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What Does Black Tea Taste Like? (Flavor Notes, Preparation, Food Pairings, and More).

Black tea is known for its distinct color, flavor, and aroma. For those who haven’t tried it, you’re probably wondering, “What does black tea taste like?” 

This article will answer that and more, including a brief rundown on the different types of black tea, their flavor notes, the perfect food pairings, and tips to prepare and store it. 

Glass cup filled with black tea.

What is Black Tea?

Black tea is the most common type of tea made from the leaves and leaf buds of the Camellia sinensis plant.

Other types of tea, including white, green, pu-erh, and oolong tea, also come from this tea plant. 

But what makes black tea different is its oxidation process.

Unlike green tea, which has low oxidation, black tea leaves are fully oxidized under controlled humidity and temperature (oolong and white tea have partial oxidation).

This slightly longer oxidation process gives it its distinct color and taste.

The oxidation process turns tea leaves from green to brown to black. 

Some popular blends of black tea include Masala Chai, Earl Grey, and English Breakfast. 

Black tea is definitely a good pick-me-up for slow and lazy mornings because of its high caffeine content (it has the most caffeine in teas).

An 8-oz cup of black tea has around 47 mg of caffeine, while the same serving of coffee has approximately 95 mg. 

Like green and white teas, it’s also packed with nutrients and health benefits.

When you brew black tea, it results in a rich dark brown or coppery color and stronger, more robust flavors. 

Close up image of the loose black tea.

What Does Black Tea Taste Like?

Black tea tastes like light beer minus the acidity and the alcohol.

Other tea drinkers say it tastes dark, malty, bold, smoky, or earthy. 

Compared to green tea, which tastes fresh or grassy, black tea tastes more nutty, less bitter, and has a deep aroma.  

Some black teas can also develop a spicy, floral, or fruity tone.

If you prepare black tea incorrectly, you’ll end up with something that tastes like paper or vase water! 

If you can’t enjoy black tea alone, adding sugar and cream will make it taste better.  

While there’s a lot of variety in black tea, in general, these teas often share similar characteristics when it comes to taste. 

Black Tea Flavor Notes

Different black tea varieties share the same characteristics when it comes to taste.

Here are some of their flavor notes.  

  • Bold – Enjoy a more robust and full-bodied taste in black teas because of their oxidation level, hotter temperature, and longer steep time. 
  • Malty – Experience this natural sweetness in black teas like Assam, English Breakfast, and Irish Breakfast.
  • Fruity – There are also fruity black teas with notes of apricots, peaches, and other fruits.
  • Earthy – Black teas with earthy notes will make you think of oak, pine, mushrooms, and even moss, just to name a few. 
  • Smoky – Try black teas like China Keemun, Lapsang Souchong, or Vietnamese Golden Tip if you prefer a robust and smoky note. 
  • Sweet – Loose leaf teas typically have a natural sweetness, which can be more pronounced in a sweet tea like Japanese black tea (wakoucha).
  • Astringent – Some black teas, such as Chinese black teas, can be dry and astringent. 

Flavored Black Teas

Aside from its flavor notes, other ingredients give flavor to black teas.

For example, Earl Grey teas have added flavors of oil of bergamot. 

Masala Chai, on the other hand, has Indian spice blends that contain cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. 

Different Black Tea Types and Blends

Ready to start your black tea journey? Here are some of the most popular black tea types and blends. 

Assam Black Tea

This bold black tea grows in the Assam region of India.

Assam black tea possesses bold and fragrant properties that don’t overpower.

Don’t write it off just yet when you first taste its tannic and astringent qualities because it gets better after.

Its creamy chocolate and roasted malt aftertaste will surprise you. 

Ceylon Black Tea

Ceylon tea, also known as Sri Lankan tea, is another popular black tea.

Many people like Ceylon because you can enjoy it as warm or iced tea. 

While Ceylon black tea is known for its bold, citrusy flavors, its taste also varies significantly, depending on the type of tea and where it’s grown. 

Darjeeling Black Tea

This type of black tea is grown exclusively in the Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India.

Darjeeling tea is also known as the Champagne of Tea because of its strong muscatel flavor. 

Earl Grey

This black tea blend combines well with vanilla for a natural citrusy sweetness.

Other variations, such as the French Earl Grey tea, have cornflowers, calendula, hibiscus, and rose petals, while the Russian Earl Grey tea contains aromatic lemongrass. 

Lapsang Souchong

According to tea historians, Lapsang Souchong is the earliest black tea.

It’s also known as smoked tea and is grown in the Wuyi Mountains in China. 

This ancient tea is made by drying its leaves over smoky pine fires.

Lapsang Souchong is perfect for tea drinkers who like their tea brimming with rich and smoky notes. 

Kenyan Black Tea

Kenya is one of the largest producers of tea in the world.

You’ll enjoy Kenyan black tea if you like solid and full-bodied flavors with hints of chocolate, cardamom, anise, and citrus.

It’s one of the best breakfast teas with or without milk. 

Keemun Tea 

This Chinese black tea known for its rich and smooth body.

It’s floral and malty. Sometimes, it also has a flavor profile close to burgundy wine. 

Keemun tea is a sweeter, lighter tea, and less overpowering than other teas.

You can instantly tell you’re brewing Keemun tea because its aroma will fill the room. 

English, Irish, or Scottish Breakfast Tea

If you love European-style breakfasts of sausages, eggs, and the works, enjoy them with these black tea blends.

They’re typically a combination of Ceylon, Darjeeling, Assam, and Kenyan black teas. So expect a clean, light, and sweet taste. 

How to Properly Brew Black Tea for Optimal Flavor

The way you brew your black tea will make or break it.

Like all teas, its leaves are very sensitive, so take care not to scald them.

However, black tea is the most processed tea so it can withstand higher temperatures. 

You can steep your black tea at 90°C for three to five minutes, after which you’ll see the leaves changing color and the aroma growing stronger. 

Always check specific instructions on the package to ensure you brew the perfect cup.

It may have different brewing temperatures and steeping times than you’re accustomed to. 

Brewed black tea in the cup with loose dried leaves on the plate.

Here are some general instructions on how to prepare black tea for the best results. 

Brewing Black Tea Sachets

Do you prefer your black tea in tea bags or sachets? Here’s the best way to prepare them to maximize the flavor. 

  1. To get the best flavor, boil filtered water (212°F). 
  2. You must also preheat your teacup or teapot with boiling water (but throw away the water when it gets heated enough). 
  3. Place your black tea sachet in your cup or pot and pour approximately eight to 10 ounces of hot water. 
  4. Remove the black tea sachet after five minutes. 
  5. Enjoy your hot black tea! 

Brewing Loose-Leaf Black Tea

Loose-leaf black tea may look intimidating to prepare, but it’s pretty easy.

Compared to teabags, loose-leaf teas give more flavor.

Follow these steps for the perfect brewed black tea.

  1. Like brewing your black tea sachet, start by boiling filtered water. 
  2. Preheat your teapot and teacup, then discard the water before putting in your loose-leaf tea. 
  3. Measure your black tea leaves. You can use one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea for every eight or 10 ounces of water. 
  4. Then, put your tea leaves in the teapot and pour your hot water directly over them. 
  5. Steep the leaves for about five minutes. Then, pour the tea into your cup using a basket strainer. Enjoy! 

Note: If you want to save the rest of your black tea for later, don’t allow the tea leaves to steep in the pot. Instead, strain the leaves in the pot and remove the strainer after five minutes. 

Pro tip: If it’s your first time tasting black tea (or any tea), try it without adding anything else. Afterward, you can explore flavors when you add ingredients like sugar, milk, or honey. 

Pairing Black Tea With Food: Tips and Tricks

To enjoy the rich flavor of black tea, pair it with food that best complement or draw out its flavor. 

In general, black tea goes well with biscuits and scones. 

The robust flavors of black tea also go well with rich and hearty dishes like roast beef, venison, and lamb. 

Black tea goes great with heavy meat pasta dishes, so go ahead and enjoy it with lasagna! 

Do you love spicy food? Black tea is like milk in cooling your mouth when eating spicy food. 

Moreover, black tea makes a great breakfast tea because of its high caffeine content, so pair it with your favorite hearty breakfast, like eggs, sausages, hash, beans, and more. 

Want to learn a creative pairing hack? Mix a teaspoon of jam into your black tea. Pick a jam that goes well with your black tea, like raspberry or cherry jam.  

More Black Tea Food Pairing Ideas 

Here are more examples of black tea food pairings you should try ASAP: 

Chai Teas

The base for chai tea is a strong black tea, milk, sugar, and water.

You can make it iced or hot, depending on your liking.

Add traditional Indian spices like star anise, cloves, or cardamom. 

Do you love spicy chai latte? Get it with cinnamon buns―you won’t regret it.

You can also pair it with chocolate, custard, and your favorite baked goods. 

Fruity Black Teas

If you’re going for a fruity black tea, take it with sweet pastries and desserts or anything with a thick aftertaste. A fruity black tea holds the sweetness in your mouth. 

Earthy and Malty Teas

If you prefer your black tea with an earthy or malty flavor, serve it with red meat or any meat with a strong flavor, like jerk chicken.

You can also pair it with blackened vegetables or meats and mashed potatoes. 

Earthy and malty teas are not naturally sweet, so you can serve them with rich, dense, and not sweet foods. 

Smoky Black Teas 

This black tea has a strong taste and goes perfectly with flavorful or blackened meats.

It goes well with anything you can make on a grill: barbeque, red meat, bacon, and eggs.

You can even pair it with chocolate if you want something light. 

Assam Tea

The strong flavor of Assam tea goes perfectly with a hearty Continental breakfast.

It also complements red meat, eggs, cheese, chocolate, and carrot cake. 

Moreover, you can have it with mangoes, strawberries, pears, peaches, and apricots. 

Ceylon Black

It’s a light and refined black tea that tastes refreshing and mellow.

Have it with an English or Continental breakfast.

Pair it with spicy food or chicken, ham, lamb, and beef. 

Earl Grey

This quintessentially British tea is smooth and aromatic.

Earl Grey’s citrusy taste perfectly matches lemon cakes, biscuits, and chocolate.

You can also take it with dairy, eggs, baked goods, and spices. 

First Flush and Second Flush Darjeeling 

The first flush (harvested in early spring from the very first buds and leaves of the tea plant) produces light, fresh, and airy tea, giving a delicate taste of leaves and spring.

Pair this refreshing tea with grilled fish, fresh fruits, curries, soft cheeses, eggs, and custards. 

Meanwhile, the second flush tea is richer, more full-bodied, and gives fruity and muscatel flavors.

Some popular pairings include wild mushrooms, soft cheeses, fruits, and nutmeg. 

Tips for Selecting High-Quality Teas

What type of black tea you choose depends on your preference.

Fortunately, many options suit your tastes or go well with the food you’re serving.

Here are some easy tips to keep in mind.   

  1. If you’re a new tea drinker and don’t know which ones to try, check out tea sampler packs to help you explore the basics of tea preparation and learn the most popular tea types. 
  2. Fresh and high-quality tea leaves make the best black tea. The tea leaves should not be broken or damaged. Smell and inspect the tea leaves―they should have a robust aroma and rich, vibrant colors. 
  3. If you want a better flavor profile, go with loose-leaf tea instead of commercial tea bags. It infuses better and gives a more potent taste. 

How to Store and Preserve Your Black Tea

Black tea won’t spoil if you store it correctly. However, it can get stale and lose its freshness after a while. 

Store your black tea in a cool and dry place away from sunlight, strong odors, or moisture to keep it fresh and flavorful. It can last up to two years. 

You can store it in an airtight, non-plastic container or resealable bag.

It will help protect your tea from oxidation and humidity, which can affect the tea’s taste and aroma. 

If using a glass container, make sure it’s dark-colored or opaque so that sunlight won’t affect the tea quality. 

Moreover, don’t store your tea leaves inside the refrigerator or freezer. The food odors will spoil your tea’s flavor.

Don’t store it beside spices and coffee, too, because it can leach their flavors into the tea leaves. 

Buy fresh tea in small quantities. Label your container with the date you bought it to know how long it’s been in storage.  

Related Questions:

Does black tea taste different than regular tea?

Yes. Black tea has a full-bodied flavor with malty, earthy, smoky, sweet, and fruity notes. They taste different from green tea, which usually has grassy, nutty, and vegetal notes, or white tea with fruity, floral, and sweet notes. 

Is black tea always bitter?

No. Even if black tea has a lot of bitter compounds, your tea will only get bitter if you use too many black tea leaves or brew them for too long at very high temperatures. So, get your water to the right temperature before pouring it on your teabag or tea leaves. 

Is black tea an acquired taste?

It can be an acquired taste for some people. Black tea has a strong and bitter flavor, especially when taken without milk or poorly or incorrectly prepared. But when done right, black teas offer some of the most delicate and complex flavors you’ll keep coming back to! 


People worldwide enjoy black tea because it’s a delicious and versatile beverage. The tea leaf type and quality, plus your brewing method, will change how your black teas taste. So, it’s best to learn the correct way to prepare it so you can fully enjoy its robust flavors. 

Whether you like a smooth Earl Grey, a bold tea like Ceylon, or a smoky Lapsang Souchong, savor the tea preparation process and enjoy every sip. Black tea is great with sweet flavors, so make sure to have sweet cakes, fruits, or biscuits to pair it with for your afternoon tea. 


Glass cup filled with black tea.

What Does Black Tea Taste Like?

Natalia-Flavorful Home
For those who haven’t tried it, you’re probably wondering, “What does black tea taste like?” Loose-leaf black tea may look intimidating to prepare, but it’s pretty easy. Compared to teabags, loose-leaf teas give more flavor. Follow these steps for the perfect brewed black tea.
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Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American


  • 1 tsp loose-leaf black tea 


  • Start by boiling filtered water. 
  • Measure your black tea leaves. You can use one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea for every eight or 10 ounces of water. 
  • Then, put your tea leaves in the teapot and pour your hot water directly over them. 
  • Steep the leaves for about five minutes. Then, pour the tea into your cup using a basket strainer. Enjoy! 
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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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