Types of Black Tea: Ultimate Guide to Benefits, Flavors and more

Types of Black Tea: Ultimate Guide to Benefits, Flavors and more

Posted by Ashley Davis on

Black tea is globally the most popular type of tea, accounting for over 70% of all tea consumed.

Black tea is a serious discipline, and our blog will tell you everything you need to know, including:

  1. The history of black tea.
  2. How to choose black tea.
  3. Seven popular and common types of black tea blends.
  4. How to make black tea.
  5. The best black tea type for iced tea.

Black Tea's History

Black tea's history starts during the Ming Dynasty in China.

According to popular legend, black tea was discovered accidentally when fresh tea leaves were left to wither and oxidize longer than usual.

This process resulted in a new type of tea with a distinct and robust flavor, different from any other type of tea.


The best inventions happen by accident! Image provided by the author.

The first known black teas, including the famous Lapsang Souchong and Zhengshan Xiaozhong, originated in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian province.

Later, growers in the Keemun region of China learned these techniques and began producing their own unique variety of black tea, further expanding its variety.

It's amazing how an accidental discovery has led to a beloved beverage enjoyed worldwide.

Black tea's early use cases were found in long sea voyages.

The tea's long life and ability to keep people awake held great value for Dutch and British traders who first encountered it in China.

They were amazed at how black tea retained its flavor and improved with age, making it a superior choice for lengthy journeys back to Europe.

The Chinese still preferred green tea and thus were happy to offload black tea for cheap prices.

The low price and the properties of black tea made it instantly popular across Europe.

How to Choose Black Tea

When selecting black tea, several important factors need to be taken into account.

Organic teas

Organic teas are grown without pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, ensuring the tea is as natural as possible.

Organic black teas, like Assam or Darjeeling, provide a cleaner, more robust flavor and are preferred by those looking to avoid chemical residues.

The caffeine content in organic black teas is generally similar to their non-organic counterparts, ranging from 40 to 90mg.

Classic teas

These are traditional, single-origin teas from established tea-growing regions like Ceylon and Keemun.

Each tea has a distinct flavor profile and color, influenced by the region's climate, soil, and altitude.

Ceylon teas can vary but generally have a bright, lively flavor and a caffeine range of 50 to 90mg.

On the other hand, Keemum's caffeine content can be as low as 25mg.

Known as the "Burgundy of teas," Keemun is celebrated for its floral notes, slightly smoky aroma, smooth, full-bodied flavor with hints of dried fruit, and bright, reddish color.

Flavored teas

These are black teas that have been infused with additional flavors, either through natural ingredients like fruits, flowers, and spices or through flavoring agents like essential oils.

These blends are perfect for those who enjoy a more aromatic tea experience without straying too far from the classic black tea base.

Shop Brilliant and Bold Black Teas

Popular Types of Black Tea and Blends

Breakfast Teas

Breakfast blends are high in caffeine and are drunk to kickstart a new day.

They're usually enjoyed alone or with sugar and a splash of milk. They originate from three areas:

  1. English breakfast tea: Offers a full-bodied and rich flavor.
  2. Irish breakfast tea: Stronger and maltier than its English counterpart.
  3. Scottish breakfast tea: The strongest and maltiest of the three.

Early Grey

Earl Grey combines black tea with the bright and citrusy taste of bergamot oil extracted from the bergamot orange in Italy.

The tea is named after the 2nd Earl Grey, a British Prime Minister in the 1830s, who reportedly received this flavored tea as a diplomatic gift from a Chinese mandarin.

 A serene tea setup featuring three "Goddess of Earl: Madagascar Vanilla Creme Tea for Soothing Delight & Delicious Decadence" tea jars from Magic Hour, a white statue, blooming pink flowers, a white striped teapot, and a glass of black tea on a wooden table. A calming blue backdrop enhances the tranquil scene.

The tea became a favorite in the Earl's household and eventually became a staple drink throughout Britain and beyond.

Making an Earl Grey is straightforward:

  • Heat water to just below boiling. Use a Magic Hour teapot to help you measure the exact temperature, which should be around 200°F.
  • Steep one teaspoon of Earl Grey per cup for up to five minutes.

Earl Grey can be enjoyed plain, which allows its signature citrus flavor to shine, or with milk and sugar.

Shop Earl Grey Tea

Darjeeling Black Tea

Darjeeling black tea, often referred to as the "champagne of teas," is known for its exquisite muscatel flavor‌ — ‌a sweet grape-like undertone.

This tea originates from the Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India, where it's grown at high elevations in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The unique climatic conditions and the specific cultivation practices contribute to its light, delicate character.

These teas are harvested in late spring and are highly sought after for their rich aroma.

The first and second flushes are particularly celebrated, with the first flush offering a very light color. The second flush produces a darker, amber-colored tea with the stronger, more intense muscatel flavor that Darjeeling is famed for.

A cup of April 2024 Harvest - Grand Cru First Flush Goomtee Estate Darjeeling FTGFOP1 tea from Magic Hour in an ornate cup and saucer sits on a golden, oval-shaped tray. A small, decorative spoon rests beside a pile of loose Magic Hour leaves on the tray. White rose petals are scattered around, casting soft shadows, all set against a pink background.

Sip Darjeeling Tea

Oolong Black Tea

Originating from the Fujian province of China and Taiwan, Oolong tea is partially oxidized, placing it somewhere between the unoxidized green teas and the fully oxidized black teas, giving it a complex, sweet and fruity flavor.


We have over 15 different types of Oolong teas‌ — ‌image source.

Common tasting notes include peach, apricot, and floral hints, often accompanied by a subtle natural sweetness and slightly woody or roasted undertone, depending on the degree of roasting the leaves undergo.

The leaves are carefully rolled after partial oxidation. This creates tightly balled or twisted leaves that gradually unfurl when exposed to hot water, offering a mesmerizing steeping experience.

Oolong tea can be steeped multiple times, with each infusion revealing new layers of taste and aroma.

Nuwa Goddess of Creation Tea for Intuition: Dragon Yuzu Oolong-Violet Glass Apothecary Jar (65-75 Cups)-Magic Hour

Shop Oolong Black Tea

Assam Black Tea

Assam tea originates from its namesake, one of the largest tea-producing areas globally.

This tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis var. assamica plant, which thrives in the hot, humid climate of the Brahmaputra Valley, with its rich, loamy soil and tropical weather contributing to the tea's distinct taste.

Assam tea is fully oxidized, which gives it a deep, rich color and strong, malty and bold flavor, boasting a caffeine-per-cup content as high as 110mg.

A copper teapot is pouring Magic Hour Assam Black Tea into a glass teacup placed on an ornate, round, golden tray. Next to the teacup, there is a pile of loose tea leaves known for their malty flavor and full-bodied character, a metal scoop, and a string of black beads with a tassel. The background is white with a soft shadow.

 

Assam tea is harvested in two flushes.

The first flush occurs in late March, while the subsequent one takes place in late May through June.

The latter is considered superior due to the golden tip leaves that produce a fuller-bodied and smoother cup of tea with a notable malty flavor and a rich, coppery color.

Puerh Black Tea

Puerh tea, a unique variety from Yunnan Province in China, stands out due to its special fermentation process and diverse flavors.

This tea is available in two main types: raw (Sheng) and ripe (Shou).

Raw Puerh is the traditional form, made from minimally processed leaves that are sun-dried and then compressed into cakes. These cakes slowly ferment and mature over time, often over several years or decades, developing a complex, smooth flavor that can range from floral and sweet to earthy and rich.

Ripe Puerh, on the other hand, undergoes a more rapid fermentation process developed in the 1970s to mimic aged raw Puerh. This process involves piling, moistening, and turning the tea leaves in a controlled environment to speed up fermentation, resulting in a darker tea with a deep, earthy flavor reminiscent of rich soil or damp wood, often with a slightly sweet aftertaste.

Puerh tea possesses health benefits that are realized during fermentation, where there's an increase in the levels of antioxidants, potentially aiding digestion, reducing cholesterol, and even helping with weight loss by improving metabolism.

Chai

Chai tea originates from India and is of three types:

  1. Masala tea: Combines black tea with spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and peppercorns. The spices are simmered in water to release their aromatic flavors before adding the black tea leaves. After the tea has steeped, milk and sugar are added, and the mixture is brought to a boil again before being strained and served hot.
  2. Irani chai: A creamier and sweeter alternative thanks to the addition of condensed milk.
  3. Chai: The simplest form involves black tea brewed with milk, sugar, and sometimes a hint of ginger or cardamom to enhance the flavor.


Pumpkin Spice Chai has a particularly strong kick.

Pumpkin Spice Fireside Chai-Violet Glass Apothecary Jar (up to 75 cups)-Magic Hour

How To Prepare Black Tea

Black tea has two methods of preparation.

The tea bag method

  1. Boil fresh water.
  2. Pour the water into a mug containing your tea bag.
  3. Steep time: five minutes.

The loose-leaf method

  1. Heat water to just below boiling point.
  2. Add one teaspoon of loose black tea into a strainer or infuser.
  3. Place the infuser with the tea leaves into your cup.
  4. Pour the hot water over the leaves.
  5. Steep time: five minutes.
  6. Remove the infuser or strainer, and add sweeteners or milk before serving.

Best Black Tea for Iced Tea

Assam black tea is considered the best because of its strong flavor that can stand up to dilution from ice without losing its depth.

How to prepare iced black tea:

  1. Boil water.
  2. Brew the Assam tea for stronger than you would the hot version since it'll be diluted with ice. Use 1.5x more tea leaves.
  3. Steep for five minutes.
  4. Add sugar/sweeteners while the tea is hot and stir.
  5. Refrigerate until it is chilled.
  6. Serve in a glass over ice.

Best Black Tea Brew

Exploring the diverse world of black tea offers a delightful opportunity to discover a range of flavors, aromas, and experiences.

From the rich, malty notes of Assam to the smooth, floral undertones of Keemun, each type of black tea has its unique character.

Use Magic Hour's range of high-quality teas and accessories to enhance your brewing experience, helping you ‌unlock the full potential of each variety.

Whether you are a seasoned tea drinker or new to the tea-verse, experimenting with different types of tea can lead you to find your favorite blend — a perfect cup that suits your taste and mood.

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