The 11 Best Types of Black Tea

Black tea is among the most popular drinks in the Western world.

However, there are many different varieties of the drink.

Even though all black tea comes from the same plant, the taste can be vastly different depending on the specific tea leaves and blend.

This article provides a list of the best types of black tea from around the world.

For every kind of black tea on this list, you will find notes on its origin, strength, caffeine content, and characteristics.

If you need more information on caffeine, see this article on black tea’s caffeine content.

1) Assam

A Cup of Assam Black Tea.

Type of Tea: Assam
Origin: Assam, Northeast India
Tasting Notes: Rich, full-bodied, malty, slightly bitter
Strength: Strong and bold
Caffeine Level: High

Assam is a traditional black tea from the region of Assam in Northeast India, and it is one of the most powerful-tasting types of black tea.

With a strong, slightly astringent and full-bodied taste, many people enjoy pairing this tea with a bit of milk to balance the flavor.

Even if you have not tried pure Assam tea, you have probably come across it in English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast tea blends.

Assam tea leaves are the base for these two types of tea, and they are the main reason for the bold color and deep taste these blends possess.

If you are not an early morning person, then Assam is a great alternative to coffee.

2) Ceylon

A Cup of Ceylon Black Tea.

Type of Tea: Ceylon
Origin: Sri Lanka
Tasting Notes: Aromatic, flavorful, citrusy, refreshing
Strength: Strong, Medium-bodied
Caffeine Level: High

Ceylon originates in Sri Lanka, and it is a medium to strong black tea that manages to maintain a light and refreshing taste.

If you are wondering about the name of the tea, then it uses Sri Lanka’s former name—Ceylon—as its own.

This Sri Lankan tea has slight spicy and citrusy flavor notes, and it is enjoyable to drink.

Since it has a citrusy, flavorful taste, Ceylon is usually the variety of black tea you will find in iced tea drinks.

That said, the tea tastes just as good when hot, and it can be enjoyed alone or with some milk.

3) Darjeeling

A Glass Cup of Darjeeling Black Tea.

Type of Tea: Darjeeling
Origin: West Bengal, India
Tasting Notes: Aromatic, soft, smooth, sweet
Strength: Light to medium-bodied
Caffeine Level: Medium

Darjeeling is a light and refreshing tea.

Rather than the bold and robust flavor of Assam, this tea has a more delicate flavor that can be difficult to describe.

Additionally, the dark bold colors of Assam are gone too. Darjeeling has a unique golden amber color.

With slight citrusy, floral, fruity and herby tastes, Darjeeling is a very flavorful black tea choice.

This tea is more suited to an enjoyable, relaxing drink in the afternoon rather than an early morning option.

As a result of its delicate flavor notes, the media often dub Darjeeling “the champagne of tea.”

Lastly, this Darjeeling works best on its own. Since it has a mild and delicate taste, it is not a good match for milk.

4) Dianhong cha (Yunnan tea)

Dianhong (Yunnan) Black Tea in a Glass Cup.

Type of Tea: Dianhong (Yunnan)
Origin: Yunnan, Southern China
Tasting Notes: Aromatic, soft, sweet, smooth
Strength: Medium
Caffeine Level: Medium-high

Dianhong cha directly translates to “Yunnan red tea,” and this form of black tea simply goes by the name “Yunnan” in the West.

Yunnan tea is very flavorful and aromatic, and it has a smooth and slightly sweet taste.

The color of this tea is also interesting, and it has more of a golden amber color than a typical “black” tea.

Since Yunnan has a delicate flavor and people class it as a premium tea, it is usually served by itself.

However, it also tastes nice with milk.

5) Earl Grey

Cup of Earl Grey Black Tea Next To Half a Bergamot Orange.

Type of Tea: Earl Grey
Origin: China/England
Tasting Notes: Citrusy, fruity, and smooth
Strength: Light to medium-bodied
Caffeine Level: Medium

Although many people think of Earl Grey as being an English tea, there are disputes over the exact origin.

Either way, Earl Grey is likely named after the British prime minister of 1830-1834, Charles Grey, known himself as ‘the 2nd Earl Grey’.

Similar to Darjeeling, Earl Grey is a light, floral and fruity black tea that possesses a deep flavor.

However, Earl Grey is a tea blend rather than a variety of tea leaves.

To make the tea, producers mix dried black tea leaves with oil extracted from the rind of bergamot orange. Bergamot is a citrus fruit otherwise known as ‘sour orange.’

This black tea blend works well alone or with some milk.

6) English Breakfast Tea

A Cup of English Breakfast Tea With Milk and One Cup Without.

Type of Tea: English breakfast tea
Origin: Colonial America
Tasting Notes: Aromatic, malty, robust
Strength: Full-bodied, strong
Caffeine Level: High

Interestingly, English breakfast tea appears to originate in what is now the United States.

Back in colonial times, it seems that this blend of tea became popular with English settlers in the Americas.

English breakfast tea may use a variety of tea leaves in the blend, but usually, it is a combination of Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan.

Due to the strength, this tea tastes better when you add milk, which makes the flavor slightly lighter.

English breakfast tea is one of the strongest black tea options, and as its name suggests, it is a perfect choice for an early morning drink.

7) Irish Breakfast Tea

Packaging For Twining's Irish Breakfast Tea.

Type of Tea: Irish breakfast tea
Origin: Ireland
Tasting Notes: Malty, robust, rich, slightly astringent
Strength: Full-bodied, strong
Caffeine Level: High

Irish breakfast tea is not entirely different from its English counterpart, but it does tend to be stronger.

The reason for this is that the tea uses a more considerable amount of Assam in its blend (the tea is often a combination of Assam and Ceylon).

Similar to English breakfast, this hearty and robust brew is perfect for consumption with a bit of milk.

A hot morning cup of Irish breakfast is an excellent alternative to coffee for caffeine lovers.

8) Keemun Tea

Dried Keemun Tea Leaves.

Type of Tea: Keemun
Origin: Anhui, Eastern China
Tasting Notes: Aromatic, light, flowery and fruity
Strength: Mild-medium
Caffeine Level: Medium

Keemun is one of the most popular varieties of black tea in the world, and it receives a lot of praise for its delicate flavor.

The tea is light and mild, but at the same time very flavorful, and it has a sweet, flowery aroma and fragrance.

Keemun is considered a delicacy in China, and in addition to its pleasant taste and aroma, it has an attractive reddish hue.

We should drink Keemun tea on its own to avoid diluting its impressive taste.

9) Lady Grey Tea

A Teapot and a Cup of Lady Grey Black Tea.

Type of Tea: Lady Grey
Origin: United Kingdom/Norway
Tasting Notes: Light, flowery, fruity, soft
Strength: Mild
Caffeine Level: Medium-low

Although it sounds like an old traditional tea, Lady Grey is a modern creation that first came to market in 1994.

The Norwegian market found regular Earl Grey to be too strong, and Lady Grey was a creation designed to suit the Norwegian palate.

Although Lady Grey is similar to Earl Grey, in addition to bergamot orange it contains extra flavorings from lemon peel and regular orange peel.

As a result, Lady Grey has a very fruity and flowery taste, and it is a flavorful and light way to enjoy tea.

10) Lapsang Souchong

A Cup of Lapsang Souchong Black Tea.

Type of Tea: Lapsang Souchong
Origin: Fujian, Southeastern China
Tasting Notes: Pine, rich, smoky, spicy
Strength: Medium-strong
Caffeine Level: Medium-high

Lapsang Souchong is a famous Chinese tea that has a unique preparation method.

During the roasting part of the tea’s processing, they are smoked above burning pine wood.

This unique way of roasting imparts the tea leaves with smoky, pine-rich and slightly spicy flavors.

Although the tea is not as strong as choices like Assam and the breakfast teas, it is still much stronger than tea like Darjeeling and Lady Grey.

Lapsang Souchong tastes nice with or without milk, and it is up to personal preference.

11) Masala Chai

A Cup of Traditional Indian Masala Chai.

Type of Tea: Masala chai
Origin: India
Tasting Notes: Aromatic, fruity, flowery, spicy
Strength: Medium
Caffeine Level: High

Masala chai is an interesting tea drink from India that comes in several different varieties.

Firstly, the tea is a blend of Assam black tea and various herbs and spices, which means the drink is fairly high in caffeine.

Generally speaking, the tea uses a flavoring base of cardamom and ginger, but it may also include any of these ingredients;

  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Fennel
  • Nutmeg
  • Star anise
  • Pepper

Masala Chai often contains milk, and it is traditionally brewed within the milk rather than in hot water.

That said, some people like to drink it without milk and brew it the same way as regular black tea.

If you buy a masala chai latte at a typical coffee chain, then expect it to contain large amounts of sugar.

What Is the Best Type of Black Tea?

Personally speaking, my favorite varieties of black tea are Earl Grey and English breakfast tea.

However, the “best” tea is subjective, and everyone will have their own opinion.

Also, the types of black tea listed here are just some of many. Although these are my personal favorites, we all have different tastes.

All black tea is tasty and good for our health, so try experimenting to find the one you like best.

Finally, how we brew our tea has a significant impact on the taste; see here for a guide on brewing the perfect cup.

For something slightly different to black tea, see this oolong tea guide.

Photo of author

Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.