Black Tea 101: Benefits of Black Tea

Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world? Of all the tea out there, Americans particularly love black tea.  Approximately 80% of the tea consumed in the United States is black, but what is black tea and what are the benefits of black tea? Read on below for all you need to know about this in our Black Tea 101: Benefits of Black Tea!

Background of Black Tea

The production style of black tea most likely began in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian by mistake. It became popular in England in the 1700s under the names Bohea, Congou, and Souchong, which refer to Wuyi, Gongfu, and Xiao Zhong teas. By the 1830s, the British began setting up their own tea plantations in Assam, a region within the colony of India, to decrease dependence on Chinese tea. They enlisted Robert Fortune, a prominent botanist, to smuggle plants and trade secrets to Darjeeling in order to produce a higher quality product that could rival the best Chinese teas.

Prominent Black Tea Growing Regions


Another name for black tea from Yunnan is Dian Hong. There are various types of Yunnan tea, including some of the highest quality black teas in China. Most of the tea uses the Camelia sinensis assamica subspecies, also known as Da Ye or Big Leaf.


This region produces some of the highest quality teas in China, specifically in the area surrounding the Yellow Mountains or Huang Shan. Keemun is probably the most well known black tea from this region.


Often recognized for its oolong, Fujian also produces one of the most sought after black teas in China, Jin Jun Mei. Lapsang Souchong and Golden Monkey teas also come from this region.


The Assam region of India produces tea that is bold and brisk. The two main processing styles are orthodox or traditional and crush, tear, curl (CTC.) CTC Assam is the base of many blends, including chai. For more information about Assam see our full blog HERE.

West Bengal

Within this province is the Darjeeling Region. Darjeeling tea uses Camelia sinensis sinensis cultivars. This is more similar to the tea used across China outside of Yunnan. Robert Fortune, a prominent botanist of the time, smuggled these cultivars and processing techniques out of China. Today Darjeeling teas are some of the highest quality in the world.

Sri Lanka

Tea from Sri Lanka is still known by its former name, Ceylon. The tea is more mild than Assam and is a workhorse for blends.

Black Tea Processing


Plucking or picking will generally occur in the spring. The first flush or budding is typically the most delicate. These fresh young buds and 1-2 leaves produce high quality teas, but many black teas will use older and larger leaves.

Plucking tea in Anhui, China


Withering is the partial drying of the leaves to 50-60% moisture. The loss of moisture softens the leaves, which allows them to be rolled and shaped without breaking. The rate of withering will affect the final flavor and can be manipulated by doing so in the sun or moving the tea indoors into cool environments.


Macerating or bruising the tea is important in breaking down the cells and releasing enzymes to speed up oxidation. Maceration of black teas is primarily done by compressing and rolling the leaves in machines, but sometimes by hand.

Drums in the back macerate the leaves by tumbling before the tea is piled to oxidize


Black teas are the most heavily oxidized teas. In China, they are piled and covered in damp cloths for several hours as the enzymes released during maceration break down the leaves. This requires more time, but produces tea with less astringency. Oxidation occurs more quickly in India. The tea is placed on trays in humid, climate controlled oxidation chambers.


This step stops the oxidation of the leaves. It typically involves hot air dryers on conveyor belts and may be finished by firing in a pan.

Sorting & Grading

Orthodox tea will be sorted by size after drying. Broken leaves will be shaken through screens where the biggest leaves will remain on top while fannings and dust falls to the bottom.

Sorting equipment in Qimen, Anhui

Orthodox teas are graded based on shaping quality, leaf size, and proportion of buds. The highest quality teas are full, unbroken leaves that are tightly rolled, with a high portion of buds.

Finest – Highest portion of buds
Tippy – Higher portion buds
Golden – High portion of buds
Flowery – Has some buds

Grades – Descending in Quality
FTGFOP – Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
GFOP – Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FOP – Flowery Orange Pekoe
OP – Orange Pekoe
BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe

Benefits of Black Tea Brewing

Brewing Black tea is more forgiving than green teas or delicate oolongs. Using standard western brewing methods like tea infusers, bags, and pots, it should be brewed at a higher temperature (205°F) for longer periods of time (4-6 minutes) to achieve optimal extraction. This will vary based on oxidation level and leaf size. Lower oxidation levels and broken leaf grades of tea will perform better at the shorter end of the brewing range.

Brewing black tea Gongfu style can reveal complex and nuanced flavors that may be less clear brewing western style. This style uses a stronger brew ratio and several shorter steeps to reveal what flavors are extracted at varying parts of the brew.

What you will need:
Filtration device, optional
Small pitcher (Gong Dao Bei)
Tea tray (chachuan), optional
Tea cups
1g/fl oz loose leaf tea

Step 1: Add tea to gaiwan
Step 2:
Rinse tea with hot water and immediately
discard, this removes dust and preheats vessel
Step 3: Add water to gaiwan until full, and steep for 30 seconds
Step 4: Carefully shift the lid away from the gaiwan lip, creating a small space for water to pass. Pour the infusion through the filtration device into pitcher
Step 5: Decant first steep evenly into separate cups until pitcher is empty
Step 6: Repeat this process for 3-5 steeps, remarking on the change of flavor with each successive steep

Benefits of Black Tea

All tea is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, an evergreen shrub native to Asia. Different types of processing result in the many varieties of tea, such as black, green, white, and oolong. Black tea, referred to as red tea in China (hong cha), is fully oxidized in processing.  As a result they typically have stronger flavor profiles, such as malt, dried fruit, spice, and honey.

Camellia sinensis has a long history of medicinal use.  Legends about early tea consumption depict mythological Chinese Emperor Shennong drinking boiled tea leaves as an antidote when he consumed poisonous plants.  Records from the Han dynasty indicate that tea was used as bitter medicinal drink.  Tea has been consumed in India since at least the 12th century both in drinks and as a cooking ingredient.  For thousands of years, people have enjoyed tea as a stimulant and for other beneficial properties.

Does Processing Impact the Benefits of Black Tea?

Does processing have any impact on the healthiness of tea?  In short, there is no significant difference in the benefits of Camellia sinensis, whether it is minimally processed like white tea, heated to prevent oxidation like green tea, or fully oxidized like black tea.  Processing will however, result in some chemical differences.

Camelia sinensis is rich in polyphenols, particularly flavonoids.  Flavonoids are nutrient compounds found in plants that are a common part of our diets.  In plants, flavonoids perform functions, such as UV filtration, pigmentation, and disease prevention.  For humans, there are potential health benefits as well.  Flavonoids are used in dyes, skin care, and in medicine for their antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

All Camellia sinensis contains caffeine that acts as a stimulant to boost alertness, though generally much less caffeine than coffee.  Unlike coffee, tea plants contain the amino acid L-theanine.  L-theanine promotes a more relaxed type of alertness, which is why many people prefer tea for a jitters free burst of energy.  In addition, black tea specifically contains the polyphenol called theaflavin, which are formed during the oxidation process.  Studies of theaflavins suggest that they may be beneficial for heart and blood vessel health, cholesterol management, and fat breakdown.

Benefits of Black Tea from Royal New York

At Royal New York, we stock a black tea for everyone! The top producers of black tea are China, India, Kenya, and Sri Lanka, and we have selections that represent each of these countries. Here are some of our favorite pure black teas, as well as our top selling black tea blends!

Assam, India

Royal New York carries both conventional and organic teas from Assam, India. The BOP are small round pellets produced via the CTC (cut, tear, curl) method. They steep strong and fast, and the bold malty flavor is ideal for breakfast blends and spicy chai.

Shop Assam BOP

Organic Assam BOP Shop Now

Sri Lanka – Ceylon OP

This is the G.O.A.T. black tea for blending! It is robust and full bodied, but plays well with other flavors and ingredients. We love using it as a base for fruity blends!

Shop Ceylon OP

Organic Ceylon OP Shop Now

Yunnan Province, China

Some of our favorites hail from Yunnan Province, China aka the birthplace of tea. For a delicious dianhong go with the Yunnan Black, but for next level sweetness and chocolate notes definitely try the Golden Yunnan. For a Yunnan black tea that will really impress, Gongfu black is the way to go!

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Organic Yunnan Black Shop Now

Golden Yunnan Shop Now

Shop Golden Yunnan Sachets

Shop Gongfu Black

Anhui Province, China – Keemun

One of the boldest black teas in the world. This savory and earthy option is typically enjoyed in colder months.

Shop Keemun 1st Grade


In early 2022 we introduced our first two Kenyan teas! The tea traders cupped dozens of black teas from Kenya and this FOP was a winner. It is honey sweet with notes of sugarcane and shortbread biscuits.

Shop Kenyan FOP

Earl Grey

A classic blend of Ceylon black tea with bergamot oil and blue cornflowers. Enjoy with or without milk, or as a London Fog latte. Pairs well with other flavors such as vanilla, lavender, and rose.

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Masala Chai

A malty Assam black tea blended with spices. Typically enjoyed with milk, and pairs well with espresso.

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NY Breakfast

Our take on a strong blend of black teas for early morning. A mix of Assam, Ceylon, and Darjeeling black teas. 2nd Flush Darjeeling makes this blend slightly sweeter than a typical breakfast blend.

Shop Royal NY Breakfast

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