Many attribute the longevity and health of the Chinese to their tradition of tea drinking and this could well be an accurate perception. While most people from the West consume one or two cups in a day, the Chinese treat tea like water, drinking it throughout the day. There are more than 1,500 types of teas today; but these can be classified into 4 main varieties: oolong, white green and black teas.
Black tea comes from the same plant as the other varieties but is prepared in a different way. While the leaves in green tea are steamed immediately after harvesting, black tea leaves are allowed to oxidize and turn brown. This additional process of oxidation enables the leaves to develop certain compounds that give it its distinctive color and flavor.
Here are more interesting facts about the black tea.
- Westerners have more preference for black tea than those living in the East, where green tea is the more favored beverage.
- Black tea is called “red tea” in China.
- Black tea is the most popular variety of tea, accounting for about three quarters of the world’s tea consumption.
- When stored properly, black tea does not lose its flavor for many years. This is the primary reason why it was traded extensively in the past. In the 1800’s, blocks of black tea was even used as currency by the Siberians, Mongolians and Tibetans.
- The caffeine content of black tea is low at 40 mg per cup. In contrast, a cup of brewed coffee has 85 to 200 mg.
- The black tea’s health benefits come from flavonoids, which are antioxidants that help neutralize the cellular damage done by free radicals. Scientific studies have demonstrated that the consumption of 3 or more cups per day significantly lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke; and also lowers the levels of bad cholesterol in the body.
- Drinking black tea after an indulgent meal can help counteract the adverse effects of eating too much fatty food.
- Black tea is both low-calorie and low-cost. A cup contains a mere 2 calories and when prepared at home, costs approximately $0.03.
- Brewing black tea at higher temperatures releases more antioxidants. Ideally, it should be brewed close to boiling point, at ninety degrees Centigrade.
- If possible, let black tea stay black, since adding milk lessens its antioxidant potential.
- Three hundred and forty cases of black and green tea from India were thrown into the sea during the Boston Tea Party, an act of protest carried out by the Americans against the British government in December 1773.