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The History of Black Tea

black tea
black tea in a cup

Black tea—the classic cuppa tea that’s ruled Western tea drinking since it arrived from Asia centuries ago. Also called “red tea” in China, after the reddish color of its infusion, black tea is universally recognized for its distinctive flavor and signature kick.

Black Tea

All varieties of tea, including black, come from the Camellia sinensis plant, which has been extensively cultivated and hybridized over the centuries. Black tea is made from two different varieties:  Camellia sinensis assamica and Camellia sinensis sinensis.

black tea in a cup and black tea leaves
black tea breakfast blend

The Varities

Camellia Sinensis Assamica:


Camellia sinensis assamica yields larger leaves and is used in different parts of India and Sri Lanka. You'll find Camellia sinensis assamica growing in warm, moist climates—it’s copious in sub-tropical forests.


Cameliia Sinensis Sinensis:


Camellia sinensis sinensis yields shorter leaves and is used primarily in China and nearby East Asian countries, most typically to make green and white teas. It evolved as a shrub growing in drier and cooler, though still sunny, climates. It thrives in mountainous regions, due to its high tolerance for cold.

Oxidation Method

Oxidation Is What Makes Black Tea "Black"

(as opposed to green or another variety). To prepare black tea, the Camellia sinensis leaves are allowed to fully oxidize before they are heat-processed and dried.

During oxidation, oxygen interacts with the plant’s cell walls, turning the leaves dark brown or black. Oxidation can also add smoky, fruity or even malty notes, depending on each tea. There are two primary methods of oxidizing the leaves:

Orthodox Method: This is the traditional and most common method—as well as the most time-consuming—and it yields leaves that are whole or only partially broken.

After the tea leaves are plucked, they wither in the warm air for up to 18 hours, drying out naturally. They’re then rolled in a special machine that gently presses and bruises the leaves, breaking the cells and allowing oxidation to begin.

laying out tea leaves to dry

Next, they’re again exposed to the air, in a climate-controlled environment that alters the polyphenols, as well as continuing oxidation. Depending on the grade of leaf being cut, this process may take many rounds. This is when the tea’s flavors really begin to develop.

Once the desired oxidation level is reached, the leaves are machine-dried, halting oxidation.

Cut, Tear and Curl (CTC) Method: Developed to speed up production during the 1950’s teabag boom, this method involves mincing and breaking up the tea leaves in a rotorvane machine, instead of rolling them.

Types of Black Tea

Black tea is grown all over the world. The three largest producers are India, Sri Lanka and Africa, with India producing more than half the world’s supply. Some of the most well-known styles of black tea coming out of these top-producing countries include:

Indian Black Teas: 

Darjeeling: Like champagne, tea can only be called Darjeeling if it comes from its namesake region—a small, mountainous district in West Bengal, India. This prized variety is seen as one of the world’s finest. Light to medium-bodied, it has floral and fruity notes, along with a touch of briskness. Darjeeling is a common base for India’s popular tea drink, Chai. Check out our selection of exquisite Darjeeling teas.

Assam: This tea comes from the largest tea-growing area in the world, India’s Assam region. Typically bold and malty in flavor, it’s a perfect transition variety for coffee lovers looking for that strong punch. It’s also a popular choice for blends and can hold its own through multiple steepings. Browse our tasty Assam teas.

black tea in a cup

Sri Lankan Black Teas

Ceylon: This tea is considered among the finest in the world. While Ceylon teas can vary depending on where they’re grown, they are typically a deep mahogany, strong and brisk with a touch of spice. You may also see Ceylon teas with a light golden color.

black tea oxidation
black tea leaves drying

Caffeine Content of Black Tea

While coffee packs the most caffeine per cup, black tea has the strongest caffeine kick among teas, followed by green tea. However, many factors determine caffeine levels in any individual cup. The longer the steep time, the more caffeine in the teacup. And while most black teas, like our Darjeeling can, be steeped multiple times, the caffeine content will lessen each time it’s steeped.

Our Best Sellers

Here at Grey and Bash Teas, you can find a large selection of delicious organic and non-organic Black Tea Options. Just as protective as green tea is for skin, black tea is specifically known to brighten your complexion. The caffeine in tea naturally helps to reduce puffiness and dark circles.

Caribbean Cruise

A Caribbean vacation wherever you are.  The delightfully bright fruity flavors of this black tea will transport you to your favorite port of call!


Ingredients: Black tea, hibiscus, orange peel, blackberry leaves, raspberry leaves, cornflowers, marigold, safflowers, natural and artificial passion fruit flavor, natural and artificial vanilla flavor, natural and artificial strawberry flavor, natural and artificial raspberry flavor.

Blood Orange Black Tea

A true classic. Reminiscent of freshly squeezed oranges, let your mind escape with this wonderfully refreshing anytime tea.


Ingredients: Black tea, orange, apple, rose hips, rose petals, safflowers, natural and artificial orange flavor, natural and artificial vanilla flavor, natural and artificial lemon flavor.

Apricot Breeze

A Black Tea blended with apricot flavoring

Certified Kosher


Almond Biscotti

Almond biscotti is like dessert in a cup! This infusion is filled with almond pieces and safflowers.


An old world classic. Enjoy all the warm comforts of home with our balanced blend of black tea and crushed cinnamon pieces. Simple and perfect.


Ingredients: Black tea, hibiscus, orange peel, blackberry leaves, raspberry leaves, cornflowers, marigold, safflowers, natural and artificial passion fruit flavor, natural and artificial vanilla flavor, natural and artificial strawberry flavor, natural and artificial raspberry flavor.

Danish Butter Cookie

Talk about delicious! Flavored black tea with almonds and orange. You’ll imagine you’re indulging in a delicate Danish Butter Cookie. This tea stands up to milk beautifully! This has been a Grey & Bash Teas Best Seller since the VERY beginning.

Strawberry SerendipiTEA

A fruity blend of berries and citrus all bundled up in a refreshing black tea. Whether you love iced or hot tea, this black tea is sure to not disappoint.


Ingredients: Black tea, orange peel, strawberry, blackberry leaves, natural and artificial flavors.