Brew This: Black Tea

December 18, 2012

Looking for a warming alternative to coffee or cocoa? Try tea; find out the benefits of black tea here

Looking for an alternative to coffee or other beverages? Try tea. Tea and herbal infusions (herbal teas) come in all colors of the rainbow. “True” tea comes from the top leaves and buds of an evergreen shrub called Camellia sinensis; it’s available in thousands of different forms; similar to wine, with the region, climate, soil, and processing determining its characteristics. Tea is split into four main varieties: black, green, oolong, and white. Black tea will be the focus of this article. 

How is black tea made? The leaf is withered and water is evaporated, allowing the leaf to absorb more oxygen from the air (oxidation). The dark brown and black leaf comes from the full oxidation which yields a hearty and more pronounced flavor as well as higher caffeine content than other teas. In the Chinese language, black tea is actually know as red tea, describing the color of the infused liquid that results from steeping the black tea leaves.

What are some health benefits of black tea? Tea has many health properties and an increasing number of studies show that the benefits of drinking tea are numerous. Besides being a refreshing drink with no calories, tea is a good source of manganese (essential for physical development) and potassium (maintains body’s fluid balance, also an electrolyte).

Studies also show that tea drinkers are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than non-drinkers. In fact a study from researchers at The University of Western Australia and Unilever discovered that black tea lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure - high blood pressure can increase risk of heart disease. After six months, researchers found that compared with the placebo, participants who drank approximately 3 cups of black tea had a lower 24-hour systolic and diastolic blood pressure of between 2 and 3 mmHg. More research is required to better understand how tea may reduce blood pressure.

Black tea is also packed with flavonoids (antioxidants) that help combat free radicals. The already famous flavonoids also demonstrate their ability to help prevent the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol, as well as protecting the blood vessels from inflammation and inhibit blood clotting. Black tea is also a natural source of fluoride, which can help strengthen tooth enamel, and helps cut down plaque on teeth. Being a fluid, tea can help replace the lost fluids from the body on a daily basis, but do remember water is always best. Tea contains about half the amount (or less) of caffeine as coffee.

What types of tea should you look for in the market?
Look for fair trade certified, which ensures that farmers are getting paid fairly, and that your tea is grown sustainably. Choose loose-leaf tea for a rich tea experience, but if loose leaf is not available at your local grocer, read tea labels for ingredients – look for those without artificial flavors and added sugars.