thai iced tea are tea, herbs, and food coloring. Thai tea is dark red, but after adding milk, it becomes light orange. Thai iced tea is milky, soft, and cold tea, and it is ideal for drinking in combination with spicy food.

  • Black tea with vodka

Many used to give people tea cocktails. They sometimes make black tea-infused vodka which is suited for complex cocktails with simple syrup. Some people might love a black tea vodka milkshake. Although vodka is not a very healthy option for you, adding black tea to vodka makes it a little better than usual.

  • Black tea hot toddy

A hot toddy is a favorite winter drink of many people. People also drink toddy as a treatment for coughs, or colds, sore throats, and influenza. The hot toddy beverage prepares by using tea, apple cider vinegar, and hot water. The best tea type you can use in this recipe is Keemun Black Tea.

  • Lemon tea

Lemon Tea is a refreshing tea made with black tea and lemon juice. It is suitable for sore throat, prevents cough, and also helps to lose weight. Most importantly, it is straightforward to make it in minutes. You have to make the black tea brew and add lemon juice and honey to it. Give it a mix, and now you have a refreshing and calming cup of lemon tea! 

  • Spiced black tea

Brew some spicy black tea if you’re feeling to do something adventurous. Strong Black Tea goes well with aromatic spices, such as fennel, ginger, and anise. We can make spiced black tea from cinnamon and pomegranate. For this tea, you can use solid black tea such as Darjeeling or Assam tea.  

Black tea blends

Manufacturers have made blended teas when they feel a little adventurous. These blended teas can mix black teas with other plants or mix different types of black teas. Some examples of blended black tea varieties are as below. 

Earl Grey

Earl Grey blend was named after a British Prime Minister, Earl Grey. He received this tasty and flavored tea blend as a gift, and it has a highly distinctive flavor. Earl Grey is made by blending black tea with bergamot oil. Earl Grey gets its wonderful aroma from bergamot oil extracted from the rind of bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit.

Masala Chai

Masala chai is a delicious blend of black tea, milk, spices, and a sweetener like honey or sugar. It is a traditional Indian beverage. Now Westerners are also using this blend with slight modifications to the conventional method of preparation. The masala chai’s traditional making involves boiling a mixture of water, loose tea leaves, milk, and whole spices together in a container.

English Breakfast tea

English breakfast tea is another black tea blend. It typically has a robust, full-bodied, and rich flavor. It’s a combination that goes well with milk and sugar. Milk and sugar, however traditionally associate with English breakfast. Strong black teas usually use for this tea blend, such as Assam ate Ceylon tea and Kenyan tea.

English afternoon tea

This blend has a medium body, is bright, and is highly refreshing. The tea blend includes Assam tea and Kenyan black teas, as well as Ceylon black tea. Ceylon teas add a bold and light touch to this elegant blend. Along with the English Afternoon tea blend, there will always be a delectable selection of cakes such as muffins or sandwiches. This tea is traditionally served with milk or lemon, lending a touch of elegance to this well-known English tradition.

Irish breakfast tea

This is another black tea blend of several black teas. Different types of Assam teas primarily use in this tea blend. Irish breakfast is solid, and it typically serves with milk, just like English breakfast. Some people prefer it blended with sugar and lemon, without the milk. Though it generally consumes in the mornings, Irish breakfast is also popular in the evenings as a replacement for coffee due to its sweetness and smooth texture.

Buying and storing black tea

Black tea is mainly available in two types in the market. They are tea bags and loose tea leaves. Major supermarkets have boxes of black tea, while bulk tea leaves are in specialty tea shops, online shops, and healthy food stores.

Wooden Tea Box

After purchasing black tea, you can store it in a cool and dark place, such as inside a container, cabinet, drawer, or pantry. Avoid storing tea leaves in glass jars because exposure to sunlight can alter tea leaves’ flavor and give an undesirable taste. Store tea leaves in an air-tight container to prevent staling. If tea comes in a tin container, then make sure you keep tea there. 

Black tea brands

There are many black tea brands in the world. Following are some of them.

  • Vahdam
  • TWG
  • Republic of Tea
  • Tea Forte
  • Harney and sons
  • Jade leaf Matcha
  • Traditional Medicinal
  • Dilmah
  • Twining
  • Yorkshire tea
  • Yogi
  • Numi
  • Teeccino
  • Smith teamaker
  • Taylors of Harrogate
  • Rishi
  • David’s tea

The overall best tea brand from all other teas is the Vahdam brand. One of my favorite black tea from the Vahdam brand is the Earl Grey Citrus Black Tea blend. This blend has a fruity flavor and fragrance.

TWG Tea is known to be a luxury tea. Suppose you want to select one tea from TWG tea. I recommend you go for 1837 Black Tea. Harney and Sons are known to have the best black tea. Hot cinnamon spice is a black tea-based blend from Harney and sons, and it is one of my favorites. Their tea blends are heavenly, and they have perfectly mastered the art of black tea.

Dilmah can be taken as the best Ceylon tea brand in the market. This a 100% Sri Lankan brand and has a bold rich flavor to it. 


There are different types and qualities of black tea. Also, there are some situations where we need to avoid black tea, such as acid reflux. Drinking black tea has many health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular level, cholesterol levels, improving activity level, and improving focus.

However, limiting your daily intake of black tea to no more than 4 cups per day will give you all the benefits of black tea and avoid adverse effects.  

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