The Pros and Cons of Drinking Black Tea
About Black Tea
Black tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. This is the same plant that produces green tea, but the different ways of processing determine whether the tea becomes black or green.
During the black tea making process, the leaves are allowed to fully oxidise before being dried. This turns the leaves a darker colour and changes the flavour. When green tea is being produced the leaves are only minimally oxidised, meaning a lighter colour and flavour.
The practice of drinking tea is thought to have originated in China, and was introduced to Europe during the 17th century. Tea was brought to Europe by Dutch tea merchants in 1610, and in 1658 it reached England. It then became popular in the American colonies.
Many Westerners drink tea with milk, but in China it is nearly always drunk without. Some people like to add sugar to enhance the sweet taste of the tea. In the UK, it is estimated that 165 million cups of tea are consumed each day!
It has been suggested that there may be health benefits to drinking black tea. One benefit of drinking tea is that it contains polyphenols. These are antioxidants that can protect cells from damage. As tea contains caffeine, it can also be used to increase alertness.
Consumption of tea has also been linked to a reduced risk of some specific health problems.
- Cancer prevention - It is thought that drinking tea may lower the risks of certain types of cancer. More research is needed in this area to confirm this, but scientists have suggested that it is the antioxidants in tea that may provide the protective effect.
- Cardiovascular benefits - The antioxidants in tea can help to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). High levels of LDL can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Type 2 diabetes - There has been some suggestion that drinking black tea may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, but there need to be more studies regarding this.
- Osteoporosis - There is some evidence that regular tea consumption may provide protection against osteoporosis, but more studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness in this area.
Although more research is needed to confirm some of these health benefits, early evidence suggests that black tea can provide protection in several areas.
Another benefit of drinking tea is that it may be a healthier way to hydrate than drinking sugary soft drinks. Tea is very low in calories, although adding milk and sugar would obviously increase the calorie count.
One of the drawbacks of drinking black tea is the caffeine content. Although there can be benefits to consuming caffeine, too much can be a bad thing. Caffeine can be addictive, and if a person becomes used to consuming too much they may suffer from side effects such as headaches if they go without.
Other problems associated with consuming too much caffeine include sleep problems, irritability, irregular heartbeat and heartburn.
In the UK, it has been recommended that people should consume no more than 300mg of caffeine per day, and pregnant and breastfeeding women should restrict the amount to no more than 200mg per day. The average caffeine content of a cup of black tea is around 50mg, but this can vary depending on the blend and how long it is steeped. However, some people are more vulnerable to the effects of caffeine than others.
It has also been suggested that some older women who drink tea may be at higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis than those who drink none.
As with many things, tea is best consumed in moderation. Research has shown that there may be some health benefits to the regular consumption of black tea, but it should not be consumed in excess. Certain groups may need to take extra caution when drinking tea, as they may be more prone to side effects and problems. However, it seems likely that most healthy individuals would not encounter serious problems due to drinking a moderate amount of black tea.
The information in this article is not intended as medical advice. Recommendations on caffeine consumption are subject to change, and may vary for different countries. Advice will also vary depending on the individual. Please consult a health care professional for recommendations on the consumption of caffeine and black tea.