Know Your Teas: Black Tea

Know Your Teas: Black Tea

Know Your Teas: Black Tea

What is black tea?

Tea is a popular drink all over the world. It’s a mixture of dried tea leaves that, when combined with hot water, create a satisfying beverage at any time of day. Black tea has been a popular beverage for more than 500 years. It’s often stronger in flavor than other teas, such as green tea.

Some teas can provide a kick of caffeine, while others have more calming effects. Some have effects that promote a healthy microbiome, making them good for the gut. Tea also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant potential. Antioxidants can help keep your cells in good health, and they can also lower the risk of coronary heart disease and even some cancers.  

What are the types of tea?

There are four main types of tea: black, green, white, and oolong. They are all made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Black and green teas make up the majority of the tea consumed around the world. Black tea is considerably more popular in Europe and North America. Countries in the Eastern Hemisphere, particularly China and Japan, tend to favor green tea.

Green tea and black tea are prepared differently, which accounts for their differences. Green tea is made when tea leaves are dried and steamed very soon after harvest. Black tea is made using oxidized tea leaves. This means they’re allowed to wilt and brown after being picked. The oxidation process causes the formation of two compounds: theaflavins and thearubigins. These compounds give black tea its distinctive taste and color, and also its possible health benefits.

What are the health benefits of black tea?

Good source of antioxidants

Did You Know?
  • Green tea has more than twice the antioxidant potential of black tea.
  • Tea bags and milk can block antioxidants.
  • More antioxidants are released at higher temperatures.
  • Even decaffeinated black tea contains some caffeine.

Black tea contains antioxidants, although less than green tea. The way you drink your tea can affect its health benefits. Due to its oxidization, you should brew black tea at higher temperatures to release the antioxidants.

A British study found that while black tea releases antioxidants at low brewing temperatures, brewing it at a near-boiling temperature (90°C, or 194°F) can dramatically boost its antioxidant potential.

The researchers also found that tea bags can prevent the extraction of flavonoids. Adding milk — especially whole milk — can block black tea’s antioxidant effects.

Reduces risk of cancer

Cancer is a major focus of research on black tea’s health benefits. The National Cancer Institute doesn’t recommend or discourage using tea to reduce cancer risk. Some people claim that drinking tea not only helps prevent the onset of cancer but also helps reduce the amount of cancer cells in the body.  

A 2013 study found that black tea was effective in reducing risk of prostate cancer. Black tea is also being researched for its potential to help prevent ovarian cancer.

Evidence suggests that antioxidants from the flavonoids in tea may help reduce the risk of other cancers as well. While green tea has more antioxidants, and better results, than black tea, recent research is showing promising signs that black tea can help reduce the risk of most cancers.

Get your caffeine kick

As you probably know, black tea is a good source of caffeine. The amount of caffeine in a cup of black tea depends on how strong you make your tea. One serving of black tea (8 ounces) can contain anywhere between 14 and 70 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Even decaffeinated tea can contain up to 12 mg.

As a result, black tea can help boost your mental alertness and concentration.

While the side effects of black tea are mild, its caffeine content can cause nervousness and excitability.

Improve heart health

Your heart is another area where black tea may play a beneficial role. While those with heart conditions should use caution when it comes to caffeinated beverages, there’s increasing evidence that those without heart problems can see their risk of heart issues reduced. Drinking black tea may help reduce clotting and inflammation. One 2012 study found that black tea reduced cardiovascular risks and improved the levels of antioxidants in the study participants overall.

Prevent diabetes

The purported health benefits of black tea don’t end there. One study reports that tea (and coffee) can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. A 2013 study looked at how black tea helps control the post-meal spike in blood sugar that’s seen in people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers think that the positive effect that black tea shows on this spike means that black tea could be included in diets used to help treat people with prediabetes.

Gut health

Not all bacteria are bad. In fact, there are bacteria that live in our bodies that are essential for our health. There are bacteria in our intestines that help break down food. Research shows that black tea makes the gut more receptive to some of the bacteria you need to survive.

There’s also evidence that black tea may help protect your stomach and intestines from ulcers, which are often caused by an infection from Helicobacter pylori bacteria.

Read more: The Health Benefits of Kombucha »

The takeaway

Black tea offers many benefits beyond your morning caffeine kick. Researchers are still investigating the potential health benefits of black tea, but so far there’s evidence to support the claims that it can reduce your risk of cancer (particularly prostate cancer) and help prevent heart disease. To get the most antioxidants out of your cup, try it loose leaf and without milk.

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