Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. In America alone, around 158 million people drink tea each day. The Tea Association of the USA also reveals that the total tea consumption in the country amounted to a whopping 3.8 billion gallons in 2016, more than 80 percent of which was black tea.1
Black tea is undoubtedly a well-loved drink in Western culture, and for good reason. Its bold flavors make for a satisfying beverage that can be enjoyed any time of the day. Best of all, it contains a wide array of nutrients that are beneficial for your health.
Like green tea, white tea, oolong and pu'erh, black tea is also a "true tea" that is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What makes these teas different from each other is the way they were processed.
With organic black tea, the leaves are allowed to wither after harvest in order to reduce their moisture content. The withered leaves are then rolled by hand or a machine to break their cell walls, thereby exposing their enzymes to oxygen and allowing the oxidation process to take place.2
The oxidation stage lasts between two and four hours and results in the formation of two new flavonoids called theaflavins and thearubigins. These flavonoids give black tea its distinctive taste and color, and contribute to its potential health benefits.3,4 Once the leaves have oxidized, they're dried using a high heat process, such as baking or firing, before being sorted and packed.
Despite its bold flavor profile, black tea is often mixed with other ingredients, particularly fruits, flowers and spices, to create other flavorful blends. Some of the most popular black tea blends include Earl Grey, which is blended with bergamot, and masala chai, which is flavored with various spices.
Black tea is also sold by its origin. Some good examples are Darjeeling and Assam black tea.5 Another popular variety is English breakfast tea, which is made from a blend of black teas, such as Assam, Kenyan and Ceylon.
Black tea not only warms your body with every sip, but it may also provide you with antioxidants, polyphenols, tannins and various minerals. Here are some of the impressive health benefits that black tea has to offer:
• Helps improve gut microbiome — A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests that the polyphenols in black tea may help improve gut microflora.6 Black tea may also act as a prebiotic since its molecules, which are too large to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream and liver, remain in the intestines, supporting the growth of friendly gut bacteria.
• May aid in weight loss — Black tea may help contribute to weight loss and reduce the risk of obesity by supporting the formation of microbial metabolites, which plays a role in the regulation of energy metabolism.7
• Helps fight against free radicals — Black tea is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants, such as the flavonoids thearubigin and theaflavin, which may help fight the negative effects of free radicals to your body.8
• Helps improve your cardiovascular health — Research shows that regular consumption of four to five cups of black tea per day may help lower blood pressure levels by 1 to 2 mmHg, reducing the risk for cardiovascular diseases.9
• Helps reduce your risk for cancer — According to a study published in the Cancer Research journal, a polyphenol in black tea may help induce death in cancer cells without affecting the normal, healthy cells.10 This may help reduce your risk for certain types of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, stomach, prostate and bladder, among others.11
• Helps regulate blood sugar levels — Studies suggest that polysaccharides from black tea may help prevent blood sugar spikes by delaying the digestion of starch and sucrose.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, black tea may also be good for improving hair health, bone strength, mental focus and energy levels.12
If you're looking to cut your daily calorie intake, then black tea is the ideal beverage for you. Even though it has a bit more flavor than water, its calorie content is still very low. A cup of unsweetened organic black tea is equivalent to approximately 2 calories.13
Just like other teas from the Camellia sinensis plant, black tea contains caffeine. In fact, black tea gets its energy- and brain-boosting effects from its caffeine content. But the question is how much caffeine is in a cup of black tea?
There are several factors that may affect the caffeine levels in black tea, such as the brewing time, water temperature and amount of tea leaves used in the blend. In general, an 8-ounce serving of unsweetened black tea can provide you with 14 to 61 milligrams of caffeine, making it a great alternative to caffeine-laden beverages like energy drinks and soda.14
The caffeine in black tea is also regulated by its L-theanine and L-theophylline content, which makes its effect smooth, continuous and evenly distributed to the heart, kidneys and respiratory system, instead of instant and jarring like other caffeinated drinks.15
Whether you need an energizing cup of tea first thing in the morning or you simply want a soothing drink during your afternoon break, you can make a proper cup of black tea in no time by following these easy steps:16,17
Simple Black Tea Recipe
• 1 teaspoon black tea leaves
• 1 cup water
• Lemon juice or honey, to taste (optional)
1. Place water in a teakettle and heat it to a rolling boil or between 200 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Steep 1 teaspoon of black tea leaves in a cup for three to five minutes. Cover the cup with a lid or saucer to retain the heat.
3. Taste the tea after the recommended steeping time to check if it suits your taste or if it needs to be steeped a little longer.
4. Strain out the leaves once the tea is ready. Add lemon juice or honey as desired.
Be careful not to over-steep your tea — doing so may increase its bitterness and astringency.18 Some people also prefer to flavor their black tea with sugar, but I suggest that you leave out this ingredient, since it may cancel out some of the health benefits of black tea.
While black tea tends to last longer than other types of Camellia sinensis tea, it still needs proper storage to retain its flavor, quality and freshness for a long time. Follow these tips when storing black tea:19
• To keep it from going stale, put the leaves or teabags in an opaque, airtight glass container.
• Store the container in a cool and dark place away from direct sunlight, moisture and foods with strong odors.
When stored properly, the shelf life of black tea may last up to two years.
Black tea is generally safe to drink daily and, as mentioned above, studies suggest that its benefits may increase with the consumption of four or more cups per day. However, you might want to limit your black tea intake if you're sensitive to caffeine, since some of its most common side effects are caffeine-related, such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Upset stomach
- Irregular heart rate
Moreover, black tea may trigger either constipation or diarrhea when consumed in excessive amounts. Its caffeine content accounts for its mild laxative properties, while its tannins are responsible for triggering constipation. If you're pregnant and/or breastfeeding, it's best to limit your black tea consumption to two cups per day, since its caffeine content may be harmful for you and your baby.20
Did you know that some of the most popular black tea brands available in the market today contain traces of pesticides? In fact, even products with organic labels are found to have pesticide residues.21 This is because some sources of the Camellia sinensis plant use heavy doses of pesticide sprays.
The presence of pesticides in your tea ruins its potential health benefits, since constant exposure to these toxic chemicals can lead to serious health problems, such as infertility, neurological disorders and cancer. With that said, double-check the source of your black tea to guarantee that it comes from a reputable organic brand.
Q: Is black tea good for you?
A: Yes, black tea is good for your overall health, as it provides various nutrients that can help enhance your gut microflora, reduce your risk for cancer, lower blood sugar levels and improve cardiovascular health. Black tea is also an excellent source of antioxidants that can protect you against free radicals.
Q: Does black tea make you poop?
A: Black tea has a mild laxative effect when consumed in high amounts. This is due to its caffeine content.22
Q: Is black tea caffeinated?
A: Yes, black tea contains caffeine, just like other types of tea from the Camellia sinensis plant.
Q: Is black tea a diuretic?
A: Yes, black tea has a diuretic effect because of its caffeine content. This effect is more noticeable when you consume black tea in high amounts.23
Q: Is black tea acidic?
A: Black tea is mildly acidic, since its average pH level ranges from 4.9 to 5.5. Adding more water to it may decrease its acidity.24
Q: What does black tea taste like?
A: Pure black tea is often described as bold and brisk with an astringent taste. However, there are many factors that may affect its flavor profile, such as its origin and the season in which the leaves were harvested.25
Q: What is black tea made of?
A: Black tea is made from the fully oxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.26
Note: When buying tea of any kind, make sure that it's organic and grown in a pristine environment. The Camellia sinensis plant in particular is very efficient in absorbing lead, fluoride and other heavy metals and pesticides from the soil, which can then be taken up into the leaves. To avoid ingesting these dangerous toxins, a clean growing environment is essential, so that you can be sure you're ingesting only pure, high-quality tea.