WHAT IS BLACK TEA?
In recent years, new emphasis has been placed on the therapeutic benefits of drinking tea. Of course, there are many different varieties of tea that a consumer can choose from. As a result, unless you’ve really studied the issue, you may not know one kind of tea from another.
If you’re in the dark about black tea, you’re certainly not alone. A number of people are unfamiliar with this unique, soothing beverage. However, once you learn about black tea, you may be tempted to trade in your daily cup of java for a mug of tea. Let’s take a closer look at what makes black tea so special.
A Geography Lesson
To truly understand the black tea phenomenon, you must first know a little geography. Black tea flourishes at high altitudes, such as those found in the Himalayan Blue Mountains. Assam, which boasts more than 800 estates specifically geared toward the cultivation of tea, constitutes one of the world’s largest tea producers.
This black tea can be mixed with African teas or Ceylon teas in order to produce English or Irish tea. This blending often occurs in European cities such as Hamburg or Amsterdam. However, unblended teas are also quite popular—such teas are known by the term “single estate teas.”
The tea leaves are sorted, then go through natural fermentation. Through this oxidation process, the tea leaves change from green to black. The next step of the process involves the packaging of the tea, which is then given a brand name. In recent years, black tea has become the world’s most popular beverage, whether served hot or cold.
The Phenomenal Effects of Black Tea
One of the key reasons for the phenomenal popularity of black tea is its soothing nature. Anecdotally, tea drinkers have been saying for years that black tea can help calm unsteady nerves—but now there’s scientific research to prove the point.
Scientists at the University College London, in a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, discovered that black tea can reduce the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the bloodstream. The study showed that black tea-drinkers were able to cut their stress levels faster than individuals who consumed a tea substitute.
The study examined 75 young men were divided into two groups and monitored for a period of six weeks. One group drank a caffeinated tea mixture that was fruit-flavored and made up of the components found in black tea. The second group received a placebo that contained caffeine and that tasted like tea, but that did not actually contain tea.
In addition, the two groups were subjected to stressful situations—the possibility of joblessness, an accusation of shoplifting, or a nursing home incident. Group members then had to prepare an oral response and state their case before a camera. As they were subjected to the stressful incident, researchers measured their cortisol, blood pressure, and blood platelet levels.
The scientists found that these situations resulted in significant increases in blood pressure and heart rates for both groups. Nevertheless, nearly an hour after the situation had died down, the tea-drinkers experienced a nearly 50 percent drop in their cortisol levels. The group that had taken placebos saw only a 27 percent decrease in their cortisol count. The tea drinkers also reported being more relaxed than the non-tea drinkers did.
As researcher Andrew Steptoe told the news media, “Drinking tea has traditionally been associated with stress relief, and many people believe that drinking tea helps them relax after facing the stresses of everyday life… Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal.”
Steptoe added, “This has important health implications because slow recovery following acute stress has been associated with a greater risk of chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease.”
Meanwhile, according to a USDA study, consumption of black tea can lower bad cholesterol levels and can cut the incidence of heart disease for individuals who are at risk. In addition, a number of studies have indicated that consistent consumption of black tea can protect the body against numerous human cancers.
Some Final Thoughts
It would be wrong to call black tea a miracle cure. Drinking the beverage does not guarantee that an individual will be protected for life against serious illness. However, there is a vast amount of research to suggest that black tea has numerous therapeutic benefits for those who consume it regularly. Making black tea a habit can provide a protective effect against heart disease, cancer, and stress-related illness.
As a result, you might consider giving black tea a try. There seem to be no significant negative side-effects associated with drinking it, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it can be a healthy alternative to other beverages.