What is Black Tea? A Definition:
Made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, black tea is more oxidized than many other teas. It's rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. In some countries like Great Britain, it is traditionally often had with sugar and cream (or milk). But studies show that creamer can inhibit health-promoting benefits. Below are popular types as well as lesser known varieties.
Named after Assam, India, where it is produced, this tea is frequently used as part of western “breakfast tea” blends. It is known for its body, briskness, malty flavor and strong, bright color. Unlike its fellow Indian teas, Darjeeling and Nilgiri, it is grown at low altitudes. Learn more about Assam.
Ceylon began to be cultivated in Sri Lanka (which was known as Ceylon before 1972) after a deadly fungus wiped out the coffee crops. It has a light color and a crisp, powerful aroma reminiscent of citrus. It is frequently used in Earl Grey blends.
Known as “The Champagne of Teas,” this highly-prized tea from the Darjeeling region of West Bengal, India, is known for its lightly fruity, muscatel flavor and floral aroma. Though classified as a black tea, most Darjeeling is actually less oxidized than typical blacks, and in many ways has more in common with Oolongs. Just as Champagne is indigenous to Champagne, France, Darjeeling cannot be grown anywhere else in the world.
An extremely popular tea blend named after the second Earl Grey, who as British Prime Minister in the 1830s reputedly received a tea flavored with bergamot oil as a gift. This oil, extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, gives Earl Grey its distinctive citrus flavor and aroma. A dispute between English tea makers Twinings and Jacksons of Piccadilly over which company originated “Earl Grey’s Tea” (as it was then known) in the British market continues today.
A robust, full-bodied blend designed to go well with milk and sugar, in the typical English style. Usually includes some combination of Assam, Ceylon, Keemun or Kenyan teas. Popular brands include Twinings, Tetley and PG Tips.
A blend made mostly from Assam teas, Irish Breakfast has a full-bodied, brisk, malty brew. Popular brands include Barry’s, Bewley’s and Lyons.
A medicinal tea from Indonesia used primarily as a diuretic and as a remedy for kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
First produced in 1875, Keemun continues to be cultivated in China’s Anhui Province. It rapidly gained popularity in England, becoming one of the most prominent ingredients in typical English Breakfast blends. It has a fruity taste with hints of pine. Learn more about Keemun.
Tea was introduced to Kenya in the early part of the 20th century with seedlings imported from India. The region’s tropical climate and nutrient-rich volcanic soil give Kenyan tea a unique flavor and a bright, attractive color.
Made from tea leaves that have been withered over pine or cedar fires and pan-fried before being dried in bamboo baskets over burning pine, Lapsang Souchong clearly earns its nickname of “Smoke Tea.” Native to Mount Wuyi in China’s Fujian Province, the tea has a rich color, distinct smell and strong flavor, which is considered something of an “acquired taste.” It pairs well with spicy or salty foods.
Actually a term used for grading black teas based on the size of the dried tea leaves, “Orange Pekoe” has come into colloquial use to describe a basic, medium-grade black tea, with companies like Twinings and Dilmah packaging teas and selling them under that label. The “orange” in the name does not in fact mean that the tea is flavored with orange oils, though black teas of this grade do have strong fruity aromas and a sweet aftertaste.
Produced in Turkey’s Rize Province, this tea, also known as Çay, is incredibly popular in Turkey, where it is served in cafés in small, gold-rimmed, narrow-waisted glasses. It has a rich, mahogany color and is usually accompanied by beetroot sugar.
Typically iced, Thai tea is a drink made from strongly-brewed powdered black tea, mixed with a variety of ingredients, including star anise, tamarind and other spices. The tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk, giving it a creamy appearance and spicy-sweet taste.
Containing a higher amount of fine leaf buds, or “golden tips,” than other Chinese black teas, this tea comes from the Yunnan Province of China, where it is known as Dian Hong. Its robust, malty flavor and brassy, golden-orange color are contrasted by its sweet, gentle aroma. Unlike the many ancient varieties of Chinese tea still drunk today, Yunnan Red is a product of the 20th century.
(Updated: 06/13/12 SG)