A Guide to Black Tea

Fancy getting to grips with the basics of black tea? Discover what makes this tea type an all-day, everyday favourite in the West…

Did you know?

In China, black tea is known as “red tea” due to its deep red colour.

What Is Black Tea?

As with oolong, green, yellow, white and puerh tea, black tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Where it differs is how the leaves are processed after being picked. Black tea is fully oxidised, meaning that molecules in the tea react with oxygen to give the leaves a rich, robust flavour. Aside from that, black tea is produced across the globe and can vary hugely in taste: a delicate Darjeeling could hardly be more different from a malty Assam or a smoky Lapsang Souchong.

Many of our black teas are flavoured with fruit, spices or even flower petals, or infused with essential oils to complement the flavour of the tea. Their natural depth and richness makes them the perfect base for a wide range of different flavour combinations.

How Is Black Tea Made?

Black teas are unique for being the only completely oxidised type of tea, giving them a distinctively full body and rich, malty taste.

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PICKING

More mature leaves are usually chosen for black tea.

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WITHERING

The leaves are laid out on racks to dry for several hours.

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ROLLING

Rolling the leaves in large drums triggers oxidation.

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OXIDATION

Enzymes in the leaves react with oxygen, changing their taste.

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DRYING

Finally, the leaves are dried, sorted and packed.

Some teas are finally fired to achieve smoky, roasted flavours.

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Black Tea and Caffeine

Black tea contains around 37mg of caffeine per 100ml, which is a little more than oolong, green white and yellow tea. (It’s a good idea to bear in mind that this figure can vary depending on the specific batch of tea you drink, and the time, temperature and strength of your brew.)

Drinking Black Tea Whilst Pregnant

The NHS recommends that during pregnancy, caffeine consumption should be limited to 200mg per day. Always seek advice from your health care professional on food and drink consumption during pregnancy.

How Do You Brew Black Tea?

Black tea is more robust than other tea types, so don't hold back: we recommend brewing in freshly boiled water for 3–5 minutes and adding a splash of milk if you wish. An exception is First Flush Darjeeling, which is unusually delicate for black tea and should be brewed at around 90°C for no longer than 3 or 4 minutes.

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1 teaspoon

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90 degrees

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3-4 minutes

A Note From Our Tea Expert

“When I need a kick-start in the morning, I brew a mix of our Assam TGFOP1 and Chelsea Breakfast. Both are really lovely breakfast-style teas in their own right but the combination of thick, malty Assam and the bright, smooth Kenyan tea in the Chelsea Breakfast works really well... both on flavour and waking me up.”

Linda, Tea Buyer