By Penelope Carlevato, RN
For many years, studies have suggested that green tea is the “tea of all teas” when it comes to your health. I don’t like green tea, but consume several cups of black tea daily…OK, about 5 to 6 cups a day. I had a difficult time understanding why green tea is better for you than black. I set out on a quest to see if I could find some studies that gave black tea some credibility in the health arena. I’m glad I did, as it seems black tea is just as beneficial as green tea when it comes to protecting your heart and its vessels.
Tea is normally thought of as being the ultimate drink of the Brits, who have been drinking it for over 350 years. They have helped promote black tea, as have the countries of India and China, the primary growers of tea. However, tea has been around for over 2,000 years and its discovery is credited to a Chinese emperor, Shen Nung. Legend reports that Shen Nung was sitting near a boiling pot of water when some leaves from a nearby tree fell into the pot. He was immediately captivated by the aroma. The leaves were from the Camellia Sinensis tree and the rest is history. All teas—black, green, white and oolong—come from this same tree. It’s the processing that makes the color change. Black tea is oxidized by the application of heat and the tea leaves turn dark brown/black. Green tea is not subjected to heat, so the leaves stay green. Black tea is generally stronger in flavor.
Real tea must contain the leaves from that tree…if not, then the brew is considered a Tisane or an infusion. We call it herbal tea, but it’s not a true tea.
Because tea is considered such a social drink, its benefits for health are encouraging. Tea is refreshing and calorie-free, sugar-free, sodium-free, fat-free and non-alcoholic. After water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. A cup of black tea contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of coffee has about 200 milligrams. It’s also one of the most economical beverages on the market…if you make it at home. My tea usually costs me about two to four cents a cup.
Studies conducted with black tea concerning heart health give us black tea drinkers hope! A Harvard Medical study provided some interesting studies that found tea-drinkers who drank more than three to four cups of black tea daily have reduced the risk of strokes and heart attacks by 44 percent! But don’t just depend on tea to improve your health. Add in a good diet, physical activity and try hard to quit smoking. The American Heart Association also has studies that show that people drinking two to three cups of black tea daily had a much lower incidence of major heart-related diseases.
So, what is the secret weapon in black tea (and other teas) that decreases the build-up of calcium in coronary arteries? Dr. Howard Sesso, of Harvard Medical School, states: “Tea has a good source of compounds known as catechins and epicatechins, which are thought to be responsible for tea’s beneficial health effects.” These properties are found in plant chemicals called flavonoids. Drinking tea may also help your blood vessels be more responsive to stress and lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels.
One of the main reasons that tea can be so beneficial in promoting a healthy heart is its anti-oxidative qualities. The flavonoids in tea can prevent free radicals in our bodies from oxidizing. That means the bad cholesterol (LDL) cannot become sticky and adhere to the walls of our blood vessels. This could eventually cause the vessels to become narrow and limit the flow of blood in and out of our hearts. These free radicals cause the blood to get thicker and again stick to the vessel wall and cause blood clots. Drinking three cups of tea daily may help this from happening.
While there continues to be increased studies on the evidence of tea drinking and health, research on cardiovascular health maintains that promoting a healthy heart is a combination of diet and lifestyle. So, drink tea, but also get on the bike or skis, take walks, and eat healthily.
Brewing Black Tea
- Not only good for you but easy to make.
- Start with fresh, cold water in your kettle.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Pour the water over the tea leaves or tea bag, never the other way around. If you’re using teabags, use 1 teabag per cup; and if loose leaf tea, one teaspoon per cup. Adjust per taste.
- Allow to steep for three to five minutes. Over steeping does not give a stronger tea, but a bitter tea.
- Remove the tea and enjoy.
- Black tea is lovely with milk, or sugar, or lemon—just not lemon and milk at the same time.
About the Author:
Penelope Carlevato, RN, is British-born and a life-long tea lover. She is the author of three books about tea, an award-winning magazine columnist, and owned a retail tea business for many years. She can be reached at PenelopesTeaTime@gmail.com or www.PenelopeCarlevato.com. Her books, “Tea on the Titanic,” “First-Class Etiquette,” and “The Art of Afternoon Tea” are available on Amazon or where books are sold.