Green Tea or Black Tea, Which is Better?
In 2016, the USA maintained it’s ranking as the third largest tea importer in the world, after Russia and Pakistan, according to statistics from ITC (International Tea Committee). On average, 158 million Americans drink tea every day. Most of this tea, whether it is served hot or cold, is black tea, making up over 80 percent of the US tea drinking market. However, green tea ranks second, making up an estimated 14 and 19 percent of tea that is consumed in the US and is gaining steam. But which is actually the better choice?
The Origin of Tea
All tea originates from the same type of plant, the Camellia sinensis. This includes not only green and black tea, but also oolong, white, yellow and pu-erh. This wonderful find was given credit of discovery by Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung, also known as the “Divine Healer”, in the year 2737 BC.
Where is Tea Grown?
Leading tea-producing countries include Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Taiwan. Though most tea drank in the USA is imported, it is also grown on US soil, typically in climate zones 8 or greater. There is also a list of US tea growers.
The Process that Determines Different Types Of Tea
You may wonder, “how on earth can all tea come from the same species of plant?” Regardless of kind of tea, the difference of teas is made by fermenting, or oxidizing, the leaves (browning the tea leaves by oxygen exposure) for different lengths of time. The more oxidized the tea is, the darker the infusion will be. In addition to oxidizing, another difference in teas is done by processing style, which may include methods such as roasting, steaming, and pan-firing.
Black tea is fermented for several hours before being either smoke fired, flame fired or steamed. Being fully oxidized and crushed allows the action of naturally occurring enzymes to convert some of the simple catechins to more complex forms known as theaflavins and thearubigens. These compounds are responsible for the dark color and strong flavor of black tea. They are also the antioxidants in tea responsible for much of its benefits.
Popular Black Teas: Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, and Keemun are a few of the most well-known. These teas are heavily oxidized and brew up strong, bold, and often malty.
Green tea is not oxidized at all. Rather, the leaves are steamed and dried soon after harvest. This tea contain simple catechins. Catechins are four molecules that studies have shown contribute to reduction in body fat. High amounts are present in green tea.
Popular Green Teas: Japanese green teas include Sencha and Genmaicha. Well-known Chinese green teas include Longjing and Gunpowder. The flavors of green tea covers a wide spectrum from buttery and grassy to smokey, and even broth-like and savory.
Recommend Preparing Temperatures and Steep Time
Green tea has delicate leaves, and therefore require below boiling water temperatures between 170 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Too high of a temperature will cook the leaves and ruin their delicate flavors. Steep for 2 to 4 minutes loose leaf or 1 to 3 minutes for a tea bag.
Black tea brews best at a full boil temperatures 208 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The recommended steep time is 3 to 5 minutes (for both loose leaf and bag)
Tea Facts and Stats
- Typically, the more crushed and broken the leaf, the stronger the brew
- In China, black tea is referred to as red tea because of its color once brewed
- In 2015, the U.S. imported approximately 285 million pounds of tea
- Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water
- Tea can be found in almost 80% of all U.S. households
- 85% of tea drank in the USA is served as iced tea
- After water, is often the next cheapest drink in the world
- All tea contains similar levels of caffeine (range 10 to 50 mg caffeine per cup) though green tea typically has slightly lower levels. Still, tea contains far less caffeine than coffee
Acclaimed Health Benefits
Tea contains polyphenols and other components that may reduce the risk of developing diseases and conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol, hypertension, tooth decay, arthritis, diabetes and neurological decline. Tea has also been reported to have antiviral and germicidal activity. Some findings that support health benefits of tea include:
Decreased Cancer Risk
- A study published in the February 2015 issue of the Journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that the main antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), helps kill cancer cells through the destruction of the cells’ mitochondria.
- Another study found that women who consumed the equivalent of 2.5 cups of tea per day had a 60% reduction in rectal cancer risk, compared with women who drank less than 1.2 cups of tea daily. An additional study found tea drinkers to have an approximate 42% reduced risk of colon cancer compared to non-tea drinkers. Men who drank more than 1.5 cups of tea per day were found to have a 70% lower colon cancer risk.
- Black Tea: A Harvard study found that those who drank a cup or more of black tea per day had a 44% reduced risk of heart attack.
- Green Tea: In a large population based study, adults who drank just over two cups of green tea per day reduced their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 22-23%
- Both Teas: Reducing heart attack risk to lowering Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, with benefits seen with just one cup and upwards of six cups a day.
- Antioxidants in tea may help protect brain cells from environmental insults from free radicals. Green tea contains a higher level of antioxdents, due to it’s lack of oxidation that is done to black tea.
- Green tea has also been shown to have a higher content of polyphenols, which are chemicals with potent antioxidant properties. (green tea has up to 40 percent polyphenols, while black tea contains about 10 percent)
- Theanine, an amino acid found in green and black teas in particular, has been shown may help prevent age-related memory decline. In addition, L-theanine has been shown to directly affect areas of the brain that control attention and ability to solve complex problems.
- Tea catechins provide modest shifts in metabolism that may improve weight loss and maintenance.
- In one review, researchers concluded that subjects consuming green tea and caffeine lost an average of 2.9 pounds within 12 weeks while adhering to their regular diet. The results of another meta-analysis suggest the increase in caloric expenditure is equal to about 100 calories over a 24-hour period. The weight loss benefits of tea vary based on many factors, but studies have found benefits with the equivalent of as little as 2.5 cups of green tea.
- Consuming tea has also been shown to boost bone-building markers and improve muscle mass, both of which may reduce the risk for osteoporosis and fracture. Compared to non-tea drinkers, tea drinkers have been found to have a higher bone mineral density (BMD), despite that caffeine intake has been a suggested risk factor for BMD reduction. Research suggests that polyphenols in green tea may help improve bone quality and strength. One study found that drinking tea was associated with a 30 percent reduced risk in hip fractures among men and women 50 years of age or older.
And a Few Warnings……
- Concerns have risen about tea imported from China after studies from 2013 took 30 different teas off grocery store shelves and tested them for heavy metals. They found that over 73% of the teas contained traces of lead and 20% contained aluminum above recommended guidelines.
- In addition, Greenpeace published studies on Chinese tea and Indian tea. Both studies found illegal or unlisted pesticide residue in a majority of the teas sampled, and higher amounts than the legal limit in many samples.
- Also, green tea is known to inhibit the digestion of calcium and non-heme iron (the iron derived from plant). This can lead to problems for those who are prone to anemia. Chinese studies on green tea have also discovered that green tea reduces the absorption of macro nutrients such as fat and protein. Therefore, you should take your green tea at least two hours before or after your meals.
- Tea contains tannins, which can increase acid production in the stomach, potentially contributing to an upset stomach in some individuals.
- Do not take your tea very early in the morning on an empty stomach. The caffeine in it can lead to dehydration and it could stimulate the release of gastric acid which can cause stomach upset or even ulcer.
- Caffeine in high doses can cause upset stomach, anxiety, heart palpitations and dizziness, so it’s unwise to over consume green or black tea in an attempt to lose more weight.
- Choosing organic tea doesn’t necessarily mean no pesticides. It can also mean natural-based pesticides. However, it is a safer choice as alarming studies have shown that standard tea have tested well over the standard limits for synthetic pesticides.
What About Kidney Stones?
Tea contains calcium oxalate, which is thought to be the cause over 80 percent of kidney stones. However, there are many foods and drinks that contain much higher amounts of oxalates than tea. Still, black tea is considered a high oxalate drink where green tea is considered a low oxalate drink. (Black containing 4.6 and 5.1 milligrams per gram as opposed to green, containing .23 to 1.15 milligrams per gram)
In one study, published by Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, results showed that green tea may actually help prevent kidney stone formation. Using green tea extract on calcium oxalate crystals, reseachers observed that the extract actually made the calcium oxalate crystals became flatter and flatter, as more was applied.
All in all, tea is an inexpensive and good source for a number of health boosting benefits. Both black and green teas have positive effects that are alike in some ways and unique in other ways. However, a few things stood out:
- Green tea seems to out preform black tea for cancer prevention, due to the fact that it does not undergo oxidation, which decreases antioxidants. A key antioxidant in green tea, HCGC, has been shown to destruct cancer cells.
- Green tea contains more flavonoids that research suggests help decrease inflammation, and that in turn may reduce plaque buildup inside arteries.The amount of flavonoids are slightly less in black tea due to the extra processing the leaves undergo.
- The fermentation process done to black tea reduces levels of antioxidants called catechins, which are associated with weight loss. Black tea, however, is higher in caffeine, which has also been shown to help control weight. Either way, too much caffeine can be a health threat and therefore consuming huge quantities of tea for weight loss is not advised.
- Black tea is also much higher in oxalates, which account for 80 percent of all kidney stones, where studies have actually shown evidence that green tea may actually help prevent kidney stones.
Bottom Line? Both are great, but green tea may be the better overall choice.
Looking for a green tea? Check out this loose leave that is a staple in my home:
Are you among the 80 percent of US households that keep tea on hand? If so, which kind do you prefer and why?!?
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