The Origins of Black Tea– Where Does Your Favourite Drink Come From?

You may like your tea hot or cold, but no matter what way you drink it, I think we can all agree that black tea is an incredible beverage.

From Chinese tea ceremonies to British tea-time, this drink has helped to shape the way that many people live their lives socially.

Although black tea may look like a sweet drink as it steeps in your cup, it has a very interesting history and an impressive list of health benefits associated with it.

What Plant Does Black Tea Come From

origins of black tea

While many people assume that green, white, black, pu-erh and oolongteas come from different plants, each type of tea begins as Camellia sinensis.

The distinctions between these six teas comes not from the type of plant, but rather from how the tea is prepared after the plant has been harvested.

However, green and black tea is processed a little differently, which will then result in distinct colour and flavour profiles.

The History of Black Tea

Of course, everyone knows that China is where tea has been brewed for thousands of years. Their favourites were green and oolong, but black tea didn’t come about until the 1730s.

After a green tea factory’s production was held up and they were not getting shipments out, it made the green tea leaves start to oxidize. 

origins of black tea

Because of this, it led to the distinct flavour and color of black tea, and this happy accident became one of the most popular drinks across the world.

There was lots of money to be made in the tea trade in the 1700s, but green tea didn’t retain its quality as well in transport as black tea. This is why most British tea culture revolves around black tea, while Eastern traditions favour green tea.

The Tea You are Drinking Could be Black Tea

All the teas you are normally used to drinking such as iced tea, sun tea, Earl Grey tea, Ceylon tea, and English breakfast tea are all different versions of black tea.

Black tea is usually served hot, cold, with sweetener or unsweetened. People often add milk, sugar, lemon, or honey to their drinks.

You might notice that some of the black teas have weird names for them. The reason for that is because most black teas are named for their region of origin.

origins of black tea

For example, Ceylon tea comes from Sri Lanka, and Darjeeling tea comes from India.

Other teas get their name for how it is prepared, such as sun tea, which is tea placed in a jar with water and left in the sun for hours to steep.

Flavour Profile of Black Tea (Known As Red Tea In China)

Fermentation:  Light to strong fermentation

Growing Regions: Szechuan, Yunnan, Fujian, Guangdong

Best Seasons To Purchase:  Spring, Autumn

Pharmacological Elements: Selenium, vitamins C, E, A, B, flavonoid compounds, tannic acid, potassium, carotene

Most Popular Varieties: Premium Lapsang Sauchong Black Tea, Keemun Black Tea (First Grade), Golden Tips Red Tea (Dien Hong)

origins of black tea

Some common traits used to describe the overall flavour profile of the black tea category include malty, smoky, brisk, earthy, spiced, nutty, metallic, citrus, caramel, leather, fruity, sweet and honey.

Storing Black Tea

Black Tea can be stored for long periods of time and improves in flavour with age.

Also, caffeine levels of Black Tea tend to decrease naturally over time. The best storage that we can recommend for your tea is a glass container or a porcelain jar. Place it on a shelf away from heat.

And just like fresh coffee, the more airtight the container the better flavour your loose leaf tea will have. It can easily odours, so make sure to always keep it sealed tightly.

How Much Caffeine is in Black Tea

You might hear people constantly comparing the caffeine in both coffee and tea. Some say coffee has more and some say black tea has more. Drinking tea has amazing health benefits. Caffeine is one of those great health benefits (as long as it is in small quantities).

This is a well-detailed study published by the British Government in 2004. It offers a great comparison and what we will use today to determine which has more caffeine —

All Teas: 40 mg per serving 
Instant Coffee: 54 mg per serving 
Freshly Ground Coffee: 105 mg per serving

How Black Tea is Processed

Black teas are typically produced using one of two methods:

origins of black tea
  • Orthodox: In this more time-consuming method of production, tea leaves remain whole or only partially broken during processing. Tea leaves are plucked from the garden. Then they are withered to reduce moisture. Next, they are rolled in a variety of ways to bruise the leaves and start oxidation. Once oxidized then they began to create color and flavor. Finally they are fired to apply the heat that stops oxidation, and then graded for quality.
  • Non-Orthodox or CTC (Crush-Tear-Curl): In this sped-up version of the production process, the tea leaves are cut into fine pieces instead of rolled. The smaller pieces of leaves are more quickly oxidized, producing a one-dimensional, consistent, strong and bold black tea. You can also purchase disposable tea bags on Amazon. Then you can steep as most consumers do with supermarket teas.


Now that you understand more about where black tea comes from, hopefully, you will be able to choose a variety to your liking. Our suggestion is to subscribe to our Blue Tea Box. This way, you can try out three different teas each month.


Join the thousands worldwide in our Tea Lovers Club who receive our best discounts, new videos, Tea tips, and recipe ideas every week