Black tea is the most common type of tea in the West. However, there are many different types of black teas, ranging from blended and flavored teabags to handmade, artisan, loose-leaf teas. Below, you'll find descriptions, photos, price listings and reviews of my top recommendations for must-try black teas for newbies and connoisseurs alike.
Commonly known as the "Champagne of Tea," the region of Darjeeling produces what is often considered to be the world's best black tea.
Darjeeling black teas vary substantially by when they are harvested. (Each of the harvests are known as a "flush" and the spring harvest / first flush is the most famous and the "greenest" of the flushes. Here's more on tea flushes in Darjeeling
.) However, generally speaking, Darjeeling black teas taste delicate, fruity, floral and light, and are best drunk without any milk or sugar added.
Keemun black tea (or Qimen hong cha) is a black tea from the Anhui Province of eastern China. High quality Keemun teas are a connoisseur favorite, and are noted for their distinctive aromas and flavors, which are often described as smooth, winey (wine-like), fruity, floral, piney and tobacco-like.
Although Keemun needs no additives to be enjoyed, it's also good with milk and / or sugar. For an unusual twist on Keemun black tea, try this "Keemun-Kantaloupe Kooler
" from tea chef Robert Wemischner.
Assam black tea tends to be bold, malty and brisk. Teas from Assam are often used as the base for English Breakfast Tea, Irish Breakfast Tea and other black tea blends. A bit of sugar and a splash of milk are commonly added to pure Assamese teas and Assam-based tea blends.
Although most Assam black tea is CTC tea
or lower grades of tea used in teabags, it is possible to find high quality, loose leaf tea
As the name suggests, Yunnan black tea hails from Yunnan -- a province in China better known for its pu-erh tea
. Some Yunnan black teas are partially fermented, meaning that they straddle the line between black tea and pu-erh. Their flavors are typically chocolaty, dark, malty and nuanced. Sometimes, they have notes of spice and / or a lasting sweetness in the finish
. People who love chocolate tend to love Keemun black tea.
Like other teas from China, Yunnan black tea may also be referred to as "hong cha" or red tea
is the West's most famous flavored tea. It is traditionally flavored with the essential oil of the bergmot citrus fruit. Today, some Earl Grey teas use a mixture of essential oils and / or natural and artificial citrus flavors.
There are many variations on Earl Grey, including Lady Grey (Earl Grey black tea with cornflowers), London Fog (an Earl Grey tea latte
with vanilla) and Earl Green (bergamot-flavored green tea).
Earl Grey's distinctive flavor has made it a popular ingredient in tea-flavored chocolates, baked goods and cocktails.
If you like Earl Grey, you might also like other tea blends, such as masala chai
, fruit black teas and flower black teas.
For more information, read this article on Earl Grey Black Tea
and check out reviews for Rishi Tea's Earl Grey Black Tea
, David Rio's Organic Earl Grey
and Steven Smith Teamaker's Earl Grey Black Tea
Nilgiri black tea
is a fragrant, floral tea from the mountains of South India. In the 1980s, Nilgiri teas suffered from major quality issues, but in recent years, the black teas from this region have vastly improved and earned a spot on the world stage.
Nilgiri black teas are exceptional when served iced with a little sugar or honey and a wedge of lemon. I recommend using a Nilgiri black tea as the base for me Watermelon Iced Tea Recipe
Bai Lin Gong Fu is a nuanced, flavorful, handmade black tea that is rare even in its homeland of China. It can be brewed multiple times in the gong fu style of tea brewing
. If you can get your hands on some, it's well worth a try!
is a smoked black tea that varies in flavor from delicately smoky (which is more traditional) to a taste akin to that of an ashtray (which is more commercial, believe it or not). Lapsang Souchong tends to appeal to people who like bold flavors, such as smoked meats, roasty coffees and bittersweet chocolates.
Lapsang Souchong (and its relatives, Tarry Souchong and Russian Caravan) are usually drunk hot, with or without a little sugar and lemon. However, they can also make good iced tea
s, as shown by The Tao of Tea with their phenomenal Iced Lapsang Souchong.
Taiwanese Black Teas
In recent years, countries not well known for black tea have begun to produce better black teas. These nations include Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan.
Taiwanese black teas are sometimes known as Ruby Black or Red Jade. They are typically produced during the summer harvest in Nantou, Taiwan
. Sometimes, they are bug-bitten for a sweeter flavor profile, much like Second Flush Darjeeling Black Teas