Glass transparent cup of black tea and dry tea in bags on the background of scattered tea leaves on the old wooden background

What Does Black Tea Taste Like?

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Black tea is possibly the most consumed tea around the world, and it comes in different varieties too.

Most people have a box of black tea sitting in their pantry already, but if you have never tried black tea before, you might be nervous that it will be stronger than lighter, fruitier teas.

What does black tea taste like? Black tea comes in a few different blends which all have unique flavor properties, but there are some flavor notes that all types of black tea share. A simple, classic, unflavored black tea has bold, malty, earthy, and astringent flavors, which can sometimes be slightly sweet or smokey.

If you want to try out black tea, but are looking to find out more first, read on to find out more about the flavor and notes of black tea, as well as more useful information!

What Is Black Tea?

Black tea is made from leaves cultivated from the Camellia Sinensis plant. This plant is also where green and white tea comes from, but the preparation of the leaves differs.

The leaves for black tea are left to oxidize for longer compared to the other tea types, which helps them to develop a stronger, bolder flavor. This also means that black tea contains more caffeine than many other teas!

No matter the variety of black tea, it will likely always be stronger than other types of tea because of the oxidation process, plus the flavors and boldness that are allowed to develop during this process.

Flavor Notes Of Black Tea

Black tea is not just one type of tea — there are different varieties that are sourced from different plants, grown in different climates, and infused with other flavors, but the base of all of these varieties share the same flavor notes.

Classic black tea has some definite flavor notes that make it stand out from other types of tea, and which makes it a favorite for so many.

Here are the main flavor notes you will pick up with black tea!


Black tea is known for being bold, with stronger flavors compared to other types of tea. Black tea has a darker color, often amber or darker, and a full body of flavor.

The bold flavor of black tea is due to the oxidation that the tea leaves go through, which gives the tea leaves a stronger, bolder flavor.

How bold the flavor of black tea is depends on how long the leaves are steeped, plus the temperature of the water it was left to steep in.


Maltiness is a flavor that some black teas have, such as breakfast teas. The malty flavor of black tea works well with the strong, bold flavor and sweetness that some have.


Many people consider black tea to be quite astringent, and some are more astringent than others. The astringency of black tea means that it can taste dry or have a bit of a tangy bite to it.

Most often, Chinese black teas are the most astringent — they can be enjoyed as is, or they can be infused with other ingredients to balance out the astringency.


Black tea in its classic, simple form does not have added sweeteners, but black tea leaves do have a subtle, natural sweetness to them.

Less bold varieties of black tea have more sweetness to them — it also depends on the type of black tea and where it was grown, to how sweet the black tea might be.


Some black teas can have fruity notes to them, but this is usually not a berry or citrus fruitiness, but rather stone fruits. Certain varieties of black tea are known for their fruity flavor notes.


Black tea, being bold in flavor, also has earthy notes to it. These earthy notes range in intensity depending on the type of black tea, but most do display a degree of earthiness.


Black teas can have a slight smokiness to them, which appears naturally, while some black teas are smoked during the drying process, adding to the smokey flavor that the black tea has.

How Strong Is The Flavor Of Black Tea?

Black tea has a strong flavor and is considered stronger in flavor compared to other types of tea, such as white tea or green tea.

The reason that the flavor of black tea is so strong is that it is the most oxidized tea.

This is the process where the tea leaves are aired during the drying process, and this turns the leaves black and creates a strong flavor and aroma of the tea.

When brewed, black tea has a dark amber, reddish color. This is darker than most tea types, and the aroma is considered to be stronger too.

Many people consider black tea to be too bold, especially on its own, so they either opt for a milder white or green tea, or add some sugar and milk to their black tea to tone it down slightly.

Black tea is strong as is, but the longer you steep the black tea and the hotter the temperature it is steeped at, the bolder the flavors and aromas will be.

Is Black Tea Sweet Or Bitter?

Black tea has various flavor notes, and two of those are sweet and bitter. Some varieties of black tea have more sweetness to them, whereas others are more bitter in flavor.

The oxidation of black tea creates more tannins than other varieties of tea. Tannins are released when the tea is steeped in hot water, and these tannins are what give the black tea its astringent flavor, as well as caffeine content.

If there is a small number of tannins released during the steeping process, the black tea will not be very bitter.

However, if the black tea is left to steep for too long and at too high a temperature, then there will be too many tannins and the tea might be too bitter.

What Does Black Tea Taste Similar To?

With a rich, aromatic, and malty flavor, many people feel that black tea tastes similar to the malty notes you get from caramel and even fresh bread. It is full-bodied, which means that it gives a similar satisfaction that coffee gives.

For many, black tea is a good beverage to move to when you are trying to cut back on coffee intake as it is rich and aromatic like coffee and has a bold flavor, which makes it a great substitute.

However, the variety of black tea options means that there is a wide range of flavors to choose from.

What Varieties Are There Of Black Tea?

Black tea is a type of tea, such as white tea or green tea, with a variety of different options to choose from, all with different flavors and notes.

Here are the most popular types of black tea!

Assam Black Tea

Assam tea is from the Assam region in India. This tea is strong and is often astringent and tannic, giving it a bitter, bolder flavor. It can also have notes of maltiness too.

It is a popular tea added to breakfast blends as it helps to create a strong tea often enjoyed in the morning, with some milk and sugar.

Ceylon Black Tea

Ceylon is a popular black tea, which is grown and sourced in Sri Lanka. This black tea has citrus flavors to it and is full-bodied with flavor too.

It is used as a breakfast tea and is often used in a blend of black tea leaves too.

Darjeeling Black Tea

Darjeeling black tea is one of the more delicate black teas available. It is light, refined, and beautifully fragrant, but still with a bold and rich aroma.

It is wonderful when served with milk and sugar, and when served as an iced tea.


Nilgiri is a fragrant, full-bodied tea that is best when served with milk. It is popularly served as a strong breakfast tea and is known for its crisp, brisk flavor.

Breakfast Tea

Breakfast tea is available in a few different options: English, Scottish, Irish, and more.

This is often a blend of strong, full-bodied teas that are mostly made with Ceylon, Assam, and other stronger black teas.

Kenyan Black Tea

Kenyan black tea is, as the name suggests, from Kenya. This tea is robust, has notes of anise, citrus, and cardamom, and is full-bodied.

This is specially prepared by adding the tea to heated milk and allowing it to gently steep for a while.

Lapsang Souchong

Lapsang Souchong black tea is a smoky black tea that is developed by drying the tea leaves over a pinewood fire.

The brew of Lapsang Souchong is dark and amber in color, has a nutty, rich taste to it, and is often enjoyed black and on its own.

Yunnan Tea

Yunnan tea is a top-tier black tea — it has a beautiful floral, spicy aroma and can be malty as well.

There are different qualities and grades of Yunnan tea, with the higher quality options being sweet and floral and the lower quality ones being bitter.

How To Brew Black Tea

Black tea is full of rich flavors and complex taste notes that are best enjoyed when brewed properly so that the flavors are allowed to shine.

The oxidation of black tea means that it can handle higher temperatures as well, so it can be brewed at around 200°F for the best results.

This is just below boiling, to protect the leaves from burning. Burning the tea leaves using boiling water can cause a bitter flavor, which can ruin the black tea.

The leaves should be left to steep for between 2–3 minutes to release optimal color and aroma.

If you prefer your black tea strong, then leave it to steep for up to 3 minutes; however, if milder black tea is your preference, then only leave it to steep for 1½ minutes.

What To Mix With Black Tea

The strong, bold flavor of black tea means that it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways — how you enjoy your black tea will be a personal taste!

Here are some of the best ways to enjoy black tea.

1. Milk With Sweetener

One of the most popular ways to enjoy black tea is to brew it first, then add in some milk and sweetener.

How much milk you add in will depend on how milky or strong you prefer your tea — you don’t want to add so much that the tea becomes cold!

When it comes to sweeteners, there are a few options to choose from. This could be sugar, honey, Stevia, or Splenda — whatever you prefer and have ready to use.

2. Milk Without Sweetener

When making a cup of tea, some people choose to just add milk and no sweetener. This allows the real flavor of the black tea to shine through.

A creamier milk is best to add to tea for the perfect cup of tea, 2% being the most preferred.

3. Lemon

A dash of lemon juice is ideal to add to black tea, especially those with fruity undertones. This is great for when you do not want to add milk to your tea and prefer it black.

Lemon can help bring out the fruity notes more, and adding some sweetener can balance it all out beautifully as well. Just don’t add milk as it is likely to curdle.

4. Honey

Another way to enjoy black tea is to have it straight, with just a small amount of honey added in.

Black tea can be bold and astringent — adding some honey can cut through this and highlight the natural sweetness of black tea.

What Are The Taste Differences Between Black Tea And Green Tea?

Black tea and green tea come from the same plant, but the preparation of the tea leaves is what sets them apart.

Black tea is let to oxidize and air dry for a longer period of time, whereas green tea is not left for as long. This oxidation gives black tea a stronger, bolder flavor, whereas green tea is fresher and more fruity.

Final Thoughts

Black tea is bold, strong, and with a rich aroma. It is the strongest of almost all tea types, as it is left to oxidize and air dry for longer than other types of tea.

There are various types of black tea to choose from — some are stronger than others, some are more bitter, and others are fruitier, but all share the same malty, earthy, bold flavor that many love black tea for.

The beauty of black tea is that it can be enjoyed in so many different ways too, whether served straight, with some milk and sweetener, or with a dash of lemon juice to round all the flavors together.

When trying black tea for the first time, try to steep it for just a minute or two, just to have a milder flavor to start with. If you enjoy the taste, then you can try steeping it for longer after that for the full flavor experience!

Related Questions

Now that we’ve learned all about the different types of black tea and their unique flavors, here are some additional questions we thought you might have.

What is the mildest-tasting tea?

The mildest-tasting true tea is white tea. This has a fairly subtle flavor and is an easy-drinking tea that can be enjoyed throughout the day.

Is black tea healthier than coffee?

Black tea, or even green tea, is a healthier choice than coffee — it has less caffeine and contains more antioxidants, which are beneficial to consume.

Is it okay to drink black tea each day?

It is fine to drink a cup or two of black tea daily, but any more than this can be unsafe.

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