Black tea is one of the most popular types of tea, but it didn’t actually become common until the 17th century. People drank mostly light teas like white or green tea. Black tea was an accident. The story is that an army in China was trapped in a tea factory and unable to get their tea leaves in from the sun. The tea oxidized longer than planned and turned black. The result was a strong, caffeinated beverage. Black tea on its own is quite bitter, so people usually sweeten it with milk and sugar.
Black tea has a lot of health benefits. For one, it has polyphenols, a kind of antioxidant that you can’t get from fruit or vegetables. Polyphenols have been shown to help protect the body against cancer. When the tea habits of elderly people from the Mediterranean were studied, those who drank black tea 1-2 cups a day were found to have a 70% less chance of getting type 2 diabetes. Black tea also strengthens the immune system, improves digestion, and reduces stress.
Black tea isn’t all great, though. As with most things, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Drinking more than 5 cups a day floods the body with too much caffeine, leading to headaches, anxiety, an irregular heartbeat, heartburn, and insomnia. You can control the caffeine amount in a black tea to a point by choosing certain blends and not steeping the tea too long, but in general, it’s not the best idea to drink more than 5 cups of anything a day, unless it’s water.
The most popular blends of black tea include Earl Grey and English Breakfast, both classic British teas. Earl Gray is made with bergamot orange oil, while English Breakfast is blended and goes well with milk and sugar. For more information about black tea and teas in general, check out my other article on Gildshire about tea.