Tea, glorious tea. It’s the world’s favorite drink after water, representing a $10 billion industry in the US and $38.8 billion industry worldwide. It is the perfect beverage because it suits any occasion and can be served at any time of the day.
With so many kinds of tea and their benefits, this popularity is rightly deserved. With popularity comes competition. And there is much debate about which is the most popular tea in the world. Before we look at some of the top types of tea, let’s explore where this hot favorite comes from.
The World of Tea
Tea has been drunk and shared as a beverage for thousands of years. Legend has it that the Chinese emperor and herbalist, Shennong, discovered tea by accident in 2737 BC.
He liked to drink his water boiled, and one day the dried leaves of a nearby plant fell into his cup. However, the drink was still considered purely medicinal until around 300 BC. It wasn’t until many years later that tea became a booming business around the world.
Drinking tea became fashionable in Britain in the 17th century. However, it was expensive to import tea, so it was smuggled to avoid paying customs fees. These illegal teas would contain dry leaves of other plants and pieces of bark to increase profit. Tea taxes were lowered to combat this trade, and in fact, tea bags were invented partly to regulate the supply. The tea business has been complex for a long time!
Since this surge into the mainstream, and following a social movement to replace liquor as the working classes’ standard drink, tea shops opened up, and tea has been a firm favorite ever since. Turkey actually consumes the most tea in the world, with an average of seven pounds per person every year. That’s a lot of tea!
While Turkey grows one-fifth of the world’s supply to keep up with demand, two other countries dominate. Tea may have been born in China, but India is the other giant of production, with their tea trade second only to tourism. The industry there was actually created by the British to rival China’s monopoly.
Over the years different countries have experimented with the various flavors of tea and many teas have emerged to represent specific regions.
Now we’ve found out where tea comes from, let’s look at some of the top types of tea and perhaps discover which is the most popular tea in the world.
As with other products, the popularity of certain teas rises and falls over time. But some types of tea have remained consistently popular for hundreds of years. Let’s find out more about the teas that continue to be drunk around the world.
Types of Tea
With so many kinds of tea available, you might be surprised to find out that there are only really five types of tea. Many of the most popular teas come from these five teas. Indeed, even the most exotic, exciting, or weird infusions are derived from these five basic teas. These are those from the Camellia sinensis plant:
The variety depends on how the leaves are treated after picking. These are the only “true teas”; anything else among the many common tea flavors is a herbal or plant infusion. These are sometimes called “tisanes,” but we can call all these drinks what the world knows them best as – tea for ease.
Different types emerge within these “true” and herbal teas according to further treatment and where the plants are grown. Many of the top teas aim to build on these primary flavors and expand the palate.
Nowadays, a lot of experimentation comes in the form of detox, sleepytime, and energy teas. There is tea for every mood. It can sometimes be a little overwhelming, especially if you are new to tea drinking. It is essential to know where to start.
With so many available, you might be asking yourself, what is the best kind of tea? Their respective popularity can indicate which tea is commonly thought of as the best drink! Let’s explore the wonderful world of the most popular teas.
What is the most popular flavor of tea?
Darjeeling tea is by far one of the most popular tea flavors. It is a version of Black Tea, which is one of the most common teas used all around the world. Darjeeling, in particular, is much lighter in taste than other black teas, incorporating a nutty flavor and a less harsh aftertaste to alternative Black Teas.
In addition to Darjeeling, the following list shares 13 other most popular tea flavors as well.
- Darjeeling: Derivative of Black Tea with a light, nutty taste to it and a floral smell
- English Breakfast: Has a rich and hearty flavor and is often enjoyed with milk and sugar
- Matcha: Derivative of Green Tea, which is high in antioxidants and nutrients
- Chai: A milky, sugary, and spicy beverage originating from India
- Earl Grey: Made mostly with Black tea, Earl Grey has smoky, fragrant, and citrus tones
- Jasmine: Has a delicate aroma and a refreshing flavor
- Chamomile: Is known for its soothing properties with a floral flavoring
- Oolong: Falls between Green and Black Tea and is one of the top five true teas
- Yerba Mate: Includes high levels of caffeine and is often used as an alternative to coffee
- Rooibos: Light in flavor, this tea has health benefits for both the heart and liver
- Pu’er: Has earthy, mellow, and balanced undertones and has become popular over the last few years
- Lapsang Souchong: A black tea with a smoky aftertaste
- Mint: Tastes like mint leaves and helps to soothe upset stomachs
- Sencha: Most famous in Japan for its bitter taste
What is the most common tea?
Particularly in the United States, black tea is one of the most common teas. Black tea gets its name from the coloring of the leaves and tea after soaking the tea bags. Black tea has increased caffeine levels compared to other common types of teas, which makes it one of the most popular types of tea in American culture. For those seeking alternative solutions to coffee in the morning, Black Tea is a great option.
Of the favorite teas shared in this article, Darjeeling is one of the most commonly consumed Black Teas, primarily for its light and nutty flavoring. Assam, Ceylon, and Keemun are other popular types of black tea as well. In general, the more crushed up the tea leaves are, the stronger the brew of black tea becomes. For those who prefer a stronger tea, buy Black Teas with more crushed-up leaves. Alternatively, look for brews with less crushed leaves.
What are the best brands of tea?
Gone are the days where people drink one type of tea. Now, it’s likely that any fully-stocked pantry has not one but multiple types of teas available. If you are interested in building your stock of favorite teas, consider any of the following premium 20 tea brands. Some specialize in Green Teas, Black Teas, or other types of teas. Research some of your favorites to find which meet your immediate needs for tea.
- The Republic of Tea
- Jade Leaf Matcha
- Fortnum & Mason
- Harney & Sons
- Palais des Thes
- Kusmi Tea
- Dilmah Tea
- Traditional Medicinals
- Yorkshire Tea
- TWG Tea
- Tea Forte
- Smith Teamaker
What is the most popular tea in the United States?
Similar to the rest of the world, Black Tea seems to be American’s favorite tea. As already mentioned, Black tea utilizes the most caffeine of any type of tea. The increase in caffeine is a likely cause for its popularity among Americans. Americans also appreciate the bold flavor of Black Tea, as it also helps to wake you up in the morning. In addition to the Black Teas mentioned above, English Breakfast Tea and Earl Grey Tea are two other popular options commonly consumed in the United States.
Following Black Tea, Green Tea, and Herbal Tea are some of the other most popular types of tea in the United States. Green tea is prevalent in the United States for its association with healthier beverages. Green Tea is very different from Black Tea, offering significantly more antioxidants in place of the caffeine delivered in Black Tea. Lastly, Herbal Tea rounds out popular American teas as the least caffeinated of the three. Herbal Tea is made from stems, flowers, and roots in various plants and is usually served hot or in flavored iced teas.
Most Popular Teas In The World
Black tea, in general, is perhaps the most famous tea in the world, and as one of these, Darjeeling is the top Indian tea. It has a light, nutty flavor compared to the bold and robust taste of other black teas.
Black tea is the most processed of the true teas, being harvested, withered, rolled, oxidized, and dried. Its color comes from the enzymes reacting with oxygen, having been exposed during the rolling process. Despite the name, Darjeeling is a light-colored black tea with a pleasing floral aroma.
Darjeeling tea can only come from its West Bengal region, leading to its nickname as the “champagne of teas.” It is plucked over the spring and summer months during successive “flushes,” each lending a different strength of flavor to the tea.
The tea can be found in restaurants, tea shops, and cafes around the world. Its vast popularity has not served to make the tea any less revered. Undoubtedly, it’s the best-tasting black tea in the world.
Darjeeling is the most popular tea in the world because it is suitable for every occasion. It is not too bold or too weak, and the aftertaste is mild. While you may find the odd weak strain from time to time, it is a reliable companion at any time of the day because it has a soothing aroma and a delicate flavor. If, for some reason, you haven’t tried Darjeeling tea, go out and get yourself a cup today.
2. English Breakfast
Perhaps unsurprisingly, English Breakfast is the most popular tea in England. In the UK, 84% of people drink some kind of tea or infusion – that’s 165 million cups per day! Much of this is a blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan black tea, which makes up English Breakfast.
English Breakfast tea began in neighboring Scotland, but Queen Victoria liked it so much that she brought it back over the 19th century. Traditionally drunk with milk and sugar to cut its strength, English Breakfast tea has a rich and hearty flavor. It is the most popular tea in England, and many variations from PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea, and Tetley line the shelves of supermarkets.
In England, tea has specific cultural importance. You will often get offered a cup of tea as soon as you enter an English person’s house.
Copious amounts of English Breakfast teas are consumed in the UK. While it doesn’t have the worldwide appeal of Darjeeling, English Breakfast Tea has been popular around the world for many years.
When it comes to the kinds of tea and their benefits, green tea comes out on top. In terms of processing, it is harvested, withered, and dried immediately to prevent oxidation and retain its natural green color and nutrients.
Green tea has been found to have a high concentration of antioxidants and polyphenols – the highest of a variety called catechins among the true teas. These have been found to help reduce the risk of cancer, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure.
Matcha has the unique form of a fine powder brewed into the tea, not strained. As the leaves are consumed, matcha contains an exceptionally high concentration of the antioxidants and nutrients associated with green tea.
Matcha forms the center of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The tea originated on the Japanese islands, and it is the respected companion of meditation and formal spiritual events in Japan. The green powder is a unique concoction that is both healthy and culturally significant.
Chai is one of the most popular types of Indian tea and one of the country’s favorite drinks overall. This milky, sugary, spiced beverage is drunk all day long in India.
The word ‘chai’ actually means tea, but it has come to signify this best flavored hot tea. Chai often has the Indian teas Assam and Darjeeling as a base, but can, in ade with most black and even green teas.
Chai is made by boiling milk, water, and tea leaves until they form a milky-brown liquid. It is then loaded with spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves; and sweetened with honey or sugar for this staple, comforting drink.
Today, chai is often loaded with non-traditional elements like chocolate or vanilla in big chain cafes and stores. The popularity of masala chai continues to grow. You are likely to find some form of chai at your local tea house, whether it be a traditional brew or some sort of chai latte.
It has a delicate and pleasing taste that blends well with many other flavors. So make sure you try both an iced chai latte and a traditional cup of masala chai if you want to get the whole chai experience.
5. Earl Grey
Earl Grey is another popular tea in England. According to the story, it was created by Twinings in 1831 for the then Prime Minister, Earl Grey.
The tea base can be made with most black varieties, but traditionally it’s a blend of Indian tea and Ceylon. Added to this is bergamot – a citrus fruit like a blend of orange, lemon, and grapefruit.
Earl Grey tea is best served without milk or sugar. A slice of lemon is the perfect complement to its smoky, fragrant, citrus tones. A piece of cake would also go well with a spot of Earl Grey tea.
What kind of tea do Chinese restaurants serve? Jasmine!
Jasmine is one of the most common tea flavors and the most popular type of tea in China. It has a delicate aroma and a light flavor, making a refreshing cup that can be drunk all day. It is the perfect drink to end the day.
The base for jasmine tea is usually made from green leaves, but oolong, black or white can be used. The leaves are flavored with jasmine petals for the tea’s slightly sweet taste.
Its popularity in China is enough to make it one of the most popular teas globally, but it has also found favor in Europe, Africa, and America. The delicate nature of Jasmine makes it the perfect tea to warm your belly and soothe your soul.
Chamomile is perhaps one of the top teas globally, especially when it comes to herbal varieties. It is known for its calming and soothing properties.
The tea is made from the edible flowers of the Matricaria chamomilla plant. It has a smooth, floral flavor and is a favorite among many for a caffeine-free hot beverage.
Besides its versatility, chamomile tea has been shown to help with relaxation, is a perfect option for bedtime. Not only this but there are studies on how it may relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Therefore it makes for a great tea to have after dinner or when you are feeling down.
It is also a tea that has been blended with a variety of fruity or spicy flavors like ginger and orange. The variations have proved to be popular flavors in recent years and you will often find chamomile tea on the menu at your local tea store.
8. Oolong Tea
Oolong is one of the five true teas. It is known as the happy medium between green and black tea. Taiwan is one of the primary producers of this most popular tea. But it is also a popular choice in tea shops around the world.
The oolong leaves are harvested and oxidized for a selected amount of time, leading to partial oxidation of between 8 and 80%. They are then rolled into long spindles and pan-fried to extract the oil and flavors. “The leaves for oolong tea must not be picked too early but just when they reach their peak, and they must be processed immediately.”(FragrantLeaf)
The wide range of oolong’s potential oxidation means that it comes in lots of common tea flavors. It can be sharp and fruity or earthy – this woodsy flavor increasing with oxidation. Popular types of oolong include Goddess of Mercy, Red Robe, and Dan Cong.
It may also be capable of boosting metabolism and reducing stress. As with some other types of tea, Oolong contains caffeine to be used as a tasty and refreshing pick-me-up. For the best Oolong tea in the world, make your way to China or Taiwan or have a look at this list.
9. Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate, a herbal infusion, is one of the top types of tea. It may not be as well-known outside South America, but it’s a favorite for its believed health and healing benefits.
Unlike many teas, Yerba Mate contains high amounts of caffeine, so it is an excellent alternative to coffee. It is used to celebrate the community in its natives Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina. This tea is said to aid weight loss and improve blood flow.
Yerba Mate also has an exciting serving method – it is drunk through a straw out of a rounded wooden cup called a gourd. The tea is said to be an acquired taste, its bitterness attributed to caffeine. Hopefully, yerba mate tea will become more popular worldwide because it is a flavorsome and healthy beverage.
Rooibos is one of the most popular teas, especially among herbal varieties. Like many other infusions, it is believed to be beneficial for health.
The rooibos is a plant, meaning “red bush,” from the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa. There is a rarer, more expensive green variety, but red is one of the most common tea flavors.
11. Pu’er Tea
Pu’er or pu-erh is a fermented tea initially produced in China. Its name is derived from the trading post in the Yunnan province. It has become popular in recent years but had previously been protected and carefully regulated in China because it was considered a national treasure.
“Pu-erh teas are characteristically earthy, mellow, and balanced”(JING). The careful aging process gives the tea a unique taste. Dark tea has become increasingly popular, and maybe in a few years, it will be further up this list.
12. Lapsang souchong
This dark and smoky tea is a favorite among tea experts and everyday tea drinkers. The flavor of lapsang souchong is instantly recognizable. The “plucked leaves are withered over pine fires, pan-dried and rolled and placed in bamboo baskets and smoked over smoldering pinewood fires” (FortnumandMason).
It is another black tea from China that has gained popularity in recent years. The smoking process makes it distinct from most other tea. The taste may be off-putting for some, but many have found it to be a delicious and hearty alternative to Oolong, Chai, and Pu’er.
13. Mint Tea
Simplicity is elegant. Mint tea is a simple drink that can be found around the world. Its variants are prevalent in northwest African countries like Morocco and Algeria.
Most people are well accustomed to the flavor of mint, so its popularity makes sense. As with other tea, it is suggested that Mint tea has several health benefits, which include soothing upset stomachs and treating bad breath.
Its popularity can also be ascribed to the fact that it is simple to brew. You can easily brew your cup of fresh mint tea, whereas some other teas take years to truly master. A drop of honey is also recommended!
14. Sencha Tea
This may be your new number one tea. Sencha is another popular Japanese tea leaf. Unlike matcha, it is served as a leaf and not as a powder, and it is grown in sunlight rather than in the shade.
Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan, and it can also be found in tea shops around the world. The best sencha tea will have a nice golden and greenish color. The infusion process can make Sencha slightly more bitter than Chinese green teas.
Enjoying the Most Popular Tea in the World
Even after that cupful of goodness filled with the top teas globally, there are still so many other common tea flavor favorites. Make sure to try some others to try are long-aged Pu’er, silky white, mint, and lapsang souchong tea, to name a few.
After you have tried a few, you will probably arrive at your favorite one. But it is always interesting to experiment now and then with a different infusion. You can even try changing your tea-making process.
If you are interested, then get out there and experiment with your infusion and ingredients. There is tea for every person and every occasion. Over the years, new teas have emerged when people have blended different ingredients and tried new preparation methods. One should always have an assortment of teas in the cupboard!
What is clear is that this firm favorite the world over has much more to offer than just great flavors. There is growing research into the health benefits of this thousand-year-old tradition. Many tea brands now offer teas that can help you sleep, pick you up in the morning or calm your anxiety. It is an ever-growing industry that still has room for expansion, especially in countries that prefer coffee!
With such a range of styles and flavors, you’re sure to find the best kind of tea for you.
What’s your best-flavored hot tea?
Tell us about your favorite cup in the comments below!