What is Black Tea? Origin, Common Types, Use & Processing 

Ever wondered, what is Black tea exactly? How is Black tea made? or Is Black tea sweet?

I’ve spent years exploring this aromatic beverage, and I’m here to share the fascinating world of Black tea with you.

Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll journey through its origins, discover its meticulous creation process, and delve into the myriad types of Black tea.

Quotes of tea with You

“Our relationship is a Black tea waiting for its milk.” – Amit jotwani

What is Black Tea?

Black tea (also literally translated as red tea from various East Asian languages) stands out as a variant of tea that undergoes more oxidation compared to Oolong, Yellow, White, and Green teas. It is usually recognized for its robust flavor, surpassing the intensity of other tea types.

Black tea
Black tea

If you are wondering, “Is sweet tea Black tea?” Sweet tea is a popular chilled beverage in the southern United States, particularly in states like Georgia and North Carolina. It is made by steeping hot Dark tea, adding sugar for sweetness, and cooling it in the refrigerator until it becomes ice-cold.

Black tea leaves
Black tea leaves

The widely adored blends of English Breakfast and Earl Grey also originate from the Black tea leaves plant.

And do you want to know?

Where does Black Tea come from?

Black tea is made from two varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant: the var. sinensis from China and the var. assamica from India. I learned this and so much more from my studious reading of “The Book of Tea,” which goes in-depth into the history and culture of tea.

where does black tea come from
where does black tea come from


In China, you’ll find that Black tea, known as “hong cha,” is produced in several provinces, with the most notable being Yunnan, Anhui, and Fujian. Yunnan is famous for its “Dian Hong” tea, Anhui for “Keemun” tea, and Fujian for “Lapsang Souchong,” a unique Black tea smoked over pine fires. With its deep, rich flavors and fragrance, Chinese Black tea has left an indelible mark on global tea culture.


Journeying to India, Black tea or Dark tea production has become a core part of the country’s identity. Two prominent areas spring to mind when we talk about Indian Black tea – Assam and Darjeeling. Assam black tea plant, robust and malty, is often what you’ll find in a classic English Breakfast blend. On the other hand, Darjeeling black tea, known as the “Champagne of Teas,” is more refined and complex, often boasting muscatel and floral notes.

Then there’s Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. Ceylon tea black is world-renowned and is typically bold, full-bodied, and bright. Depending on the elevation at which it’s grown, it can range from solid and intense to delicately fragrant.

The specific climate, soil, and traditional processing techniques give Black tea its unique character in each region. The terroir plays a crucial role, imprinting each tea leaf with a distinct identity.

Black tea leaves plant

There is a wonderful Black tea world out there, and I can’t wait for you to discover it. Keep in mind where your next cup came from, the hands who harvested the Black tea leaves, and the creativity that turned them into the delicious beverage you currently enjoy.

Do the origins and history of this tea excite you? Discover what’s next…

Black Tea processing

Well, it’s all about the plant they come from and how the leaves are treated. Every tea, whether black, green, or somewhere in between, starts its life on the same plant – the Camellia sinensis.

how to grow black tea
how to grow black tea

Let’s talk about the types of this tea plant.


What plant is black tea?

  • Camellia Sinensis Assamica: the larger-leafed variant, Camellia Sinensis Assamica, is usually the go-to for black tea. It’s originally from the Assam region in India and adores warm, humid climates, often flourishing in subtropical forests.
  • Camellia Sinensis Sinensis: the smaller-leafed Camellia sinensis sinensis, native to China, typically finds its way into Green and White teas. Due to its strong cold tolerance, this cultivar has evolved to thrive in brighter, drier conditions. It also does well in hilly terrain.

These two kinds have produced hundreds of cultivars and hybrids over time. But here’s a fun fact: theoretically, any variety of the Camellia sinensis plant may be used to produce tea, whether it be White, Green, Yellow, Oolong, Black, or Pu-erh.


The leaves can oxidize for Black tea leaf before they’re heat-processed and dried thoroughly. This means oxygen mingles with the tea plant’s cell walls, turning the deep, dark brown leaves into the black color we know and love. 

This oxidation process also alters the flavor of Black tea, adding malty, fruity, or even smoky notes, depending on the tea.

Green tea leaves, on the other hand, are only minimally oxidized. After harvest, they’re quickly heated and dried to keep the leaves from turning brown and losing their fresh, just-picked flavor. Green teas are usually lighter in color and flavor than Black teas, often having more vegetal, grassy, or seaweed-like notes.


When it comes to processing, Black teas generally follow one of two methods:

Orthodox: This method is a bit more time-consuming but preserves the integrity of the tea leaves, keeping them whole or only partially broken. The leaves are plucked, withered to reduce moisture, rolled to start oxidation, fully oxidized for color and flavor, heat-processed to stop oxidation, and graded for quality.

Non-Orthodox or CTC (Crush-Tear-Curl): This is a faster version where the tea leaves are cut into small pieces instead of rolled. These smaller pieces oxidize more quickly, producing a consistently strong, bold black tea. Plus, the cut pieces fit nicely into commercial tea bags, which are usually more popular with tea drinkers than loose-leaf tea.

Black Tea Processing (Orthodox):  Withering → First Rolling → Oxidation/Fermentation → Drying (at 110°C initially, then 65°C).

Black Tea Processing (Non-Orthodox/CTC): Withering → Cutting/Tearing/Curling → Oxidation/Fermentation → Drying (initially at 130°C, then 90°C).

The leaves then undergo complete oxidation before drying. This is the secret behind their dark color and rich, satisfying flavor.


Black tea varieties

Ah, the diverse world of black tea! Let’s dive into some popular types:

Types Characteristic
Darjeeling Tea
Hailing from the steep slopes of India’s Darjeeling region, this tea is often known as the “Champagne of Teas” due to its distinct, delicate flavor. Its floral and muscatel notes are truly enchanting.
Earl Grey Tea
This classic blend is traditionally made from black tea infused with oil from the rind of bergamot oranges. Each sip of Earl Grey takes me on a journey with its distinctive citrusy flavor and aromatic perfume.
Ceylon Tea
When I fancy a robust and full-bodied tea, I reach for Ceylon. This tea comes from Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), and it’s celebrated for its bold, bright, and brisk characteristics.
Keemun Tea
Originating from the Anhui province of China, Keemun tea is adored for its rich, wine-like sweetness and delicate smoky flavor. I often savor it in the evening for a soothing end to the day.
Yunnan Black Tea
Yunnan, a province in China, is known for its unique black tea. It’s often marked by a rich, malty flavor and a hint of peppery spice, which I find delightfully warming.
Golden Monkey Tea
This tea, named after the curled shape of the leaves that resemble monkey paws, is one of China’s most prized black teas. I love its smooth, sweet, and slightly fruity flavor profile.
Lapsang Souchong Tea
This tea, a personal favorite, is known for its smoky aroma, as the leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires. It’s like sipping a campfire in a cup!
Assam Tea
This hearty, malty tea comes from Assam, a region in northeastern India. Its robust character makes it a perfect breakfast companion for me.
Nepali Black Tea
This tea from the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal often reminds me of Darjeeling tea, with its light, aromatic, and slightly floral notes. It’s always a refreshing choice.



Black tea is incredibly versatile. You can enjoy it hot or cold; it’s the base for most iced tea in the United States. Some Black teas are meant to be savored with milk and sugar, while others stand out independently without needing extras.

For instance, I usually sip masala chai, English breakfast, and Assam Black tea with milk or sugar. On the other hand, teas like Earl Grey, iced Ceylon teas, and Nilgiri Black teas traditionally pair well with a slice of lemon or a dash of sugar. Interestingly, milk isn’t traditionally used with Earl Grey.

Thanks to their bold flavors, I find that Black teas are perfect for breakfast and Afternoon tea. They complement Western cuisine beautifully, but I’ve also found that they go surprisingly well with particular Indian, Thai, and African dishes. This flexibility makes black tea such a beloved choice across the globe.

Perhaps you will also be curious about…

What is in black tea?

Black tea is derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush and contains caffeine, stimulants, and Antioxidants. It is popularly consumed in the United States, both hot and cold. Before cooling, it is essential to steep Black tea in hot water.

What is in black tea

I recently brushed up on my tea knowledge with an enlightening article titled “Molecular evidences of health benefits of drinking black tea“, which gives a detailed account of what’s Black tea ingredients.

Polyphenols, including flavonoids, offering antioxidant properties that may help protect our bodies from free radical damage.

The caffeine in Black tea, while usually less than in coffee, is the vital component we rely on for that morning or mid-afternoon boost.

Theaflavins and thearubigins, derived from the oxidation process, are at the heart of black tea’s distinctive color and flavor. They’re also believed to contribute to the tea’s potential health benefits.

Last but not least, black tea contains trace amounts of important minerals including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. Despite their rarity, these are essential for maintaining our general health.

As a result, when we drink a cup of black tea, we get to experience a symphony of healthy ingredients that both taste good and are excellent for us. It’s really amazing, isn’t it?

Next is …

Tasting Dark tea

For a while, the Western taste buds favored strong black tea that could withstand a good dash of sweetener, cream, or a handful of ice. The focus was more on mass production to meet the high demand for tea rather than quality or variety.

But as I’ve observed in my tea journey, with more people gaining knowledge about the vast world of tea, the appreciation for premium, artisan, loose-leaf teas is growing.

Now, variety, freshness, and flavor are key factors when deciding which black tea to indulge.

what is Black Tea actually

Remember, not all Black teas are created equal. The flavor profiles of individual Black teas can vary as much as fine wines.

Various factors contribute to the distinct flavor of each Black tea. These factors include its origin, nearby crops like roses or coffee plants that can influence its taste, the climate during growth, the method of fertilization, the length of oxidation during processing, the type of heat treatment used to halt oxidation, and whether the leaves were left whole or cut into smaller pieces.

By and large, black tea is more robust and richer than green tea. Its brewed color can vary from amber to red to dark brown, and the flavor can swing from savory to sweet, depending on the oxidation and heat processing duration. While black tea generally has more astringency and bitterness than green tea, a well-brewed cup should offer a smooth and flavorful experience.

Common descriptors for the overall flavor profile of Black tea include malty, smoky, brisk, earthy, spiced, nutty, metallic, citrus, caramel, leather, fruity, sweet, and honey – quite the spectrum, right?

And now, I want to share with you about.

How to Drink Black Tea Perfectly?

Out of all the tea varieties, I’ve found Black tea to be the most straightforward to brew.

My method involves using about one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup of hot water. You can bring your water to a rolling boil or just shy of boiling – either works fine. Drop the leaves into the hot water and steep them for 2 to 6 minutes.

The Black Tea leaves

Remember that the steeping time can vary depending on your preference and the specific type of black tea. For instance, I’ve found that Darjeeling black teas often taste best with a shorter steep. Once the steeping time is up, strain the tea leaves and enjoy the beverage as is, or feel free to add milk, sugar, or lemon to taste.

There’s also the cold brew option. In the fridge, you can cold steep your Black tea, known as “cold infusing” or “cold brewing,” for 4 to 18 hours. Just remember to strain out the leaves afterward.

And if you’re in the mood for iced black tea, simply double the number of tea leaves, steep the tea as you usually would, and then pour the hot tea over ice. It’s a refreshing treat, especially on a hot day!

Explore popular tea varieties with us:

Buying and Storing: Some Tips To Consider

How long does Black tea last? Black tea typically has a longer shelf life than Green or herbal tea due to its oxidation process. When stored properly, Black tea can retain quality for 2 to 3 years.

how long does black tea last

There’s a fantastic range of Black tea out there, including flavored varieties, which you can easily find either in tea bags or as loose leaves. You can pick up boxes of tea bags at most supermarkets, while pouches or bulk tea leaves are usually more readily available at health food stores, specialty tea shops, or online.

When storing your tea, I’d recommend keeping it in a cool, dark place like a cabinet, drawer, or pantry. Consider storing tea bags or leaves in glass jars because light exposure can damage the tea over time and alter its flavor. Keeping the tea in the manufacturer’s box or a tin container. That way, you can maintain the tea’s freshness and flavor.

Here are some options for you…

Popular Black Tea Brands

Brand Describe
Twinings, a UK-based brand, is recognized globally for its high-quality black teas. They offer a variety of black teas, including classics like Earl Grey and English Breakfast.
Yorkshire Tea
Yorkshire Tea, another British brand, is known for its strong, rich blends. Their traditional black tea is a favorite among tea drinkers for its bold, malty flavor.
Lipton, an American brand, is widely available and offers a variety of black teas. Their teas are known for their consistent quality and affordability.
PG Tips
PG Tips, popular in the UK, is praised for its robust, full-bodied black tea. Their pyramid bags allow the tea leaves to unfurl fully, enhancing flavor.
Harney & Sons
Harney & Sons, a premium American brand, offers a range of gourmet black teas. They’re known for unique blends like Paris and Hot Cinnamon Spice.
Tata Tea
Tata Tea is one of India’s most popular brands. Their black tea is known for its strong aroma and rich taste, often enjoyed with milk and sugar.
Founded by Merrill J. Fernando, Dilmah is a family-owned tea company hailing from Sri Lanka that is the most experienced tea-making entity worldwide today.
The Republic of Tea
Boasting a rich history and 25 years of experience in the tea industry, The Republic of Tea has firmly established itself as a global front-runner among tea companies. Its impressive trajectory of growth over the decades truly attests to its esteemed position in the world of tea.


The bottom line

I hope you now understand “What is Black Tea,” its history, and how it is made. It has been a pleasure to explore the diverse and intriguing world of black tea with you. Why not share this post with other tea enthusiasts if you found it as enlightening as a strong Black tea? I appreciate you spending time with me here, and please keep having wonderful experiences!

Read more articles at Spiriteadrinks.com


How is Black tea different from green tea?

The main difference between black and green tea lies in the processing methods. While green tea undergoes minimal processing, black tea is fully oxidized, producing a more robust flavor and higher caffeine content.

Which is healthier, black tea or milk tea?

Matcha is the healthiest because tea leaves are retained in the tea, which contains the most healthy ingredients. However, beware of the insecticides and chemicals on the tea leaves. Wash the leaves thoroughly before making tea. Also, don’t use boiling water, but water around 80 degree Celsius to make tea to keep things not denatured.

Which kind of dark tea tastes better?

In my opinion, the Secret of delicious black tea lies in the ‘method of preparation’ and not in the quality of the tea. Although you are using very high-quality, expensive tea, if your method is authentic, it will ultimately taste good.

Can black tea cause dark urine?

No, black tea does not cause dark urine. Usually, the color of urine shows how well-hydrated you are. Dark urine is deeper in color and can be different colors like deep yellow, brown, and maroon. Many things can cause your urine to look dark.

Pictures of Black tea

is black tea sweet
is black tea sweet
is Black tea
is Black tea
How is black tea made
How is black tea made
Dark tea
Dark tea
Black tea leaves
Black tea leaves
Black tea origin
Black tea origin
Black tea leaves plant
Black tea leaves plant