Its commercial success in the West led to large-scale production in China. Fueled by Scottish and English entrepreneurs and adventurers who stole tea plants and seeds from China, black tea production spread to other countries. These early English tea companies planted tea plantations in other countries and developed machinery for processing tea without the need for skilled tea makers. Over time, black tea production spread to India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, and later to Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Rwanda, Brazil, and elsewhere.
In China, black tea is known as hong cha (or red tea) due to the reddish color of its liquor (or infusion). In the East, however, black tea consumption is less common than green tea.
There are many types of black tea available, and most commercial brands are blends of black teas with different origins. Popular black tea blends include English breakfast and Irish breakfast. Different tea origins produce different black tea flavor profiles due to their unique terroir. The flavors of single-origin teas can be broadly described based on where they are from.
India's Assam Black Tea:
From the largest growing tea region in the world, this tea is bold, malty, and brisk; ideal when combined with milk and sugar.
India's Darjeeling Black Tea:
The mountainous region of Darjeeling produces a tea that is delicate, fruity, floral, and light. The season in which it's grown will affect the flavor of the tea. A spring-harvested Darjeeling black tea will have a much lighter, green flavor, whereas a tea harvested slightly later in the year will be sweet and fruity.
India's Nilgiri Black Tea:
This tea is fragrant and floral, with a subtle sweetness. It has a medium body and mellow taste and is ideal for making iced teas.
Sri Lanka's Ceylon Black Tea:
This tea varies by origin but is generally bold, strong, and rich, and sometimes has notes of chocolate or spice.
China's Keemun Black Tea:
Winelike, fruity, and floral, this tea can also have piney and tobaccolike aromas, depending on the variety. The flavor is mellow and smooth.
China's Yunnan Black Tea:
Grown in the higher elevations of the Yunnan Province, this tea evokes the flavors of chocolate and malt, sometimes with notes of spice.
Africa's Kenyan Black Tea:
This African tea is bold, astringent, and dark. Introduced into the black tea family in the early 1900s, Kenyan black tea is considered a newcomer.
Black tea is also used to create blends that are flavored with fruit, flowers, and spices, and exhibit a wide range of flavor profiles depending on their ingredients. Classic flavored black tea blends include Earl Grey, which is flavored with bergamot essential oil or citrus flavor, and masala chai, which is blended with various spices. In recent years, many tea companies have started to offer more unusual and nontraditional black tea blends, including flavors like chocolate or vanilla, wood or smoke, tropical fruits, warming spices, and dried herbs.
See: What happens to your body when you drink black tea!