Black tea

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Black tea

Black tea is more oxidized than the green, oolong and white varieties.

All four varieties are made from leaves of Camellia sinensis. Black tea is generally stronger in flavor and contains more caffeine than the less oxidized teas.

In Chinese and culturally influenced languages, black tea is known as "red tea" (, Mandarin Chinese hóngchá; Japanese kōcha; Korean hongcha), perhaps a more accurate description of the color of the liquid. The name black tea, however, could alternatively refer to the colour of the oxidized leaves. In Chinese, "black tea" is a commonly used classification for post-fermented teas, such as Pu-erh tea. However, in the Western world, "red tea" more commonly refers to South African rooibos tisane.

While green tea usually loses its flavor within a year, black tea retains its flavor 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]. It was known since the Tang Dynasty that black tea steeped in hot water could also serve as a passable cloth dye for the lower classes that could not afford the better quality clothing colors of the time.[citation needed] However, far from being a mark of shame, the "brown star" mark of the dying process was seen as much better than plain cloth and held some importance as a mark of the lower merchant classes through the Ming Dynasty[citation needed]. The tea originally imported to Europe was either green or semi-oxidized. Only in the the 19th century did black tea surpass green in popularity[citation needed]. 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.

The expression "black tea" is also used to describe a cup of tea without milk ("served black"), similar to coffee served without milk or cream. In Commonwealth nations, black tea is not commonly consumed black, as adding milk is the common practice.


Varieties of black tea

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

Chinese black teas

Indian and Sri Lankan black teas

Other black teas

Blends of black tea

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

  • Earl Grey: black tea with bergamot oil.
  • In the United States, citrus fruits such as orange or lemon, or their respective rinds, are often used to create flavored black teas, sometimes in conjunction with spices (such as cinnamon). These products can be easily confused with citrus-based herbal teas, but the herbal products will generally be labelled as having no caffeine; whereas, the tea-based products do contain caffeine.

Processing of black tea

  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 is used for lower quality leaves that end up in tea bags and are processed by machines. This method is efficient and effective for producing a better quality product from medium and lower quality leaves. 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.
  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.) The level of oxidation determines the quality of the tea. Since oxidation begins at the rolling stage itself, the time between these stages is also a crucial factor in the quality of the tea.
  4. Then the leaves are dried to arrest the oxidation process.
  5. Finally, the leaves are sorted into grades according 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 plantation in Java, Indonesia

Indian and Ceylon tea is usually named after the region of origin: Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, etc. and further by estates and grades for quality leaf: e.g., "Darjeeling Lingia FTGFOP1".

In Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka the grade names are an indication of the size and/or appearance of the tea but not the quality. There can be a lack of uniformity in the market grades which makes it difficult to describe them with accuracy. Ceylon teas can be divided into two groups:

  1. The leaf grades originally made by the Ceylon tea pioneers.
  2. The smaller broken grades which are used today.

List of Ceylon tea leaf grades:

  • Orange Pekoe (O.P.) - Long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain the tip. Usually a tea made with pickings containing 2 leaves and one leaf bud. The liquors are light or pale in colour.
  • Pekoe (Pek.) - The leaves are shorter and not so wiry as O.P., but the liquors generally have more colour. Usually a tea made with pickings containing 3 leaves and one leaf bud.
  • Souchong (Sou.) - A bold and round leaf, with pale liquors.
  • Broken Orange Pekoe (B.O.P. or BOP) - This grade is one of the most sought after. It is much smaller than any of the other leaf grades and contains the tip. The liquors have good colour and strength.
  • Broken Pekoe (B.P.) - Slightly larger than B.O.P., with rather less colour in the cup; useful primarily as a filler in blends.
  • Broken Pekoe Souchong (B.P.S) - A little larger that B.P. and in consequence lighter in the cup, but also used as a filler in blends.
  • Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (B.O.P.F.) - This grade is much sought after, especially in the UK. It is much smaller than B.O.P. and its main virtues are quick brewing, with good colour in the cup.

A small quantity of Tippy or Flowery grades (including Flowery Orange Pekoe (F.O.P) and Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe (F.B.O.P) are made. They are much more expensive to produce than run-of-the-mill grades, as this involves sorting out the tip by hand. This tea is made with pickings containing a leaf and one leaf bud.

In Assam, the main leafy tea grades produced are flowery pekoe (FP), orange pekoe (OP), pekoe (P), pekoe souchong (PS), and souchong (S), with broken tea grades BOP = Broken Orange pekoe; FOP = Flowery Orange Pekoe; TGFOP = Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe; FTGFOP = Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.

All types are sold as either "single" teas, meaning just one variety, or as blends. Blend names are usually more general e.g. "Assam Tea".

Adulteration and falsification are serious problems in the global tea trade; the amount of tea sold worldwide as Darjeeling every year greatly exceeds the annual tea production of Darjeeling, which is estimated at 11,000 tonnes.


Generally, 2.25 grams of tea per 180 ml of water, or about a teaspoon of black tea per cup, should be used. Black teas should be prepared with boiling water and steeped for 3 to 4 minutes. Black teas that will be served with milk or lemon should be steeped a little longer, 4-5 minutes. [2]

Major producers of black tea

The biggest producers of black tea in the world (with % value) are:

Nutritional information

Plain black tea without sweeteners or additives contains negligible quantities of calories, protein, sodium, and fat. Some flavored tea with different herbs added may have less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. All teas from the camellia tea plant are rich in polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant.

Potential health benefits


A 2001 Boston University study has concluded that short and long-term black tea consumption reverses endothelial vasomotor dysfunction in patients with coronary artery disease. This finding may partly explain the association between tea intake and decreased cardiovascular disease events. [3]

In 2006, a German study concluded that the addition of milk prevents vascular protective effects of tea. [4]


  1. Ken Bressett "Tea Money of China" International Primitive Money Society Newsletter Number 44, August 2001
  2. Upton Tea Imports, ""A Brief Guide to Tea"".
  3. Stephen J. Duffy, MB, BS, PhD; John F. Keaney Jr, MD; Monika Holbrook, MA; Noyan Gokce, MD; Peter L. Swerdloff, BA; Balz Frei, PhD, "Short- and Long-Term Black Tea Consumption Reverses Endothelial Dysfunction in Patients With Coronary Artery Disease"; Joseph A. Vita, MD From Evans Department of Medicine and Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Mass, and Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, Corvallis (B.F.).)
  4. Mario Lorenz, Nicoline Jochmann, Amélie von Krosigk, Peter Martus, Gert Baumann1, Karl Stang and Verena Stang Medizinische Klinik mit Schwerpunkt, "Addition of milk prevents vascular protective effects of tea". Kardiologie und Angiologie, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, CCM, Charitéplatz 1, D-10117 Berlin, Germany Institut für Biometrie und Klinische Epidemiologie, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, CCM, Charitéplatz 1, D-10117 Berlin, Germany

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