When it comes to picking out a good tea, you have a lot of options. There are fruity teas with hints of mint and other tasty spices, herbal teas, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, and not to mention chai tea. With so many different options to choose from, why would you pick a plain black tea to drink?
Despite being considered a bit on the dull side, black tea has tremendous health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. It also contains a decent amount of caffeine to help fuel your day or give you a burst of energy. In fact, approximately 80 percent of people consume it. The best part is you can enjoy it any time of the year. A hot cup of black tea is soothing on a cold winter day, and iced black tea is the perfect refreshing beverage to cool you down in the hot summer. Here’s everything you need to know about black tea, including what it is, what it’s good for, and how to make it.
What is Black Tea?
Black tea is derived from young leaf buds and leaves of a tea plant called Camellia sinensis. Green and white tea leaves also come from the same plant. The difference between the three is how they are handled after being picked. All black tea comes from leaves that are oxidized or were allowed to brown and wilt after they were picked by exposing them to oxygen. The oxidation process gives tea is unique flavors. It’s also responsible for the development of thearubigins and theaflavins, which are specialized chemicals found in tea that give the plant its protective properties. Black tea is oxidized longer than other forms of tea, such as green, oolong and white teas. This allows it to be stronger tasting and contain the highest amount of caffeine. An eight-ounce cup of black tea contains approximately 42 milligrams of caffeine, which is considered moderate. Other sources indicate that the caffeine content per cup of black tea can vary between 14 and 70 milligrams.
There are several different grades of black tea. For example, the highest grade is whole leaf black tea or orange pekoe because it has had very little to no changes at all done to the tea leaf. Pekoe tea is further broken down according to the number of young leaves that were picked along with the leaf buds, such as one, two or three. If you buy the highest quality pekoe tea at the grocery store, then you’re getting tea that only contains hand-picked leaf buds. On the other hand, low-grade black teas are made out of dust, fannings, and broken leaves. This includes the tea you find in most tea bags. It allows you to brew it quicker, but it also tends to have a stronger and more robust flavor. You might notice that whole leaf black teas have a hint of floral and are less harsh.
Black tea contains an ORAC score of 1,128, which is very impressive. ORAC is short for oxygen radical absorbance capacity. The National Institutes of Health developed it as a way to measure the of the number of antioxidants found in foods and drinks. The high antioxidant content in black tea is what gives it so many health benefits. One cup of black tea also contains two calories, 0.7 carbohydrates, 0.5 manganese (or 26 percent of your daily recommended value), and 11.9 micrograms of folate (3 percent of your daily value).
Health Benefits of Black Tea
Lots of people go back and forth between drinking green and black teas because they both offer exceptional benefits. But you don’t have to feel bad about choosing black over green. Here’s why.
1. Improves Heart Health
Consuming black tea regularly can help keep your heart functioning in tip-top shape. It can even help repair the symptoms of coronary artery dysfunction in people with heart disease, which means that you are at a decreased risk of heart disease if you drink black tea. It also lowers your risk of stroke and other cardiovascular problems by reversing the abnormal functioning of blood vessels. Another study found that black tea may reduce the risk of ischaemic heart disease, which occurs when there is damage to your heart’s major blood vessels. Researchers evaluated over 350,000 people between the ages of 30 and 79 across ten different areas in China. They followed up with them seven years later and found that those who drank black tea had a decreased risk of ischaemic heart disease. They also had a reduced risk of other heart complications such as having a heart attack.
When compared to drinking plain hot water, black tea wins every time. That’s because it contains high amounts of flavonols, flavan-3-ols, theaflavins and gallic acid derivatives. Research shows that people who drank nine grams of black tea for 12 weeks had an incredibly significant decrease in cardiovascular conditions, such as fasting serum glucose and triglyceride levels. They also decreased their “bad” LDL cholesterol and increased their “good” HDL cholesterol. In conclusions, the researchers determined that people who drink black tea in their regular diet boosted their antioxidant levels and decreased their risk of having a major cardiovascular event.
2. Fights Cancer
Drinking black tea can also reduce your risk of developing several types of cancer, including skin, prostate, ovarian and breast. Research shows that black and green tea alike helps prevent the growth of cancerous tumors in the breasts, especially in women who are going through premenopause. Additionally, tea increases globulin hormones in women who are menstruating, which is a sex hormone that binds to estrogen. Thanks to the presence of the antioxidants theaflavins, black tea destroys abnormal cells before they can turn cancerous or develop into a tumor.
According to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, black tea can also fight prostate cancer. Researchers evaluated the effects of black tea on prostate cancer risk in over 58,000 men in the Netherlands. The men provided detailed information regarding their cancer risk factors. Results of the study found that men who drank black tea had a lower risk of developing an advanced stage of prostate cancer. This was due to increased flavonoid content in the form of catechins, epicatechins, myricetin, and kaempferol, which are all found in black tea.
Another study showed that the theaflavin-3 in black tea stopped the growth of ovarian cancer cells. Authors of the study referred to the compound as one of the most effective broad-spectrum anticancer drugs, and the best part is you can drink it every morning without a prescription! Additionally, the theaflavin-3 was not as toxic to healthy cells in ovarian cancer patients. On the other hand, many pharmaceutical drugs kill both cancerous and healthy cells, which leaves patients who take pharmaceutical drugs feeling even worse.
3. Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs as a result of eating too many refined carbohydrates. It happens when the pancreas cannot meet the demand for insulin production that is required to deliver glucose to your cells. As a result, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or stops making it altogether. Insulin is essentially a fat-storing hormone. It delivers glucose to your cells. But when your blood sugar levels are too high, excess glucose is stored in your fatty tissues. Luckily, polyphenols, which are the primary bioactive compound found in black tea, can help lower your blood sugar levels to reduce the need for insulin. Long-term use of black tea was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to one study.
One study published in the journal Diabetologia evaluated the effects of tea and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers took a total of 40,011 participants and conducted a follow-up with them ten years later. Results showed that 918 of the subjects had developed type 2 diabetes. Among the individuals who did not develop type 2 diabetes, it was clear that tea consumption played a prominent role in preventing the disease. Researchers found that people who drank at least three cups of tea per day reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 42 percent. This suggests that you can use black tea as part of your antidiabetic meal plan. Enjoy a cup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
4. Protects Against Strokes
According to a meta-analysis that was published in 2009, drinking black tea every day can help prevent an ischemic stroke, which occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen and other nutrients. The researchers found that no matter what country the test subjects came from, they all had a 21 percent overall decreased risk of stroke if they drank three cups of tea per day as opposed to those who only drink one cup a day. The moral of the study is drink up! Three cups a day seems to be the magic number when it comes to reaping the health benefits of black tea.
5. Provides Digestive Relief
While it might not be a good idea to consume caffeine if you have diarrhea, black tea might be the only exception to the rule. Research shows that black tea has a healing, anti-inflammatory, and relaxing effect on intestinal issues. One study found that patients with acute nonbacterial diarrhea between the ages of two and 12 found relief when they were given decaffeinated black tea tablets. You may want to sip the tea slowly if you’re worried about the adverse effects of caffeine while experiencing diarrhea or opt for decaf.
Black tea can also help provide relief to other digestive ailments. For example, the tannins in black tea contain an astringent effect on the intestinal lining, which means that it can reduce inflammation and reverse symptoms such as gas, bloating, digestive upset, and even leaky gut. The antioxidants in black tea can further provide a soothing effect on a troubled tummy to decrease your risk of developing symptoms in the future if you drink it daily. Additionally, the caffeine in black tea can help move things along if you’re constipated by promoting bowel regularity. Try drinking a cup of black tea in the morning along with a high-fiber breakfast, and you’ll set yourself up for a great day.
6. Contains Antibacterial Properties
Black tea contains tea polyphenols, which have been shown to provide natural antibacterial properties. You can use black tea to help treat feet problems, such as smelly or sweaty feet. This is because the tea polyphenols in black tea close pores and prevents them from sweating. You can also use chilled black tea bags on razor bumps to soothe redness, rashes, and itchiness caused by bacterial infections. Research shows that the tannins in black tea inhibit bacteria to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.
Also, black tea’s unique compounds are absorbed into the digestive tract, which means that they can help kill oral bacteria, too. Specifically, black tea and honey have been shown to kill H. pylori bacteria, which resides in the intestinal lining of the gut wall and causes infections and ulcers. Adding some raw honey to your black tea each day is an excellent way to add flavor and boost its antibacterial properties. The key is to make sure the honey is raw because processed honey won’t have the same benefits.
7. Lowers Cholesterol
According to a New Orleans study conducted by the American Heart Association, black tea drinkers can reduce their “bad” cholesterol, which is linked to stroke and deadly heart attacks. Other studies have shown that when compared to people who don’t drink tea at all, black tea drinkers reduced their risk of heart problems when they drink at least one to two cups a day.
8. Reduces Stress
Black tea is not only an excellent way to start your day. It’s a good way to end the day, too. Research shows that consuming black tea can help you lower the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Not only that, but black tea helps you normalize it so that you handle stress better. L-theanine is another vital component of the stress-relieving effects of tea. L-theanine is an amino acid that promotes calm energy, eases stress, and helps you feel relaxed. This is why, unlike coffee, you feel more peaceful and not jittery when you drink tea, despite the caffeine. The combination of caffeine and l-theanine provides you with calm energy, meaning that you get the mental stimulation from caffeine so you can tackle your day but you won’t feel overstimulated if you drink too much. Coffee does not contain l-theanine, which is why you might feel a bit uneasy if you drink a lot.
Additionally, research shows that black tea can help reduce acute stress, which otherwise causes an increased risk of chronic disease such as heart disease. By tackling stress, you’ll be a better decision maker. You’ll also be able to work better under stress since black tea reduces cortisol levels. Researchers of one study took 75 healthy male tea drinkers around the age of 33 and split them into two groups. For six weeks, the first group was told to drink a fruit-flavored caffeinated black tea beverage that contains l-theanine while the other drink was given a beverage that tasted the same and had the same amount of caffeine but did not have l-theanine. The men were then put through a stressful situation similar to what they would experience in normal life. Researchers recorded the men’s cortisol levels, blood pressure levels, heart rate, and self-reported stress levels.
Results showed that the group who drank the black tea with l-theanine in it lowered their cortisol levels 50 minutes after the stressful situation occurred. The caffeinated group without the theanine did not. The black tea drinkers also reported feeling a sense of relaxation after the event when compared to the non-theanine drinkers. And finally, the tea drinkers had lower levels of blood platelet activation, which increases the risk of heart attack by causing blood clots. The conclusion? You might want to switch from coffee to black tea stat, especially if you deal with stress on a regular basis.
9. Improves Skin and Hair Health
Black tea is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help give you healthy looking skin and hair. You can gain these benefits by both drinking black tea and using the tea topically to give hair and skin a glowing appearance. For example, black tea rinses add moisture when applied to the face. It’s also a natural remedy for dry skin. Finally, black tea has astringent properties that help tighten skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and give the skin a toned look. Research shows that you can also use black tea to reduce age spots, blemishes, and even reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.
Additionally, black tea can help protect the skin against UV radiation, which is responsible for the formation of wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and cancer cells. Drinking tea helps protect you from the inside out while applying black tea as an astringent protects the outer layer of skin. This is because tea contains polyphenols that have a protective effect. Try brewing a cup of black tea. Let it cool and then apply the tea to your skin with a cotton ball. Let it dry naturally and don’t wipe it off. The caffeine in black tea can help block DHT, which is a hormone that causes hair to fall out and stop growing properly. Research shows that drinking tea can help promote hair growth and slow down the rate at which you lose your hair. Try using black tea topically as a spray or apply it to your hair and wait 20 minutes before washing it as you usually would. This will make your hair smooth, bouncy and shiny as well!
10. Wards Off Chronic Disease
Black tea is an excellent source of antioxidants, such as thearubigins and theaflavins, which help reduce the risk of chronic disease by naturally detoxing the body of free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that accumulate due to poor diet, stress, and an inactive lifestyle. They roam the body looking for healthy molecules to steal an electron from, which then turns that molecule into a free radical. Free radicals accumulate in your body’s tissues and organs and cause disease by inducing cellular damage. They can also change your DNA. Antioxidants work by donating an electron to free radicals, which renders them harmless so that they no longer cause disease. The more antioxidants you consume, the more protection you have against chronic illnesses.
11. Improves Mental Clarity
Many people drink coffee first thing in the morning so they can wake up mentally, but tea is a much better choice for mental clarity and improved cognitive function. That’s because of its l-theanine properties, which provides gentle and controlled stimulation. Caffeine is a psychostimulant, meaning that is increases performance and alertness. But when you add l-theanine to the mix, you have a regulated and steady supply of energy that doesn’t send you into overdrive. Plus, you won’t have to worry about a coffee crash that leaves you asleep at your desk after a few cups.
12. Increased Bone Density
Osteoporosis commonly occurs in senior women when their bone density mass decreases. This is dangerous because it puts them at an increased risk of breaks and fractures if they fall. Research shows that black tea contains a particular type of flavonoid that reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis and thus fractures. People who drink black tea are also less likely to develop arthritis due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
13. Supports Oral Health
Can drinking black tea help improve your oral health? You bet! Thanks to its polyphenol profile, including catechins, flavonoids, and tanning, black tea contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to keep your mouth clean, fresh and healthy. We already know that black tea can improve your digestive health, and most people forget that your mouth is part of the digestive system, so oral health is included in the long list of benefits of black tea. Research shows that black tea helps prevent tooth decay by fighting cavities, reducing inflammation, and putting a stop to the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Just make sure your tea is unsweetened as adding sugar can have the complete opposite effect on cavities.
How To Make Black Tea
Now that you know how healthy black tea can be, it’s time to learn how to make it. Sure, it sounds simple, but some people don’t know how to brew tea properly. Additionally, there are some tips and tricks you can learn to make the tea to your desired taste. For example, brewing the tea longer can increase its caffeine content and make it a stronger tasting tea, similar to coffee. You can cut down on the brewing time (or the amount of time you let the tea sit in hot water) if you want less caffeine or a lighter taste. If you are new to drinking tea or have stomach troubles, you might want a tea that’s lightly brewed until you know how your stomach responds to it. You may also find that you like a lighter tasting tea in the summer because of the hot weather while the winter is an excellent time for a stronger, more robust tea.
Before you make black tea, you’ll want to pick out the perfect kind. Always choose organic tea because it does not contain harmful pesticides. Research shows that organic foods are also higher in antioxidants, and that’s the best reason to drink tea anyway. Next, you’ll want to pick loose leaf tea as this is the highest quality. Loose tea also allows you to sidestep the chemicals that accompany a bagged tea. To make loose leaf tea, you’ll need to brew it in hot water. Getting the temperature right is critical. You’ll also want to make sure you drink it black with no additives (except for maybe raw honey and lemon). According to a study that was published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, adding milk to black tea reduces the antioxidant content, especially milk that is full fat. Additionally, you’ll want to brew the tea in water that’s near boiling temperature around 90°C or 194°F to make a tea that contains the highest amount of antioxidants.
To make loose leaf black tea, you’ll probably want to invest in a tea infuser. A tea infuser helps keep the tea leaves from floating around freely in your cup, which keeps you from chewing on the leaves. It also allows you to stop brewing the tea after a certain time, so you get the perfect cup. Finally, a tea infuser keeps your tea from getting bitter. Many teapots come with an infuser, or you can use a disposable paper filter such as a coffee filter that you can throw away when you’re done. You can also use a basket infuser. Here’s how to brew loose leaf tea:
- Boil water in a tea kettle. You really only need about a cup of water, but most people make a little more just in case they want a second cup or a refill.
- While you wait for the water to boil, add approximately two tablespoons of black loose leaf tea to your tea infuser. Place the tea infuser in your teapot or mug. You’ll want to double the amount of tea you use if you’re making iced black tea.
- Use a thermometer to make sure the water reaches the desired temperature. When it does, pour the water over the tea infuser in your mug or teapot. This allows the water to cover all of the leaves so you get maximum use out of your tea leaves.
- Time the length that you allow the tea to sit and brew. When your time is up, dunk your infuser into the water several times to allow the tea to circulate one last time. Remove the infuser or paper filter and set aside. You can steep your tea a second time if you like.
- Finally, allow the tea to cool for a few minutes and add a sweetener of your choice. Lemon works great. It also boosts the antioxidant content of the tea. Some people like something sweet, so try some raw honey to boost the antioxidant and antibacterial benefits. If you choose to re-steep your tea, add another minute on to the steeping time to allow the tea longer to draw out the flavor.