Black Tea – Introduction
India is the largest producer and consumer of black tea in the world. All four varieties of tea (green, black, oolong and white tea) come from the same evergreen plant named Camellia Sinensis. The differences among tea varieties result from the way tea manufacturers process the leaves.
What is Black Tea
Black tea is a fully oxidised tea, unlike green tea which is not oxidised. The processing of black tea involves the additional step of aeration, followed by the withering of leaves for several hours to oxidise the flavonoids. This darkens the colour of leaves from green to dark-brownish – and also gives black tea a distinctive flavor.
If you like the flavor of black tea, you can consume it in a variety of ways. In India, people normally add milk and sugar to black tea, as well as herbs such as ginger, mulethi, tulsi (holy basil), cinnamon, cardamom, lemon grass, etc.
Why Do People Drink Black Tea?
Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. And among all tea varieties, black tea is the most widely consumed. Most people drink black tea (usually hot) for taste, alertness and energy. Black tea contains caffeine and theophylline, both of which can speed up your heart rate and make you feel more alert.
There is good scientific evidence to show that drinking tea is good for health. It not only lowers blood pressure, but also increases your immunity and protects the heart, helps prevent obesity and tooth decay (among other things).
Health Benefits of Black Tea
Until recently, the primary area of tea research was on green tea – which contains very high levels of polyphenols, mainly catechins, a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant. However, recent studies indicate that the polyphenols contained in black tea – theaflavins and thearubigins – are also very good for your health.
The polyphenols in black tea have powerful anti-oxidant properties that enhance immunity by preventing or slowing down the oxidative damage to our body. They protect our cells and tissues from oxidative stress by scavenging on free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are responsible for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, etc.
The synergistic interactions amongst the constituents of black tea contribute to providing many health benefits. Many studies on black tea have shown that the plasma antioxidant capacity is enhanced about 1 hour after the consumption of black tea.
For more details, see Black Tea Benefits and Side Effects of Black Tea.
Which Type of Tea is Healthier – Green or Black?
Both black and green tea are good for health. They contain different types (and levels) of polyphenols. All these polyphenols have powerful antioxidant properties to boost immunity by preventing or slowing down the oxidative damage to our body.
The Difference Between Black Tea & Green Tea
Both black tea and green tea (as well as white tea and oolong tea) are made from the same tea plant (Camellia Sinensis). The difference lies in the way manufacturers process and oxidise tea leaves. Both teas contain different types and levels of polyphenols – but with powerful antioxidant properties and health benefits.
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The most important thing to remember is that both black tea and green tea have about 8-10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables.
Are Black Tea Tannins Bad for Health?
Tea tannins are very good for health. They are polyphenolic compounds with powerful antioxidant properties. Tea tannins are not the same as tannic acid (a chemical used for tanning leather), as some people believe.
How Do You Make Black Tea?
- Boil water
- Add 1 teaspoon of tea per cup into a teapot
- Pour the boiling water into the teapot and close the lid
- Allow to brew for 3-5 minutes (the longer you brew, the stronger the taste)
Points to remember
- Boiling water (with tea leaves) for too long will affect the quality of your tea
- The pleasant taste (when brewing tea) results from the way the two main constituents of tea interact (caffeine and polyphenols). Both are bitter, but together they balance each other out and create a unique and refreshing flavour that is relished the world over
- Slightly acidic water enhances the colour and taste of tea
- Avoid re-boiling water to brew your tea because it will not taste the same. Re-boiled water has lower levels of carbon-dioxide (and acidity) due to heating
Theaflavins in Black Tea – An Important Parameter of Quality
When black tea is made, catechins oxidise to form more complex compounds known as theaflavins and thearubigins. Between the two, theaflavins contain significant amounts of antioxidants and therefore contribute to the health benefits of drinking black tea. Theaflavins are also thought to be responsible for the unique colour, taste and briskness of black tea.
For all these reasons, theaflavins are considered an important parameter of quality for black tea.
How to Store Black Tea
To preserve the freshness of tea leaves, store it:
- In an opaque, airtight container, such as a tin
- In a cool and dry place
- Away from sunlight
- Away from and strong smelling foods
During oxidation, the tea leaves are exposed to oxygen-rich, moist air. This turns the leaves from green to dark-brownish in colour.
Flavonoids are powerful nutrients naturally found in tea, fruits & vegetables, wine and cocoa. They are popular for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Some of the best-known flavonoids include catechins, quercetin, kaempferol and anthocyanidins.
Iced tea, being diluted in strength, is a lighter source of flavonoids compared to hot tea; however, it still counts as a health drink!
Polyphenols in tea include catechins, theaflavins, tannins and flavonoids