What is black tea? Black tea is the most popular tea in the United States and the favorite tea of the West. It is consumed as either a hot or cold beverage and comes in both loose and bagged forms.
Black tea is made from tea leaves that are fully oxidized, resulting in a dark color and strong flavor. It contains disease-fighting antioxidants as well as caffeine.
Black tea comes from the leaves of a tea plant called Camellia sinensis, a plant that is native to Asia but now cultivated around the world. The leaves are typically plucked by hand. They are then processed to make the dry leaves used for brewing tea.
Popular types of black tea include Assam and Darjeeling from India, Keemum and Yunnan from China, Ceylon from Sri Lanka, and Turkish Tea from the eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey.
Black, green, white, and oolong teas all come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis). The only difference is how the leaves are treated after harvest. Black tea is fully oxidized while other types of tea are oxidized to a lesser extent or not oxidized at all.
Properties that make black tea different from less oxidized teas include:
Black tea is made from leaves that undergo these four steps:
Tea manufacturers can control how long tea is exposed to air. This is called oxidation. Oxidation is a significant part of black tea processing and is what differentiates it from other types of tea.
During oxidation, the tea leaves wilt and are broken down by enzymes. The oxidation process can be stopped by heating. Black tea is made from leaves that are fully oxidized. This extended oxidation of black tea creates the complex flavanoid compounds - theaflavins and thearubigins - responsible for the health benefits of black tea.
The long oxidation time experienced by black tea causes the leaves to darken. Green tea is oxidized for a shorter period of time, which is why the tea is lighter in color.
Tea is sold as both loose tea leaves and tea bags. Loose leaf tea has a deeper and more varied flavor. It is created from whole or partial leaves, which most believe results in a better quality tea. With bagged tea, the leaves are ground down and the texture is more uniform. It brews very quickly. Find out more about loose tea leaves vs tea bags.