When it comes to tea, there can be genuine confusion between different varieties and which one is the best. Truth to be told, each tea variety carries certain advantages itself, however, people tend to distinguish between teas according to their personal preferences. Nevertheless, it seems that the commonest comparison between teas usually falls down to these two, black and green tea. Both are globally famous for their incredible flavor, aroma, outstanding blends and numerous health benefits. It can truly be hard to choose between these two.
Before making the final decision as to which tea is better, it is valuable to learn about each of the teas. Numerous factors affect the flavor, aroma, and quality of tea, therefore, knowing about the cultivation, processing, manufacturing, tea blending, brewing methods, and chemical composition can really paint a picture in regards to advantages and disadvantages of drinking either black or green tea. Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we are going to tackle some of the most important information and common questions when it comes to these two wonderful varieties.
What is Green Tea?
Historically, green tea was the first tea variety that was developed and produced in ancient China and Japan. The existence of green tea can be traced back to 2727 BC during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Shennong, who was a mythical sage and a legendary figure in Chinese mythology. Nowadays, green tea is a staple in the tea industry around the world. It is appreciated for its wonderful green and leafy appearance, citrusy flavors, and roasted notes. There are over 200 green tea varieties which create an incredibly high percentage of the global tea market. Green tea is globally famous for its health benefits, antioxidant values and for generally providing a sense of well-being and harmony. In recent years, because of its caffeine content, green tea has also become a no1 coffee substitute, which is further encouraged by medical professionals.
What is Black Tea?
Black tea is known as the most common tea variety. While green tea is dominant on a global scale, black tea constitutes approximately 90% of the Western tea market, meaning that it is surely catching up with the green tea. For hundreds of years, black tea has been main article of trade in Asia, and between Asia and the West. It has even served as a form of de facto currency in countries like Mongolia and areas like Siberia and Tibet. Black tea was brought to Europe in 1610, and from there it has reached the rest of the world.
Nowadays, black tea is cultivated all across Asia and the West; from Indonesia, China, India, Japan, African countries like Kenya, to Turkey, Iran, England, and the Netherlands. When it comes to appearance and tasting profile, black tea has smaller and thinner leaves, as well as a great depth of flavor. The flavor and aroma can range from savory to sweet, and the tea overall is more bitter and astringent than green tea. However, when prepared correctly, it can be rather smooth and extremely flavorful.
Black Tea vs. Green Tea(Processing)
Once grown, harvested and processed, both green and black tea undergo certain processing, blending and scenting stages. Processing is important as during this stage these teas become different; we are talking about drying the leaves, oxidation and chemical compounds development.
Green Tea Processing
Green tea processing in generally common in countries like China, Taiwan, and Japan. It is a unique processing form, as the tea undergoes an additional drying stage, also known as ‘killing the green’ or ‘fixing’. This means that the leaves are heated to pause the oxidation process. The heating is traditionally done through pan-frying or steaming, after which the leaves are rolled and shaped. Pan-frying is a process during which the leaves are tossed and turned on large, heated metal drums. When it comes to steaming, on the other hand, the leaves are usually passed through a so-called steaming chamber for 30 do 120 seconds.
These processing and drying methods are often responsible for the flavor profile of the green tea. They also add interesting and unique flavors and aromas to the tea; pan-drying ensures the tea has roasted notes, while steaming ensures grassy flavor. This type of processing ensures the tea preserves the green, leafy appearance as well as its antioxidant levels. It is important to mention that during this process, there is also the inhibition of further caffeine development. Because of this, green tea has been hailed as one of the healthiest beverages in the world.
Black Tea Processing
Processing might be the biggest difference between black and green tea. Unlike green tea, black tea undergoes a production process where the leaves are fully oxidized before the very heat-processing and drying. Full, or complete oxidation means that the tea leaves are exposed to oxygen, which in turn makes the leaves dark in color (brown or black) and alters the flavor profile of the tea. Unlike green tea, black tea has a smoky, strong flavor, that is often reminiscent of malty and fruity notes.
Moreover, black tea undergoes two types of processing. The first one is known as the Orthodox method, where the leaves remain whole, and only undergo withering, rolling, oxidizing and drying stages. On the other hand, there is the Non-Orthodox or CTC (crush-tear-curl) method where the leaves are cut into fine, small pieces. This method ensures that the cut leaves expose more of the surface area to the oxidation process. Moreover, the method ensures the leaves undergo withering, cutting, tearing, curling, oxidizing and drying. Because these methods can be rather time-consuming and demanding, most of the black tea processing is done on a large-scale with the help of automated machinery. Such processing and production ensure that the black tea develops a strong flavor that is very much enjoyed among the Western tea consumers.
Black Tea vs. Green Tea (Chemical Composition)
When it comes to the health benefits of black and green tea, and in terms of which one is healthier, it is important to take a look and the chemical composition of both. Now, the chemical composition of teas differs in regards to climate, season, soil, variety of the plant and the age of the leaf. However, both teas have a general, established chemical composition, and even though there are similarities, black and green tea differ in the content of certain compounds;
- Green Tea Compounds – green tea is known for its polyphenolic compounds, which include flavonoids and phenolic acids. Flavonoids are known to be responsible for the color of the tea as well as stronger flavor. However, the most important flavonoids, known as catechins as very much present in green tea contribute to the antioxidant levels in the tea. Other than these, green tea contains compounds like minerals, potassium, sodium, calcium, iron and of course, caffeine. The caffeine content in green tea differs between varieties but usually varies between 10 and 45mg per serving. Matcha green tea, on the other hand, contains up to 70mg of caffeine, and such high caffeine content it ascribed to it being powder instead of loose-leaf tea.
- Black Tea Compounds – when it comes to the chemical composition of black tea, it is hard to provide definitive information. Because the processing and drying of the black tea differ, it also affects its chemical composition. However, what can be said with certainty is that black tea contains catechins, which under oxidization turn into theaflavins. Theaflavins are basically bioactive compounds of black tea which contribute to its numerous health benefits. Other than theaflavins, black tea is also rich in compounds like polyphenols, proteins, minerals, sugars, organic acid, and of course caffeine. The caffeine content in black tea is approximately 40mg per serving cup. However, if brewed longer, the caffeine percentage can increase, as it makes tea brew stronger.
Black Tea vs. Green Tea (Health Benefits)
Both green and black tea are incredibly healthy, as they contain numerous beneficial properties and active compounds. Their mechanism of action is also active, which means that they affect and boost metabolism and immune system directly. Let’s see what each of the teas can help us with;
Green Tea Benefits
- Cancer Prevention – Studies have shown that polyphenols found in green tea act preventive when it comes to cancer development. Polyphenols are also known to inhibit effects against tumors and other adverse formation and growth in our bodies. Polyphenols are particularly effective when it comes to the prevention of breast, prostate, stomach and esophagus cancer. The same studies have also shown that there is a 47% reduction of risk for cancer development, and in men between 20% and 50%, if they regularly consume green tea.
- Obesity and Weight Loss – green tea has shown effective when it comes to fighting obesity and aiding fast and long-term weight loss. The reason for that lies in the compounds catechins and caffeine, which appear to deal effectively with fat storage and burning calories. Both compounds boost metabolism, make digestion of the food faster, and make the food leave the body together with the fat and lipids. Studies have shown that people who consume green tea are likely to lose 266 more calories than people who don’t drink this amazing beverage.
- Antioxidants Galore – because green tea is so rich in antioxidants, it is likely to help you deal with inflammations in your body, as well as with free radicals. Both have been linked to diseases like cancer, heart disease, renal failure, skin damage, and aging. Luckily, green tea is able to target the inflammation and free radical and neutralize them, preventing any further development and progression of a disease.
- Other Health Benefits – green tea has numerous other health benefits, which include: acting as a natural diuretic, having antidiarrheal effects, dealing with certain stomach diseases and digestion problems, boosting metabolism and the immune system, etc.
Read more: The Benefits of Green Tea (and Side Effects)
Black Tea Benefits
- Cancer Prevention – just like green tea, black tea has also shown as effective against cancer developments. Because it also contains polyphenols, black tea is able to lower the risk of developing cancer, as well as inhibiting further development if cancer has already formed. Studies have shown that black tea is especially effective in reducing the risk of stomach and colon cancer, lung, ovarian and breast cancer. The tea is able to affect and inhibit cancer cells through apoptosis. Apoptosis, also known as ‘cell or cellular death’ stands for the so-called programmed cancer cell death due to the increase in immune cells.
- Diabetes Prevention – studies have shown that black tea is incredibly effective in reducing high blood sugar levels in healthy and pre-diabetic adults. The reason for that lies in the aforementioned compounds theaflavins, which have shown anti-hypertensive, anti-diabetic and anti-cancer properties. For example, countries where black tea consumption is the highest (like Ireland, Turkey, the UK, and Russia), have the lowest numbers of type 2 diabetes cases. Of course, such effects are possible only if the tea is consumed unsweetened; as such, it helps the body use insulin more effectively. Nevertheless, more studies need to be conducted to solidify these claims.
- Antimicrobial Activity – studies have shown that black tea is effective in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria in the body and assist the grown of helpful bacteria. Because black tea is rich in polyphenols and theaflavins, it is able to show effective antimicrobial activity, especially against bacteria like Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Bacillus cereus.
- Other Health Benefits – black tea has numerous other health benefits which include: anti-cholesterol activities, preventing the occurrence of heart diseases and the risk of heart attack, ability to lower triglyceride levels, improving mental focus, etc.
When comparing these two teas, we can conclude that they are rather different, but their effects on our bodies are the same; they help us improve our immune system, boost metabolism, fight off diseases and achieve mental focus and harmony between mind and body.
These teas are incredibly healthy, as well as tasty and provide exceptional tea-drinking experience.
However, they do that in their own, unique and different ways.
Green tea is for those who enjoy delicate and subtle teas with leafy and sweet flavor and aroma.
Black tea, on the other hand, is for those who are looking for stronger flavors and aroma, and who would like to find an adequate alternative to coffee.
Regardless of which tea you prefer, you are not wrong, as both are exceptional.