Here’s What Black Tea Really Is (and Why It’s Black)

Some folks down coffee after coffee. Others crush soda or energy drinks. Back in the day, I’d slam two Mountain Dews and a Camel Crush on my way to highschool. Yes, I was a teenage truck driver. Then there are the tea people. In the U.S., Canada, and U.K., when people are drinking tea, most of the time it’s black tea. No, that doesn’t mean tea without milk and sugar. 

What is black tea made of? 

Black tea is most often made from the leaves of a plant called Camellia sinensis. Green tea comes from the same type of plant. The difference is the leaves for black tea are allowed to oxidize before they are processed. Basically that means you pick a leaf from a plant and wait for the oxygen in the atmosphere to start turning it brown. The oxidation concentrates the flavor, which is why black tea has a stronger, darker flavor than green tea. 

English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and Lapsang Souchong are all varieties of black tea, and it’s particularly popular in the “West” (we’re talking the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.). When the Dutch began exporting tea from China in the 1600s, black tea was the obvious choice since it holds its flavor and stays fresh longer. So, that’s what the West received and it never looked back. Until the matcha craze hit. Then all bets were off. 

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How do you make black tea? 

There are a lot of different kinds of black tea so there are a lot of different ways to make it. But the big question is, how long do you steep black tea? If you are having a cup of Earl Grey or English Breakfast, a good rule of thumb is to steep somewhere between 2-6 minutes. The tea will taste stronger and can become more caffeinated depending on how long you steep it and how hot the water is. So, it is really a personal choice. However, steeping too long can cause a somewhat bitter taste. Me personally, I just brew tea so I can spill it while I make Kermit memes, but that’s none of my business. 

What are the benefits of black tea? 

Black tea is like a dream job: It has a lot of really good benefits. Black tea has antioxidants that can protect us from some chronic diseases. But what is unique to black tea is something called theaflavins which develop during the oxidation process. Theaflavins may help lower blood cholesterol, promoting heart health. Also, drinking a moderate amount of black tea has been shown to possibly reduce the risk of stroke and some cancers, and lower blood sugar levels. It can also improve focus with its caffeine. Yes, black tea does contain caffeine, about half the amount of a cup of coffee. An eight ounce cup of coffee averages around 95 mg while the same amount of black tea clocks in around 47 mg.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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