Black tea is the most popular type of tea in the western world, accounting for about 90% of total tea consumption. It is a very general term, however, as there are many different types of black tea.

All types of tea – black tea, green tea, and oolong tea – come from the same plant - Camellia sinensi. The difference in these teas comes from the way they are processed after harvesting the tea leaves.

The biggest factor in producing various types of teas is the length of time they are oxidized or fermented. Fermentation refers to the level of oxidation – black tea is fully oxidized, oolong tea is partially oxidized, and green tea is un-oxidized (or un-fermented).

The term fermentation is not really accurate. Oxidation refers to the chemical process that all vegetable matter undergoes after picking – the leaves start to turn brown. Black tea is fully oxidized, so the leaves of black tea are darker than either green tea or oolong.

Interestingly, black tea is called “red tea” in China and many parts of Asia. For most people in the west, the term “red tea” refers to Rooibos tea from South Africa.

Black tea is the most popular type of tea in the western world, accounting for about 90% of total tea consumption. It is a very general term, however, as there are many different types of black tea.

Black tea is commonly classified by its origin. The most popular types of black tea are from Darjeeling from West Bengal in India, Ceylon from Sri Lanka, and Assam from Assam, India.

China also has a good selection of black tea that includes Lapsang Souchong from Fujian province, Keemun from Anhui province, Dian Hong from Yunnan province and Ying de Hong from Guang Dong province.

Other areas that produce black tea include Vietnam, Nepal, Rize Province of Turkey, and Nilgiris, India. Each tea producing region produces distinctive black tea, and there can be a wide variety of quality in each region. Lower quality black tea is usually machine processed and is most often used for tea bags. High quality black tea is hand processed and almost always sold loose.

Black tea has an astringency and bitterness that can be reduced with the addition of milk and sugar, and this method of serving is the most popular in the west. In China and other parts of Asia, however, black tea is usually served straight.

Other additives besides milk and sugar include lemon juice (especially good for iced tea), and herbs such as mint and basil, and herbs such as cardamom, cloves, and ginger are added to black tea in some parts of the world.

Black tea is the most popular type of tea in western countries. Part of the reason for this is that black tea has a longer storage life than either green or oolong tea, and so was better suited for the long transport time during the early days of European / Asian trade. With modern transportation methods this is less of a concern, and may be a factor in the increasing popularity of oolong and green tea in Western countries.