The Tea Tribulations: Green or Black?

Tea is quickly gaining ground over coffee. Needless to say, it needs to be perfectly brewed. In such health-conscious times, we must ask the question, ‘which tea is better for you?’ ‘They’ say that tea is packed with anti-oxidants and therefore ‘good for you’. Not to mention the enormous amounts of caffeine that’s buzzing within, too much tea and you can say goodbye to a good night’s rest. We explore the benefits of both…

Traditional, old-school; a cuppa good ol’ black tea:

 If you’re all about flavour, then the richer black teas must appeal more to your taste buds. Not only that but it also packs a punch with antioxidants which combat free radicals – chemical by-products which are known to damage DNA, which in turn cause cancers and other health problems. One of the antioxidants is known as quercetin which is a substance that fights inflammation and supports a healthy immune system. However, there is some research to suggest that black tea is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer but no concrete evidence to support the theory.

The Netherlands National Institute of Public Health recently conducted a study of over 500 men, and found that an increased number of flavonoids in the diet can drastically reduce the risk of stroke. While some flavonoids, which are essentially nutrients obtained from plants with antioxidant benefits, were obtained from fruit and veg, over 70% come from black tea. It is these phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that reduce LDLs in the system, that is to say the ‘bad’ cholesterol, which in turn reduces chances of a stroke. Four cups of daily tea are recommended, in men, to combat the risk of such cholesterol-related diseases.

Furthermore, Dr Joseph Vita, at Boston’s School of Medicine in a separate study concluded that black tea can reverse abnormal functioning of the blood vessels and which can cause a stroke or heart-attack. Within two hours of downing a cuppa there are visible changes and improvement in the working of the blood vessels.

If you’re hoping to pull an all-nighter, definitely go for black tea! On an average a strong brew has about 50mg of caffeine per cup. Not half as many as coffee, which has between a hundred to 350mgs, but certainly more than green tea which weighs in at eight to thirty, again, depending on the strength!

Last but not least, a study held in 2009, suggested that a long-term intake of black-tea greatly reduced the prevalence of diabetes. Compounds extracted from the product were more effective at slowing the absorbption of blood sugar than those found in green tea.

If you’re prone to anxiety and blood pressure problems you may want to lower your intake of black tea, as the large amount of caffeine can cause increased heart rates, anxiety attacks and worsening of stomach ulcers.


Chilled out, light ‘n’ easy; health-conscious, green tea:

Catechins! No I’m not screaming out mindless words in excitement. Catechins are a substance that is present in both green and black tea, but during the fermenting process in black tea a majority of them are turned into theaflavins and thearubigens, which have their own benefits. The important thing to note is that there’s a certain substance known as epigallocatechin gallate, more commonly known as EGCG, which is present eight times more in a cup of green tea than black tea. This substance helps to break down body fats and increase metabolism. A study at the Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh led to suggest that drinking four cups of commercial green tea on a daily basis not only reduces body fat, weight and cholestrol but also systolic and diastolic blood pressure when the diet is unchanged, which in turn reduces risk factors which lead to heart problems.

Since green tea leaves are gently steamed to stop the oxidising process, the same leaves from the Camellia Sinensis are allowed to further oxidise and go through further processing and fermenting before they’re ready to be brewed. This however destroys a lot of the natural properties and benefits of the tea while they’re still present, for the most part, in green tea. One such substance is polyphenol, which is an antioxidant plant substance that reduces the risk of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Therefore a more potent anti-oxidant than the former, green tea originates mainly from China and is slowly infiltrating the west where traditionally black tea was drunk for centuries with or without milk and sugar. There are a myriad of flavours available, some sweet some tangy, some fruity yet some richer and almost woody. None, however, come close to the strength of flavour bursting from black tea.

 So which is better? Green or Black? I say drink both!

Until recently research focused more on green tea as it’s loaded with the aforementioned EGCG which is a very powerful antioxidant. However, the by products of the fermenting process to obtain black tea leaves behind theaflavins and thearubigens which not only contribute to its deep, dark, colour and rich, distinctive flavour but also provide health benefits originally attributed solely to green tea such as reducing LDLs and improving blood vessel function.