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Black Tea

black teas taste like smoke, pepper, dried fruit, and wood


What Is Black Tea?

Known as hong cha or "red tea" in Chinese, black teas are 'fully' oxidized. This means that the leaves are browned more than 80%. Crafting the leaves in this way creates the bold, rich flavors that the category is known for.

The heavy oxidation also helps to give black teas a long shelf life. This made them prime teas for export to distant lands. Ships and camel caravans took months to bring black tea to international markets.

Black tea is now one of the most consumed styles of tea across the globe. Modern production has spread across almost every continent. But mass production sacrifices quality and flavor. These shortcomings are often masked with milk and sugar. To meet our sourcing standards, black teas must taste great even without additives.


black tea leaves are fully oxidized for rich flavor


How Is Black Tea Made?

Black teas may be picked at any time of year. In contrast to green teas, the robust qualities of late harvest leaves are often preferred. Due to the high rate of oxidation, the bitterness of mature leaves mellow into full bodied flavor.

After harvesting, crafters speed up the natural process of oxidation. The leaves are rolled, twisted, or even chopped the to break down the cell walls in the leaf. Then they are covered, and left to oxidize. Once the leaves appear completely browned, they are roasted. This finishing step removes any remaining moisture and preserves flavor during storage.


bruising the leaves creates oxidation to draft black tea


Today, the worldwide market for black tea is huge. Most common black teas are processed at least in part by machine, to keep up with demand. Large plantations use machines to shear the top layer of leaves from the bushes, chopping the leaves as they're picked. With full oxidation as the goal, careful monitoring of the leaves is not so important. These methods of processing don't 'ruin' the tea. But aggressive handling tends to produce a more robust and tannic brew. A more gentle bruising done by hand will create rich yet delicate flavor profiles.


black teas are wilted under bamboo mats


Signs Of Quality

We recognize that many of our black teas defy expectations. Keep in mind that we use the same principles of quality as we apply to other styles of Chinese teas. Different measures are common in judging black teas from other countries. In particular, black teas from India use a grading system with letter codes that denote harvest date and crafting styles. Chinese teas have no such standardization. Instead, we look for black teas that are naturally sweet and complex in flavor. We recommend tasting them without milk or sugar to appreciate their quality.


whole black tea leaves display a red color after brewing


Thus, our favorite black teas are always picked and crafted by hand. As with other tea types, young buds of the plant produce a rich mouthfeel. Black teas consisting of only buds tend to have a malted texture. Slow growth at high elevations can also produce flavors that are sweet and smooth. Late harvests from high elevation farms tend to be crisper and fruitier in the cup.


Black Teas To Try

  • For tea drinkers who love an English style black tea, Three Cultivar Red offers a familiar richness that underscores a unique complexity of flavor, with notes of citrus and smoke coming through in the finish.

    Three Cultivar Red
    Quick shop

    漢字 三品紅

    origin Fujian

    craft twisted

    flavor notes citrus, smoke

    漢字 三品紅

    origin Fujian

    craft twisted

    flavor notes citrus, smoke

    Our Three Cultivar Red is a unique blend of three varieties from Wuyi Shan and Fujian Province. In a world defined by tradition and age-old crafting methods, this tea is a rare innovation. The tea maker who created it is amongst a small group experimenting with new cultivars and crafting...


  • Black tea crafted with the buds of the tea plant display a golden color when oxidized, and create a naturally sweet brew. These early harvest leaves produce a rich, malted texture with notes of cocoa.

    Golden Monkey, First Pick
    Quick shop

    漢字 金芽猴子紅茶

    origin Wuyi Shan, Fujian

    craft twisted

    flavor notes cocoa, malt

    漢字 金芽猴子紅茶

    origin Wuyi Shan, Fujian

    craft twisted

    flavor notes cocoa, malt

    Our Golden Monkey, First Pick comes from a tea garden on Jiulong Hill, in the eastern part of the Wuyi Mountain range. The area sees abundant rainfall, the climate is moist, the environment pure and the resulting tea leaves and its craftsmanship, exquisite. Picked in mid-March, it is the first...


  • This tea, grown in Taiwan with the indigenous variety of the tea plant, was bitten by bugs before harvesting, causing it to develop a honey-like aroma and natural sweetness along with it's natural fruity flavor.

    Formosa Red Native Cultivar, Mi Xiang
    Quick shop

    漢字 紅玉紅茶, 原種蜜香

    origin Nantou County, Taiwan

    craft twisted

    flavor notes fruit, honey

    漢字 紅玉紅茶, 原種蜜香

    origin Nantou County, Taiwan

    craft twisted

    flavor notes fruit, honey

    We are not certain how long the tea plants for our Formosa Red, Native Cultivar have been in existence. The varietal had grown wild in Taiwan and largely ignored until the colonial Japanese administration identified it as a potential candidate for black tea production in the early 1900s. Thereafter, the...