Lesson 1 of 0
In Progress

Black Tea Cupping: Lesson 3 – Explanation of black tea and different countries

Explanation of black tea and different countries

Black tea is produced in many countries around the world and like wine and coffee, each country has a distinctive flavour due to the terroir of the country. Terroir covers elevation, rainfall, temperature and soil conditions and these affect the taste of each crop of tea. Every tea batch produced is never the same and will have a variation to another batch even from the same factory in the same location in the same day.

The number 1 black tea producing country is India. Its production has increased to 1.33 billion kg with more areas coming under tea cultivation and with higher yields. Kenya’s production was 492 mkg last year, while Sri Lanka produced 304 mkg.

Black tea is approximately 75% of total tea production and there are about 45 countries producing black tea. As we have said the top three black tea producing countries are India, Sri Lanka and Kenya. Firstly we will look at India . Indian tea comes from three main areas producing areas. The North East of India for Darjeeling, Assam and the North west and South India for Nilgiri.

Each of these tea growing areas produce completely different black teas from the light citrusy notes of Darjeeling to the rich malty notes of Assam. Nilgiri tea plantations are located on hills of approx. 1200 to 1800 metre elevation. Bangladesh Tea fields are located close to Assam and because of this the teas have similar taste profiles to each other.

Typically the tea production is approximately 90% CTC and 10% orthodox . There are now more hand made teas being produced. Darjeeling teas are processed in an orthodox style and a famous black tea of India coming from various small plantations and grown at higher altitude. Darjeeling is grown on land which lays close to the Himalayas and the growing areas can reach over 2000 metres.

Assam is the worlds largest stretch of tea producing area but the land here is relatively flat. In the tea plantations here trees are intentionally planted to provide shade to the tea bushes and protection from the strong winds.

Sri Lankan woman handpicking teas

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka the tea is grown in the southern part of the island. The estates are located on the mountain areas which are high elevation. There is a difference in the way the teas are classified in Sri Lanka as they are classified by elevation They are defined in high, medium and low grown high elevations In the eastern slopes of the mountains in Sri Lanka they receive Monsoon rains during January to March.

When it is monsoon season production can be suspended otherwise Sri Lanka can produce tea all year round. The best quality teas are produced during the dry period of August and September. Teas on western slopes of mountain receive Monsoon rains May to September, and from Jun to March, fine quality teas are produced.

There are five main growing areas which are distinctively different.93% of tea produced in Sri Lanka is black orthodox and approximately 6% is CTC

Kenya and Malawi

Kenya is located in the mountains of East Africa near the equator. Kenya is a relatively young tea industry in producing tea but has become a large tea producing country quite quickly. Kenya has beautiful rich soil, good weather conditions, and the availability of pluckers which has helped Kenya to grow into a strong tea producing country.

The tea is grown at an elevation of 1800-2500 metres and Kenya produces black tea all year round . Kenyan black teas are lively and have beautiful brightness in the cup.Kenya is known for CTC teas but the production of orthodox is increasing each year.

Indonesian Tea farm in Badung, Indonesia


Indonesia has long history of tea plantations. Plantations were started by the Dutch in Northern part of Sumatra island and in Western part of Java island. The produced tea has similar characteristics like Ceylon tea. 75% of tea produced is black orthodox tea. Some of the teas are hand picked with a mixture of machine cut and shears.

Tea served in a Tulip shaped glass in Turkey

Turkey & Iran

Tea in Turkey is grown Eastern area of black sea coast. Tea in Iran is grown on the Caspian sea coast. Both teas from Turkey and Iran are mostly consumed within their countries. Argentina Tea estates are located in the north-eastern tip of the country. This area has a great temperature difference between daytime and nighttime. The temperature difference ranges from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.


Turkey tea fields are concentrated around the area of Rize on the black sea coast.It is quite a rugged ,mountainous area and the tea is cultivated at around 1000 metres. Most of the tea is cut by shears and processed using orthodox style but there are small pockets of tea farms producing hand made teas now.


Iranian tea is produced orthodox style at approx. 100-700 metres. There is the use of both shears and manual picking and almost all tea produced is consumed in Iran.
Chinese Tea Farmin Guangxi


China Black teas are produced in provinces of Hunan, Guandong, Yunnan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Guangxi, and Guizhou. Also at the Hainan island, some amount of black tea is produced. Keemun is the world famous known tea type produced in China.

North Vietnam

The northern province of Phu Tho has what is thought to be the most credible black tea producers. CTC is produced here which is like the Indonesian style for the export market. The estates are a mix of small holders and large commercial operations. The teas are bright in colour with good flavour. In the central highlands the tea grows between 500 and 1500 metres and the tea produced is a black leafed orthodox style.There is some CTC produced as well. Approximately 60% of all tea produced in Vietnam is black.

North Vietnam

Produces a very small amount of black tea 5% but this is increasing. The black teas are made by small farmers and are nearly always high quality and orthodox in style.


Black orthodox style tea is produced in the Phongsali province . The altitude ranges from 1400-1600 metres and there is minimal use of pesticides.The best black teas are hand made.


Black tea is produced in the Chiang Mai province. There are two types produced CTC and orthodox , They are full bodied black teas and quite robust in flavour. 


Both CTC and orthodox is produced ta a lower elevation of 700-800 metres. The CYC have a slightly milder character than Indian teas and the orthodox teas are quite good quality being suitable for export.


Most of the tea grown in Malaysia is grown in the Cameron Highlands about 700 metres in Sabah. The harvesting of the tea is mainly made by machines and is orthodox style processing.


Orthodox tea is grown between 1000 and 2400 metres and teas produced in this region are of high quality from a lot of small holdings. Nepal also produces CTC in reasonable volume and the teas are rich in flavour and very close to the flavour of their neighbours in India.


Bangladesh produces approximately 99% CTC style of tea. The teas are organically grown and the orthodox that is produced is hugh quality . The two main tea producing areas re Sylhet and Chittagong.

Papua New Guinea

The western highlands of Papua New Guinea produce CTC which is mainly exported.The tea estates are relatively new being established in 1967.


Australia produces black tea in the hotter climate areas Queensland and Northern NSW. The production is mainly CTC due to high labour costs is machine cut.


Georgia produces about 40% black tea which is processed orthodox style grown at 20-600 metres.There are also high grown teas produced which are handmade.


Most of the tea produced in Russia is located a short drive from Sochi and in foothills close to the black sea. It is a lighter bodied tea.


Uganda produces tea all year round and all tea produced is CTC .The tea is either cute with shears or hand picked. The tea is grown at 1200-1800 metres.


98% of the tea produced in Tanzania is CTC. It is produced in the southern highlands between 900 metres and 2200 metres. The teas are hand picked,machine cut and shears are also used.The other 2% is orthodox style.


The tea gardens are located near the town of Bukavu which is only 35 kilometres from Rwanda . The tea is grown between 1950-2150 metres. They produce both CTC and Orthodox style.


The tea gardens are spread across the whole country and the tea re grown between 1600-2500 metres. They produce 98% CTC and 2% speciality orthodox which are hand plucked.


Burundi produces CTC and the tea is grown at 1900-2100 metres and is handpicked.


Malawi has two main planting regions Thyolo and Mulanje. It is one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the largest tea producers in Africa. Tea is produced at 650-1250 metres.

They produce tea using The LTP method: LTP method, named after the inventor of the relevant machine, the Lawrie Tea Processor.

In this method, the withered leaves are often levelled before being processed in the LTP machine. Here they are virtually torn to pieces by blades rotating at high speed. This is followed by the usual oxidation, drying and sorting procedures.


The tea produced here is grown at 700-900 metres and is machine cut. Most of the tea produced is CTC with a small amount of LTP as in Mulawi. Other African tea producers are Ethiopia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar


The Charleston Tea Plantation near South Carolina produces the most tea in the USA There is also the Great Mississippi tea Company and some beautiful black teas are being produced in Hawaii.

There is black tea also produced in Guatemala,Ecuador,Colombia.Peru and Argentina. You see how important black tea is and how many locations around the world it is grown. Remember each of these locations the terroir changes just like wine and coffee so each will have a different flavour. When the countries are very close together the difference may not be so great .If a different processing method is used this will affect the taste. It is a great experience to taste black teas from different regions and compare your notes once you understand more about the country.