A Japanese fermented black tea (Batabata-cha) contained a considerable amount of vitamin B(12) (456 +/- 39 ng per 100 g dry tea leaves and 2.0 +/- 0.3 ng per 100 mL of tea drink). A corrinoid compound was partially purified and characterized from the tea leaves. The patterns of the purified compound by the silica gel 60 thin-layer chromatography and C18 reversed phased high-performance liquid chromatography were identical to those of authentic vitamin B(12). When 20 week old vitamin B(12) deficient rats, which excreted substantial amounts (about 250 mg/day) of methylmalonic acid in urine as an index of vitamin B(12) deficiency, were fed the tea drink (50 mL/day, 1 ng of vitamin B(12)) for 6 weeks, urinary methylmalonic acid excretion (169 +/- 29 mg/day) of the tea drink-supplemented 26 week old rats decreased significantly relative to that (250 +/- 32 mg/day) of the deficient rats. The results indicate that the vitamin B(12) found in the fermented black tea is bioavailable in mammals.