What is Black Tea?
Black tea is no doubt one of the most popular types of tea enjoyed by a lot of people in different parts of the world. Black tea is the traditional tea of the West and therefore majority of the teas found in Western countries are black tea. This is partly because unlike white and green tea, black tea has a longer shelf life and it retains its flavor several years after its production.
Black tea is derived from Camellia Sinensis, a type of plant from which other teas like green tea, white tea and oolong tea is derived. Besides its long shelf life, black tea is different from white and green teas in other ways. Unlike these two types of tea, black tea is fermented. Oolong tea on the other hand is partially fermented. Black tea is also more oxidized than these three other types of teas. The oxidation process of black tea gives it its dark color and strong flavor.
The caffeine content in black tea is also higher than that of white tea, oolong tea and green tea, although, its caffeine content is lower to that found in coffee. The amount of caffeine in a cup of black tea depends on the particular type of tea. Black teas that are blended with spices and flavors that do not contain caffeine would have less caffeine than unblended black teas.
Generally, a cup of black tea contains about 50-90 mg of caffeine. There are different varieties of tea under the black tea category that offer bold, rich taste as well as a number of health benefits.
Types of Black Tea
There are different types of black tea and they are often named after the region they are produced from. Black teas are produced in many parts of the world, but China and India are known to produce black teas of very high quality. Most hand-made black teas are made from China.
Black teas can be blended or unblended. Different regions, particularly China, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Korea, produce different flavors of unblended black tea. Blended black tea is black tea mixed and blended with other plants to derive a unique taste and flavor. There are four main types of blended black tea, and they are:
Masala chai is a type of black tea that has been blended with spices, herbs and milk. Sometimes sugar or honey is included. Masala chai originated from India but it has become a favorite of many people in different parts of the world. You are likely to find chai tea on the menu list when you visit a local coffee shop, but it may not be the traditional one. The traditional masala chai tea is spicy, earthy and is not extremely sweet to the taste unlike other types of chai tea that is loaded with additives and sweeteners.
Although masala chai originated from India, other regions of the world have also been producing this uniques tea. Chai tea that has been produced from a particular region would be a bit different from one that is produced from another region. Usually, there is a variation in the herbs and spices blended with the tea, but generally, most masala chai teas has the same basic ingredients.
Earl Grey Tea
This tea is named after Charles Grey of England, Earl II, who served as England’s Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834. Earl Grey tea is black tea blended with bergamot oil. Bergamot is a type of orange mostly grown in France and Italy. The fruit tastes like lemon or a grapefruit. The oil from this fruit is extracted and added to black tea, giving Earl Grey tea its unique flavor and taste.
Different companies produce their own type of Earl Grey tea; and they may include herbs, spices and flowers to distinguish theirs from other brands of Earl Grey tea. A particular brand of Earl Grey tea would be slightly different in taste from another brand based on the type of black tea that is used, the type of bergamot and the amount of bergamot used. Earl Grey tea is best enjoyed as it is, but you may add honey, milk or lemon if you wish.
English Breakfast Tea
English breakfast tea is blended black tea from Ceylon, Kenya or Assam teas. It is a common tea among the English that is usually taken with breakfast, hence the name “English breakfast tea”. The tea also contains a high content of caffeine making it most suitable for mornings. English breakfast tea has a strong flavor.
Depending on how it is blended, a particular brand of English breakfast tea may taste slightly different from another brand. English breakfast tea can be enjoyed with or without sugar and/or milk.
Irish Breakfast Tea
Irish breakfast tea is a common breakfast tea in Ireland, hence its name “Irish breakfast tea”. It is usually enjoyed anytime of the day although it is referred to as “breakfast tea”. Irish breakfast tea is stronger in taste compared to English breakfast tea and it is often served with milk.
Like other blended teas, Irish breakfast tea is a blend of other types of black tea, but it mostly contains Assam tea produced in India. Irish breakfast tea has a brisk, malty taste and reddish color.
Black teas have also been blended with unconventional flavors like vanilla or chocolate, smoke or wood, herbs and tropical fruits. A common variant of black tea in the United States is iced tea. Iced tea can be sweetened or unsweetened. Iced tea is mostly blended with mint leaves, lemon and honey. Black teas are also named after the region they are produced from or their origin.
Other types of black tea include:
Assam tea is black tea produced from Assam, in India. Assam is the largest tea-growing region in the world. Assam tea has a brisk, malty taste. It also has a strong flavor and vibrant color. Also sometimes referred to as ‘breakfast tea’, Assam tea is great with breakfast, but it can be taken throughout the day. It can be enjoyed as it is, or with milk or sugar, or both.
Rose Black Tea
Rose black tea is black tea that has been flavored with rose petals. The aftermath is a sweet, malty taste with a reddish-brown color. Producers of rose black tea mix young rosebuds and petals with black tea to arrive at a unique taste and fragrance. Rose black tea can be enjoyed iced or hot.
Darjeeling Black Tea
Darjeeling black tea has its origin from Darjeeling, India. It has a floral scent, with a sharp or spicy flavor. It is the most popular tea in India and a favorite of many people due to its impeccable taste and flavor. It is often considered as the “champagne of teas”. Darjeeling black tea is classified according to the size of the tea leaves and the time of the year they are harvested.
Ceylon Black Tea
Ceylon black tea is black tea from Sri Lanka. Depending on where it is grown, Ceylon black teas can taste differently. It has a bold flavor and it can be enjoyed hot or iced. Ceylon black tea is also used as a base for other types of black tea. When blended with spices, flowers or herbs, they can be used to make a different type of black tea. Earl Grey tea, for example, can be Ceylon tea blended with bergamot.
Kenyan Black Tea
This is black tea produced in Kenya. It has a bold, astringent taste. It can be blended with other teas, spices, flowers or flavors.
Keemun Black Tea
Keemun black tea is one of the most popular teas in China. The tea is regarded as one of the finest teas made in China. It has a bright red color and a floral fragrance. There are different varieties of Keemun black tea and each type tastes slightly differently from the other.
Yunnan Black Tea
This tea has its origin from Yunnan in Southern China. It is often served on its own, but milk may be added depending on personal preference. Yunnan black tea has a lighter color unlike traditional black teas. It has a strong flavor and a sweet taste.
Iced Black Tea
Iced tea is very popular in the United States. Iced black tea can be sweetened or unsweetened. Sweetened black tea is often blended with fresh mint leaves and lemon. Sugar or honey is used as sweeteners. Iced black tea can be made from Ceylon black tea or a blended black tea like English breakfast tea.
Benefits of Black Tea
Black tea is rich in nutrients. If drinking a cup of black tea every morning is a ritual for you, you should know that it’s a ritual worth sticking to for as long as you live. Black tea has a number of amazing health benefits and you can never go wrong with it if you take your tea in moderate amounts.
Some of the nutrients in black tea include protein, amino acids, dietary fiber, calcium, fluoride, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, manganese, carbohydrates and minerals. Black tea is naturally rich in antioxidants. The main sources of antioxidants in black tea are groups of polyphenols, including theaflavins, catechins and thearubigins.
Antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidation, a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, resulting to chain reactions that can destroy healthy cells in the body. Antioxidants work by preventing or slowing down damage to healthy body cells caused by free radicals. As the body processes the food you eat, free radicals, which are waste substances, are produced.
These free radicals are not meant to stay in the body. If the body is unable to get rid of them, they pair and this can cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to damage to DNA, cells and proteins.There is an association between free radicals and aging. It is also linked to other diseases like cancer, stroke, arthritis, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
One of the major side effects of smoking is its ability to generate free radicals in the body. In the same way, one of the effects of alcohol in your body is the generation of free radicals. High consumption of fried foods and pesticides are other examples of substances that generate free radicals. Including black tea in your diet is a sure way to improve your health as the antioxidants in them can help to neutralize free radicals in your body.
It Helps to Protect Oral Health
The teeth play a major role in appearance, and how to care for the teeth is a concern that most people share. Regular consumption of black tea can help to protect your teeth. The antioxidants in black tea as well as its antibacterial properties help to fight and prevent staphylococcus infections. Black tea also contains fluoride. You are less likely to suffer from cavities, tooth loss, dental plaques and tooth decay if you drink black tea regularly, and follow proper teeth care procedures like choosing a toothbrush that is right for you, and eating foods that promote dental health. You are also not likely to have bad breath.
It Helps with Stomach Problems
Consuming black tea can help to promote healthy bacteria in your digestive system while reducing the growth of unhealthy, harmful ones. Black tea helps with indigestion, and can help to reduce your risk of stomach ulcers. Black tea also works in relieving symptoms of diarrhea and upset stomach.
It Promotes Hair Growth
Regular consumption of black tea provides amazing benefits for your hair. It helps in reducing hair loss while promoting healthy growth. It also adds shine and luster to your hair. Black tea can also be applied directly to your hair. This procedure is known as black tea rinse.
It Improves Cardiovascular Health
Black tea helps to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is also sometimes called heart disease. They refer to conditions like heart attack, coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and arrhythmia. Excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and drug abuse are known causes of heart diseases.
Risk factors of heart diseases are obesity, high blood cholesterol levels and poor diet. Studies have found that regular consumption of black tea can help to reduce blood pressure. The compounds in black tea help to prevent the oxidation of the bad type of cholesterol, known as LDL cholesterol in the body. This ensures that damage is not done in the arteries and bloodstream. Studies have found that drinking black tea regularly can also reduce a person’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
It Helps to Improve the Condition of the Skin
The nutrients in black tea have nourishing effects on your skin. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays is a known cause of skin problems including skin cancer. Black tea can help to protect your skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. They help to prevent wrinkles on the skin and common skin problems like acne.
If you woke up to puffy, tired eyes for whatsoever reason, black tea bags can come to your rescue. When placed under the eyes, they can be an effective treatment for dark circles and puffiness. Black tea is also helpful in fighting bacteria that causes skin infections. If you constantly have infections of the skin, including black tea in your diet may be of benefit to you as black tea can help to prevent skin infections. If you already have a skin infection or you have skin blemishes, black tea can help to speed up the healing process.
It Reduces the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease begin gradually and gets worse with time. The condition mostly affects people above 60 but it may develop earlier than that.
With time, a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s may have difficulty talking and walking. They may also experience constant fatigue and sleep problems. Depression, dementia, constipation, excessive sweating and incontinence are other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Polyphenols found in black tea has a protective effect on the brain, reducing a person’s risk of this degenerative disease.
It Prevents Cancer
Studies have revealed that black tea can also help in the prevention of cancer, especially ovarian and colorectal cancer and cancers of the bladder, lungs and prostate. Drinking more than two cups of black tea per day is associated with a reduced risk (about 30%) of ovarian cancer.
The compounds in black tea help to prevent the formation of carcinogens, substances capable of causing cancer. Types of carcinogens include viruses, pollution, some types of drugs, tobacco smoke and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Carcinogens work either by damaging the DNA in cells or by causing inflammation.
Inflammation can lead to cells dividing at a fast rate, and when this occurs, there is a likelihood that cancer may develop. Some studies show that the compounds in black tea may help to prevent the growth and formation of malignant tumors and destroy cancer cells in the body without affecting healthy, normal cells.
It Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Research has found that the compound in black tea helps in making the body more sensitive to insulin. This can reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a condition that affects the way the body uses glucose.
In type 2 diabetes, the body either becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas. With the help of insulin, the body is able to maintain normal glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes affects adults as well as children. Inactivity, being overweight or obese and age are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Managing type 2 diabetes is possible, although there is no cure for the condition.
It Reduces the Levels of LDL Cholesterol in the Body
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is a type of cholesterol that increases your risk of heart disease. It is the bad type of cholesterol. Unhealthy eating habits can increase the levels of LDL cholesterol in your body. When this happens, plaque can build up in your arteries, restricting blood flow to your heart. This can eventually lead to heart attack or stroke.
In addition to eating healthy foods that are low in cholesterol, simple carbs and saturated fat, and as well as exercising regularly, drinking black tea can help to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in your body. Overweight people are prone to heart disease but consumption of high quality black tea may reduce their risk.
It Aids in Weight Loss
Being overweight puts you at risk of a host of health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Including black tea in your diet can help you lose weight, when combined with regular exercise and healthy eating. Regular consumption of black tea has also been linked to a reduced risk of obesity. Black tea, especially the unsweetened type, is low in calories. So you don’t have to worry that you may be adding a lot of extra calories to your diet by drinking black tea.
It Boosts the Immune System
The immune system defends your body against attack from foreign organisms. A weakened immune system will make you prone to illnesses. Black tea helps to boost your immune system, making you less likely to fall ill. It can also help to provide relief from colds, coughs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
It Promotes Bone Health
Black tea contains calcium. Regular consumption of black tea makes your bones stronger. Although the older you get, the less strong your bones are, research has shown that regular consumption of black tea helps in restoring bone density. Elderly people who drink black tea are found to have a reduced risk of bone fracture which normally occurs as a result of osteoporosis.
Other Benefits of Black Tea
Black tea contains caffeine. However, its caffeine content is lower compared to that of coffee, and that makes it even healthier. Overconsumption of caffeine can lead to certain health problems. When taken in moderate amounts, black tea provides other benefits that caffeine provides for the body. These benefits include:
- Energy boost
- Improved concentration and alertness
- Reduced anxiety and stress levels
- Reduced risk of depression
Side Effects of Black Tea
The benefits of black tea are best enjoyed when it is taken in moderate amounts. Drinking more than 3 cups a day, which may be a sign of caffeine addiction, may lead to some side effects. While black tea is generally considered safe for most people, it is good to find out from your doctor if you can take black tea. This is especially important if you have a medical condition or you are taking medications.
Black tea interacts with some medications and it can lead to unpleasant side effects when taken with these drugs. Drinking black tea with some type of drugs or supplements can make the caffeine in black tea stay in your body longer than it should, and this is not good.
Black tea should not be taken with medications containing magnesium or calcium, for example. Black tea should also never be combined with caffeine; doing this can lead to very serious side effects like seizures. Since black tea contains caffeine, when taken in excess amounts, you can experience symptoms associated with overconsumption of caffeine. These symptoms include:
- Ringing in the ears
- Irregular heartbeat
- Frequent urination or incontinence
- Anxiety, nervousness and restlessness
If you are pregnant, black tea is best avoided. Caffeine consumption during pregnancy has been associated with a higher risk of miscarriage, low-birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). There are mixed reactions on how black tea affects children and whether they should drink black tea or not.
Most of the concerns surrounding black tea use in children have to do with problems with overconsumption of caffeine.Too much caffeine interferes with the development of the brain. Children who overload on caffeine may have trouble sleeping and this can impact their learning in significant ways. If you must give your child black tea, make sure it’s of little quantity.
Black tea is a healthy drink that you should incorporate in your diet if you are yet to do so. Remember that black tea is a common type of tea and you can buy most brands of black tea at your local store. You won’t need to break the bank to own a pack of black tea as they are mostly affordable. In maximizing the benefits of black tea, moderation is key.