What is the Difference between Chinese Black Tea and Regular Black Tea?

Black tea is the most popular tea in the world and the most consumed beverage after water. Unlike other types of teas, such as green, oolong, and white tea, it’s more oxidized and tends to have a strong flavor.
Often, when talking about tea, China can hardly miss out on the topic since it is a leading global tea producer. More importantly, it’s considered the birthplace of tea and the tea-drinking culture before it penetrated other parts of the world, such as Japan, Sri Lanka, India, and Kenya. However, it’s evident that tea from the above-stated regions differs from Chinese teas despite sharing a common origin. This post looks into particularly the differences between Chinese and regular black teas.

The Global Perception of Black Tea

 As outlined above, tea originated in China, and it’s among the leading countries to produce. However, countries like India play a significant role in the black tea market. Notably, black tea is most of referred to as black tea in India, and in other parts of the world, including Western countries, it is referred to as red tea in China. It is also referred to as fermented tea. Therefore, discussing these two types of teas brings about a remarkable difference.
During colonial rule, the British introduced most of the regular black tea produced in countries such as India, Kenya and Sri Lanka. As a result, the tea culture in these countries is very close to that practiced in the western world, especially by the British. On the other hand, China's tea culture tends to differ and has been in place for centuries.
Why is black tea called red tea in China? The west name teas after their leaf’s color, while in China, tea is named after the color of its infusion. For this reason, the popular regular black teas are technically considered “red tea” in China because they produce a rich amber-red color when infused. However, in China, fermented and aged tea such as Pu’erh tea is regarded as black tea. 

Difference between Chinese Black Tea and Regular Black Tea

Below are the key differences between Chinese black tea and regular black tea, like that of English breakfast tea or one used by Indians to prepare the famous Chai:

1. Tea plants

All black tea comes from the same tea plant called Camellia Sinensis. However, Chinese black tea comes from a native subspecies called Camellia Sinensis var. sinensis, while other regular black tea comes from Camellia Sinensis var. assamica. The latter tend to have bigger leaves than the Chinese variety. The size of the leaves is a distinguishing factor when comparing the two.

2. Terroir 

The terroir (the ecosystem) supporting Chinese black tea differs from regular black tea. Chinese tea does best in high elevations (in mountainous areas) with humid. On the other hand, regular black teas like those grown in Kenya and India tend to do best in a tropical climate with increased sunlight. As a result, these two types of teas tend to give different results in their flavor.

3. Flavor

There is a clear difference in flavor between the two teas. Chinese black tea tends to have a more complex tea flavor with less bitterness. On the other hand, regular black tea has a robust and malty flavor.

4. Production or manufacturing

There are two key ways of processing black tea, i.e., orthodox and CTC (crush, tear, and curl). Usually, regular black tea is often processed through the CTC method, while Chinese black tea is commonly processed through the Orthodox style. As a result, regular black tea tends to be finer than Chinese black tea in terms of texture.
However, any black tea goes through four processes during production, i.e., withering, rolling, fermenting, and baking.
It’s also worth noting that Chinese black tea is often in the form of loose-leaf tea while regular black tea is packaged in tea bags.

5. Brewing method

Chinese have a specific way of brewing their black tea, which has been part of their tea culture. Chinese black tea taste best when steeped, which is the Chinese way of “brewing” tea. It’s required that the water temperature is below boiling point, and each steep shouldn’t exceed 1 minute. That means you can steep the same tea leaves more than once.
Conversely, regular black tea is brewed the western way, whereby a tea bag is steeped in hot water for nearly 5 minutes to extract its robust flavor. Also, regular black tea is designed for single use.
Note: it’s okay to add milk to regular black tea while brewing it (especially when making Chai), but it’s not common with Chinese black tea.

Bottom Line

There is a significant difference between Chinese and regular black tea, from their processing and brewing methods to the flavor. In need of quality Chinese black tea as loose-leaf tea or tea bags? Bluesea Tea is a Chinese tea supplier that can ship Chinese black tea to you in bulk. Click here to get free samples of our teas.