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QTrade Teas & Herbs provides specialty teas, herbs, spices, custom blending, product development, and private label services to businesses all over the world. We are the largest importer of organic teas in North America, with an expanding selection of flowers, fruits, and berries. (949) 766-0070 www.qtradeteas.com

Tea Basics 105: What is Black Tea?

What is black tea? Black tea is far and away the most popular variety of tea  in North America. There are several factors that contribute to its elevated status here, not least among them is the fact that most iced teas use black tea as a base. Over 80% of all tea consumed in North America is iced.

Black Tea Production

Most of the world’s black tea comes from India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya while a large portion of the US supply is grown in Argentina. Black tea is  produced from Camellia sinensis, the same plant as white tea, green tea, oolong tea, and pu’erh tea. What makes black tea different from other varieties comes from how it is produced, specifically,  the amount the tea is allowed to oxidize after the leaves have been plucked.

  • After plucking, the leaves are set out to wither for several hours.
  • Once they have lost a large portion of their moisture content the leaves are rolled either by hand or machine.
  • Depending on the methodology being used, the leaves may be crushed and curled at this stage to promote faster oxidation.
  • Next they are set out to oxidize.
  • When the blend master has determined that the leaves have oxidized enough he will order the leaves to be “fired.”
  • Exposing the leaves to high temperature arrests the oxidation process and pulls out much of the remaining moisture in the leaves.
  • Finally the leaves are sorted according to their size.

Black Tea’s Color and Flavor

Black tea gets its name from the darkness of the tea’s liquor, but it is not technically black as one would think of coffee being black.  The color is more of a dark amber or orange.  The Chinese  called it “red tea” hundreds of years ago, but now this designation more often refers to Rooibos and Rooibos-based blends.

Irish Breakfast and English Breakfast are favorite black tea blends in the British Isles. They consist of black tea from different gardens that is mixed together to provide a distinctive flavor profile. Contrary to most Americans, the British almost always drink their black tea with milk and sugar. This accounts for the Breakfast blend’s strong, sometimes smoky or bitter quality that is meant to stand up to additional flavors.

Black Tea Caffeine Myth

There is a common misconception among  tea-drinkers that black tea has more caffeine than other tea varieties. The best we can figure, this belief comes from the fact that black tea looks the most like coffee in the cup. There is a lot of debate in scientific circles as to exactly how much caffeine the average cup of tea has, as well as what factors in production and brewing contribute to that caffeine actually passing on to the consumer.  A general rule of thumb is to assume that a cup of tea (whatever the color) has about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. For other health-related questions about tea please be sure to see our “Is Tea Healthy?” page.

Please contact us for more about our organic and fair trade black teas and blends. We will have more posts about black tea in the future.  In the mean time why don’t you let us know what you think about this one? Please leave us a comment below!

www.QTradeTeas.com | (949) 766-0070 | info@qtradeteas.com
16205 Distribution Way, Cerritos CA 90703 USA| www.TeazeInfuser.com

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5 Comments on “Tea Basics 105: What is Black Tea?”

  1. Alex Zorach November 2, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    It’s great that you’re helping break through the widespread myth about black tea and caffeine content.

    There’s a minor typo on this page… “carmelia” –> “camellia”.

    • QTrade Teas and Herbs November 2, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Alex. I’ve taken care of the typo.

      What kind of tea is your favorite?

  2. Joseph November 3, 2011 at 2:13 am #

    I used to believe all black teas were high in caffeine until I realized that the caffeine content depends on the brewing process (amount of tea used, water temperature, steep time, etc.). I’ve gotten huge caffeine kicks from white teas, which are said to have less caffeine than most other teas, solely from the way I prepared it. I still like a strong cup of black tea in the morning, but even then it has way less caffeine than a cup of coffee would.

    • QTrade Teas and Herbs November 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      Absolutely true. This is why I enjoy tea more than coffee. Tea gives you caffeine, but just enough. It also has that mellow L-theanine to relax you. What’s that famous Gladstone quote? “If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.”

  3. Chaixpress December 1, 2011 at 9:22 am #


    I like black tea. Black tea contains 2% to 4% caffeine, which affects thinking and alertness, increases urine output, and may reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It also contains antioxidants and other substances that might help protect the heart and blood vessels.

    Black tea is used for improving mental alertness as well as learning, memory and information processing skills. It is also used for treating headache and low blood.Thanks,

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