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What Is Black Tea? 

Chances are when you think of tea, black tea is the type of tea you’ll be thinking of. This plant-based beverage has been one of the most popular drinks in the world for thousands of years, and is consumed globally by people of every nation. 

Black tea is a drink made by steeping the cured leaves of the tea plant in hot water until they release a liquid known as tea liquor. Black tea is served hot or cold. Tea is consumed recreationally and is popular for its wide range of health benefits. 

Even if you don’t like traditional black tea, there are several variations on the drink that you might enjoy if you try them. Keep reading to learn more about black tea and how to prepare it at home. 

What Is Black Tea?

Black tea is created from dried and cured leaves of the tea plant (scientific name Camellia Sinensis).  Many beverages created from plant matter and hot water are called teas, but most of these are technically tisanes, a type of steeped infusion. The drink must be made from the tea plant to be considered true tea. 

black tea has caffeine in a blue cup

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Where Does Black Tea Come From?

Black tea originated in China where it grows in the wild, and has been used medicinally in the region for thousands of years. Black tea is also grown in the Assam region of India, where it is a native plant. The teas produced in China and India vary greatly in flavor since they are produced in very different microclimates. 

How Does Black Tea Differ From Other Tea Varieties?

Even though black tea comes from China, it isn’t the most popular variety of tea in the region. There are several other varieties of tea available such as green tea, white tea, and oolong tea. 

The main difference that sets black tea apart from these other varieties is the level of oxidation the tea undergoes during curing. Oxidation is the process of exposing the tea’s surface to oxygen. Black tea is oxidized and cured longer than any other tea type, giving the tea its characteristic black coloring and rich, dark amber liquor. 

Kinds of Black Tea

Since black tea is one of the most popular types of tea, it’s available in many different varieties:

How to Brew Black Tea

Black tea can be served in many different ways. This versatility is one of the reasons it has remained so popular in so many regions of the world. 


Most black tea is consumed hot in ceramic tea cups or mugs. However, some black teas are sweetened and consumed as a cold iced beverage, while others are heavily spiced or served with boba pearls. 

Here’s the procedure you should follow to brew a pot or mug of black tea: 

  • Boil water. Since black tea is more oxidized than other types of tea, it requires water with a higher temperature.  Aim for water right around boiling (195° to 205° F).
  • If not using a teabag, measure your loose tea.  Always use one heaping teaspoon for every 6 ounces of water.  Since the average mug is larger than 6 ounces, use about 1.5 heaping teaspoons per mug. 
  • Steep the tea for 4-5 minutes. Tea can be steeped in individual tea cups/mugs or in the teapot itself. Add the tea to the teapot or cups using a tea infuser, moving it around in the hot water a bit to help agitate the tea leaves. The tea should begin to give off reddish liquor and stain the water as the tea steeps.
  • Discard the tea and serve. Once the tea has steeped for 3-5 minutes, remove the used tea leaves and discard them, or reserve them for a second weaker cup of tea depending on the quality of the leaves. 
  • Serve black or with milk, sugar or lemon.  Hot black tea is usually served with sugar, milk, half and half, cream, or lemon. 
how to brew black tea in a glass teacup

What to Serve With Black Tea

While it’s common for breakfast tea to be consumed on its own, afternoon tea is often served with some cookies or small sandwiches as appetizers. Some common foods served with black tea include linzer cookies, cucumber finger sandwiches, small slices of cake, and cream-filled pastries.  

Iced Black Tea

This is one of the simplest preparations for black tea. If you want to know how to make a sweet tea version of black tea, it’s best to add sugar to the hot tea mixture to taste before putting it in a refrigerator to chill. This allows the tea to absorb the sugar without it gathering on the bottom of the tea pitcher. After being sweetened and chilled, cold black tea can be served over ice with wedges of lemon for garnish. 

Health Benefits of Black Tea

Many people drink black tea because of its delicious flavor and comforting qualities. However, several proven health benefits are connected with drinking black tea regularly. Drinking tea is good for you.  These are just some of the advantages of drinking black tea for your health: 

  • Antioxidants: Tea is full of plant-based phytonutrients classified as antioxidants when consumed. Antioxidants help to remove dangerous free radicals from the body and slow the progress of degenerative diseases such as heart attack and cancer.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine is one of the most popular soft recreational drugs in the world. This chemical helps to improve focus, increase alertness, and stave off drowsiness during periods of sleep deprivation. Caffeine has also been shown to improve memory and cognitive function. 
black tea leaves

How Much Caffeine is in Black Tea?

Of all the popular tea types, black tea has the most caffeine.   According to the USDA, an 8 ounce cup of brewed black tea has 47 mg of caffeine, compared with 95 mg of caffeine in the same amount of coffee.

Black Tea Caffeine vs. Coffee

An advantage of tea over other caffeinated beverages like coffee is that the caffeine in tea is less bioavailable. This means that the buzz from caffeine in tea is more mild and long-lasting than the energy boost from coffee, and drinkers less negative side effects after the caffeine wears off. 

Black Tea vs Green Tea Caffeine Levels

Compared to the 47 mg of caffeine contained in 8-ounces of black tea, the same amount of green tea contains about 30 mg.  

Black Tea Is One of the Most Popular True Teas

Along with being one of the most tasty drinks you can add to your morning or evening routine, a cup of black tea a few times a day can have positive impacts on your well-being. Try brewing up a pot to see the results for yourself! 

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