Black tea is one of the most common types of tea, and includes popular blends like English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Masala Chai. While black teas can taste very different depending on the blend in question, there are a few similarities that these types of teas generally share when it comes to flavor. We’ll cover what black tea tastes like, how to prepare a cup, and which blends you should choose.
Black tea flavor notes
While there’s a lot of variety in black tea, in general these teas often share similar characteristics when it comes to taste. Classic, unflavored black teas are often described using flavor notes like bold, malty, earthy, and smoky. Whether you’re conducting a tea tasting or just savoring a cup of your favorite black tea, here are some flavors you may experience.
Black teas are often bolder and stronger than other types of teas, with a full body and darker amber or copper color. This boldness is in part thanks to the oxidation level of this type of tea, and also due to the hotter water temperature and longer steep time.
Some black teas can be astringent, dry, or have a bit of a bite to them. This is often the case with Chinese black teas.
Earthy notes run the gamut from moss, mushrooms, and wet leaves to oak and pine.
Unflavored black teas don’t have any added sweeteners, but loose leaf tea in and of itself often has a subtle natural sweetness. This sweetness can be especially pronounced in some mellower teas, like Japanese Wakoucha.
Black teas can sometimes have smoky notes, like Vietnamese Golden Tips and China Keemun. Some black teas, like Lapsang Souchong, are actually smoked when dried, which imparts a very strong smoky flavor.
Flavored black teas
In addition to the above flavor notes, many black teas have added ingredients which lend other flavors to the blend. Popular examples of flavored black teas include Masala Chai, which is flavored with an Indian spice blend including ginger, cloves, and cinnamon, and Earl Grey, which is flavored with oil of bergamot.
How to prepare black tea
Black tea is one of the more forgiving types of tea when it comes to proper preparation. To prepare black tea, you should use approximately one teaspoon of tea leaves for every six ounces in your pot or cup. Heat your water to boiling (approximately 212 degrees), then steep your tea leaves for about three to five minutes. If you like your black tea especially strong, or you plan to take it with milk and sweetener, we recommend infusing your tea for closer to five minutes.
About black teas
Black tea is a type of tea made from the camellia sinensis tea plant. All types of true tea are made from this plant, including green tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea in addition to black tea. What sets black tea apart from other types of tea is how it’s processed. Black tea is fully oxidized, which means that the tea leaves have been exposed to oxygen in order to dry and darken them.
Black teas tend to be relatively high in caffeine, with about half as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. They brew up a dark, coppery color, and usually have a stronger, more robust flavor than other types of tea.
Types of black tea
Most black teas are grown either in China or India, although there are other countries that produce specialty black teas, including Japan, Nepal, and Vietnam.
Chinese black tea
Tea has a rich history stretching back centuries. Chinese black teas tend to be slightly lighter and milder, and are lovely when taken on their own with no need for milk or sugar. In China, these teas are called “red tea,” with “black tea” referring only to aged and fermented teas such as pu-erh.
Indian black tea
Black teas produced in India are typically grown from the camellia sinensis var. assamica tea varietal, and have a darker, richer, and more full-bodied character. Many Indian black teas take their name from famed growing regions like Assam and Darjeeling.
Other black teas
Black tea is also grown in countries including Japan, Nepal, and India. While these countries don’t produce black tea at the same scale as larger tea exporters like China and India, they are known for producing high-quality specialty black teas.
Choosing a black tea
Which type of black tea you choose is ultimately up to you! Whether you’re looking for something mellow or sweet, bold or smoky, there are plenty of options to choose from. If you’re not sure where to start, our tea sampler packs are a great choice. If you’re new to loose leaf tea, our tea starter kit is a great way to explore the basics.
What does Assam black tea taste like?
Our organic Assam is a robust black tea with tremendous flavor. Assam brews up a rich coppery color with a full body, hints of malt and toast, and moderate astringency.
What does Ceylon black tea taste like?
Our organic Ceylon black tea is a rich, smooth and highly aromatic black tea from Koslanda, Sri Lanka’s premier region for organic teas. Ceylon is a brisk black tea with just a hint of spice.
What does English Breakfast black tea taste like?
Our English Breakfast is an aromatic blend of Ceylon, Assam, and Tanzanian black teas. English Breakfast has a classic rich, malty taste that goes well with milk and sugar.