Tea drinking has been on the rise in the United States. Because of its health properties, tea drinkers often feel the need to compare black tea vs green tea. Since tea carries life-prolonging compounds like antioxidants, many ask which one is healthier. For the uninitiated, this distinction may feel unnecessary. They're both tea, after all, so what's the difference?
I know when I started the switch from black tea to green tea, I didn't see the appeal of green tea. Black tea is rich and flavorful all on its own. Green tea, at the time, was weak and had a more grassy flavor. I felt like I needed to supplemented it with other flavors. But both black and green tea have their own unique flavor profiles and, more importantly, their own health effects. But what are these health benefits? And is one kind of tea ultimately healthier than the other?
Black Tea vs Green Tea: What's the Difference?
To know why you should drink tea, you should know exactly what you're drinking. Are black tea and green tea made from two different plants? No. These two different drinks actually come from different parts of the same plant. In fact, this plant, Camellia sinensis, is the source of many types of tea that we drink, including oolong, pu'erh, and white tea. Herbal teas, on the other hand, do not come from camellia sinensis. Rather they come from the flowers, berries, or leaves of a variety of other plants. Herbal teas may or may not mix with tea leaves, but their flavor mainly comes from other plants. Since we're just looking at black tea vs green tea, we won't go into detail about these.
The biggest difference for black tea vs green tea is how each comes to life. The same tea leaves go into both black and green teas, but once picking is complete, the preparation differs. Black tea is actually a fermented product. Black tea leaves dry and wither after picking them, slowly turning black and oxidizing. As a result, black tea has a stronger flavor and richer color than most other types of tea, like green and white. Green tea is not left to oxidize and ferment. Sometimes it's even roasted. And this contributes to its unique flavor and health properties as well.
Black tea is, of course, the darker of the two varieties. It's also the best-known tea in the United States. In 2017, 86 percent of all the tea Americans consumed was black tea. Black tea is stronger in caffeine than green tea. It can hold twice as much, in fact, depending on the brewing method. The process for brewing black tea is different than that for green tea. You must use a hotter temperature of water, most often boiling. It also brews for longer, at least three minutes.
Black tea can steep for up to five minutes, or as long as you prefer -- although this may make it bitter. The more tea leaves you add, the stronger your tea.
Green tea is the second-most-common type of tea in the United States. In 2017, around 13 percent of all tea consumed in the States was green tea. In countries such as China and Japan, however, the competition of black tea vs green tea leans heavily to the green side.
While green tea is generally much less caffeinated than black tea, it can hold the same amount as certain varieties of its darker counterpart. As with black tea, this all depends on the brewing method and variety of the tea. Green tea is more delicate than black tea and requires a more gentle brewing process.
Most teas come with their own instructions and specify water around 180 to 190 degrees. Green tea also brews for a shorter time, usually no more than three minutes. Green tea doesn't oxidize the way black tea is, and retains its natural color. In fact, it usually undergoes a roasting or steaming process to stop fermentation. But each different type of green tea is made a different way, and many are not common in the United States.
In Japan, hojicha refers to green tea which has the perfect roast, making for a lower caffeine quantity. Other varieties include genmaicha and matcha, which both require their own special brewing processes. Because of these different processes, the flavor of green tea can vary widely. Steamed green tea, the most common variety, has a light, grassy flavor.
Tea's Lasting Legacy
People in Asian countries have been drinking tea for millennia. The oldest references trace back to China over 2,000 years ago. The earliest mentions of tea regarded it as good for your health, and a luxury to consume. Spreading out from the southern provinces of China, tea expanded across the world. It spread into Japan, where it became a central part of the culture, and spread across Asia. With the arrival of European colonists in the 1600s, tea became a worldwide product. Still, most tea nowadays comes from either China, India, or Japan.
Tea is grown in primarily wet areas, as the tea plants need significant amounts of rainfall to produce quality leaves. While some tea trees can grow as tall as 60 feet, trees for picking getting regular trimmings to keep their size manageable. so that pickers can easily reach the leaves. In order to create the best quality tea leaves, tea growers treat the plants very carefully. Certain types of tea grow in the shade, creating a high-quality ceremonial tea. In parts of India, tea grows alongside other trees that provide shelter from harsh weather.
group. The United States' tea consumption and imports continue to grow as well. Growing awareness of tea's health benefits has helped its popularity increase. While Americans prefer iced black tea, the question of black tea vs green tea is causing more people to change their drinking habits.
The Health Benefits of Black Tea vs Green Tea
Every health craze has certain foods which are central to the movement. Recently, Americans have recognized tea not just as a tasty drink, but as a healthy one as well. No matter what kind of tea you drink, there are certain health benefits you can count on. Tea can protect you from heart disease due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which work on the veins and help prevent high blood pressure. Certain types of tea can reduce stress and lower risk of cognitive disease, while also giving you energy throughout the day.
Due to tea's caffeine content and chemical composition, it is possible it can help with weight loss. Antioxidants in the tea may have a small effect on weight loss and weight reduction. Tea can also help with digestion. Its anti-inflammatory nature helps soothe upset stomachs and can calm intestinal irritation. It can also lower your cholesterol. In regards to black tea vs green tea, either variety will give you these benefits.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea, as previously mentioned, is a type of tea that is not oxidized. It is prepared much sooner after being picked than black tea, and it retains its bright green color. Tea producers steam or roast green tea before fermentation can occur, so it retains much of the health benefits of fresh tea. Historically, people in India and China have used green tea as an ingredient in medicine. It works as a diuretic, which pushes fluids out of the body, and as a stimulant. However, it is worth noting that although historically a medicine, there is very little science to support these effects.
Despite this, research has proven green tea to have certain health benefits. Where it really shines is in its flavonoid content. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants which protect against disease. The main one present in green tea is EGCG. This antioxidant can prevent degenerative diseases. It is a major player in why green tea may be preferable to black tea. The longer processing time of black tea vs green tea reduces some of black tea's health effects, especially the presence of EGCG. Because of its relatively low caffeine levels, green tea also works by providing energy at a low level. It increases focus and concentration without causing some of the adverse side effects of a stronger drink, like coffee.
Several studies have pointed to the regular drinking of green tea for long-term health benefits. Research suggested that drinking four or more cups of green tea every day could limit instances of oral and digestive tract cancer. However, overall evidence could not show that green tea prevented cancer for certain. ECGC also prevented or reduced the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. All-in-all, it may take a lot of tea to see long-term effects, but it's definitely worth it.
Health Benefits of Black Tea
Of course, the oxidizing process doesn't strip black tea of all of its health benefits.
Flavonoids and catechins
Black tea contains antioxidants known as catechins. Catechins fight cancer and reduce blood pressure. Flavonoids are also present in a more concentrated amount in black tea vs green tea. These flavonoids reduce the amount of bad cholesterol, and regular black tea drinking correlated to lower amounts of stroke and heart attack by reversing the effects of hypertension.
Black tea has one thing that it actually gains from the oxidizing process. Tannins, which are also present in red wine, give black tea stronger digestive benefits, as well as certain properties which give clear skin. Some studies suggest a particularly impressive claim about black tea, which is that it helps prevent cancer. Antioxidants have cancer-preventing properties, and those in black tea are no different. The flavonoids in black tea may work against the growth of stomach, prostate, breast, and oral cancers. That is clearly an edge for black tea vs green tea.
Black tea also has certain qualities accessible in other ways than drinking. Black tea helps with bleeding, and a damp tea bag can relieve pain on a minor cut or scrape. Its anti-inflammatory nature also makes it good for irritated eyes. A warm teabag on each helps with that. But, for the real long-term effects of black tea, you should really drink it. Much like green tea, drinking four cups every day will bring you the best results throughout your life.
Which Leaf Should You Pick?
Ultimately, it's hard to pick just one tea to drink, even when narrowed down to the two most popular varieties. Regarding black tea vs green tea, there's no clear winner. Black tea gives a richer flavor due to its processing. It is more popular in the United States as well, making it more accessible and familiar to American consumers. It also contains flavonoids in larger quantities than green tea, and can possibly help with cancer prevention. Meanwhile, green tea has a more subtle flavor which requires a more delicate brewing process. It is available in several varieties which may not be purchased by Americans but is growing in popularity in the United States. Green tea also gives you a small, but healthy, level of energy and has life-prolonging qualities.
So, no tea is specifically "healthier" than the other. Since black tea is stronger than green tea, drinkers are more likely to add milk and sugar. That adds calories and other potentially negative qualities to tea drinking. In the tea itself, however, it's not possible to just pick one. The best tea for you, at least as far as black tea vs green tea goes, is whichever one you like the best! Each one will make you healthier, more energetic, and more relaxed. In fact, it may be wise to drink both in balance, and even branch out into the other varieties available.