All About Chinese Black Tea (Three Main Types)

Chinese black tea is one of the six main types of Chinese teas and is the second-largest type among the six main types, with a history of more than 400 years.

Black tea is a fermented tea, which is made from suitable fresh leaves by a series of processes such as withering, rolling, fermenting, and drying.

In the process of producing black tea, there are many chemical reactions centered on enzymatic oxidation of tea polyphenols. The chemical composition of fresh leaves changes greatly.

Tea polyphenols are reduced by more than 90%, and new components such as theaflavin and thearubin are produced. The fragrant substance increased significantly compared with fresh leaves. Therefore, black tea has the characteristics of red leaves, red soup, and sweet taste.

“Black tea” is just a collective name. It can be classified into three main types depending on the production process and production region in China:

  • Lapsang souchong black tea
  • Gongfu black tea/Kongfu black tea
  • Broken black tea

1. Lapsang souchong black tea

Lapsang souchong black tea called Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong in Chinese Pinyin is the earliest black tea in China. It was born during the late Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644), produced in Mount Wuyi, a National Nature Reserve in Fujian Province.

Lapsang souchong flowed into Europe in 1610. When Princess Catherine of Portugal married King Charles II in 1662, her dowry contained several boxes of Lapsang souchong black tea. From then on, black tea was brought into the British, and drinking black tea quickly became an indispensable part of the British royal life.

In the early London tea market, Lapsang souchong was only sold black tea, and the price of it was extremely expensive. Only rich families could drink it. Later, Lapsang souchong became an indispensable drink in the British upper class. British people loved black tea and gradually made it a noble black tea culture.

In 1689, British tea merchants set up a tea base in Xiamen City of Fujian Province of China and purchased a large number of Lapsang souchong, which replaced the original green tea market, and soon became the mainstream of Western Europe tea.

Historically, “Bohea tea” refers to Lapsang souchong black tea, which was the symbol of Chinese tea at that time.

2. Gongfu black tea/Kongfu black tea

Gongfu black tea is a unique black tea in China and also a traditional export commodity. At present, nineteen provinces in China produce tea, of which twelve produce Gongfu black tea.

The reason Gongfu tea is called “Gongfu” or “Kongfu” is that this kind of tea needs more complex processes or work to be produced.

There are main kinds of Gongfu black teas:

Keemun tea

Keemun tea is also called Qimen Gongfu tea, produced in Qimen County of Huangshan City of Anhui Province. Qimen County is known as the hometown of black tea.

Keemun tea is one of the best black teas, enjoying a high reputation. In history, it is the favorite drink of the British Queen and royal family. It is also known as “the most fragrant tea” and “the queen of black tea”.

Dianhong tea

Dianhong tea is also called Dianhong Gongfu tea or Yunnan black tea, produced in Yunnan Province. Dian is a shortened form of Yunnan Province.

Dianhong tea was first invented during the early 20th century, made from the fresh leaves of a special tea tree of Yunnan. After brewing Dianhong tea, the color of the tea soup is red, the fragrance is rich, and the taste is fresh. It is highly appreciated by tea experts at home and abroad for its outstanding quality.

Ninghong tea

Ninghong Gongfu tea is one of the earliest Gongfu black teas in China, produced in Xiushui County of Jiujiang City of Jiangxi Province. Ninghong tea is famous at home and abroad for its unique style and excellent quality. In history, it enjoyed the praise of the tea merchants from British, the United States, Germany, Russia, and Poland.

Bai Lin tea

Bailin Gongfu tea flourished in the 1850s. When many tea merchants operated Gongfu black tea in Bailin County of Fuding City of Fujian Province, Bailin County was the distribution center and Bailin Gongfu tea was sold abroad. Bailin Gongfu was famous for it.

Other Gongfu black teas:

  • Fuliang Gongfu tea, produced in Jiangxi Province.
  • Yihong Gongfu tea, produced in Hubei Province.
  • Xiangjiang Gongfu tea, produced in Jiangxi Province.
  • Minhong Gongfu tea, produced in Fujian Province.
  • Yuehong Gongfu tea, produced in Zhejiang Province.
  • Jiangsu Gongfu tea, produced in Jiangsu Province.
  • Etc.

The best famous Gongfu teas are Keemun tea and Dianhong tea.

Besides, based on the size of tea leaves, Gongfu tea can also be classified into small-leaf Gongfu tea and large-leaf Gongfu tea. Small-leaf Gongfu tea is made from fresh leaves of shrub-type tea plants. Large-leaf Gongfu tea is made from the fresh leaves of arbor-type tea plants.

Keemun tea belongs to small-leaf Gongfu tea. Dianhong tea belongs to large-leaf Gongfu tea.

3. Broken black tea

Broken black tea is a kind of fragmented or granular black tea and has a history of more than 100 years of production. It is a major product in the international tea market, accounting for about 80% of the global tea export volume.

Broken black tea is chopped black tea, which is the common black tea packed in the tea bags. It requires one more process called “Cutting” or “Chopping” to produce than the two kinds of black tea above. Dianhong tea can be processed into Dianhong broken black tea.

It can also be subdivided into four kinds of broken black tea based on its finished shape:

  • Broken black tea
  • Sliced black tea
  • Powdered black tea
  • Leaf-shape black tea

Broken black tea can be brewed with honey and milk because its tiny size is very convenient to go with other ingredients.