Maybe you’re ready to cut out coffee entirely and switch to a less caffeinated beverage, or perhaps you just want to supplement with a different type of hot drink—one that’s been touted for its health benefits. Whatever the case may be, we’re here to spill the tea. Specifically, when it comes to the green tea vs. black tea debate, what’s the difference? Read on for the answer, plus everything else you need to know about these two antioxidant-rich elixirs.
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Green Tea vs. Black Tea: What’s the Difference?
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How They’re Made
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), both green tea and black tea come from leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, but are processed quite differently. The key difference when it comes to their preparation is that black tea leaves are oxidized (i.e., purposely exposed to air), whereas green tea leaves are not—a fact that accounts for green tea’s lighter color, among other things.
How They Taste
The oxidation process gives black tea leaves a darker color and more intense, full-bodied flavor that’s malty, tannic and slightly bitter. Green tea, on the other hand, has a much milder and brighter taste that’s characterized by vegetal and floral notes.
How Much Caffeine They Have
Both green and black teas contain caffeine, as this stimulant occurs naturally in the plant that the tea leaves come from. When it comes to determining precisely how much caffeine any given cup of tea has, though, things get a little tricky—namely because these amounts vary considerably depending on the specific type of tea you choose and how you prepare it.
For example, a 2001 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that pre-bagged tea had a higher concentration of caffeine than loose leaf tea—likely due to the fact that the smaller particle size of the crushed leaves found in bagged tea yields stronger infusions. The same study identified “amounts of tea and water used, infusion time, and amount of agitation” as other major factors that influence the caffeine content of any tea, be it black or green.
That said, if you’re sensitive to caffeine and trying to limit your intake, it’s worth noting that green tea typically has less. Per the USDA FoodData Central, a generic cup of brewed green tea has approximately 29 mg of caffeine, as compared to the 48 mg of caffeine present in a cup of black tea. So while the exact amounts of caffeine per cup may vary, it’s fair to say that green tea generally gives a mellower buzz than its black counterpart.
Green Tea vs. Black Tea: Which Is Healthier?
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Green tea and black tea have been praised for their health benefits, and research confirms this to be true. Both types of tea are rich with polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to improve heart health. This 2014 study published in Science Reportsfound that drinking green tea can reduce blood pressure and this 2014 study published in PLoS One found that drinking black tea has the same effect. Additionally, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that both types of teas reduced bad (LDL) cholesterol and prevented blood vessel plaque formation.
There are some differences between the two, though. For instance, green tea stands out for its higher concentration of an antioxidant called ECGC, which research suggests may have health benefits like “antioxidant effects, cancer chemoprevention, improving cardiovascular health, enhancing weight loss, protecting the skin from the damage caused by ionizing radiation, and others.”
Black tea, on the other hand, has theaflavins—a product of the oxidation process and, thus, a type of polyphenol not found in green tea. According to a 2018 report published in Molecules, theaflavins are thought to have a wide range of health benefits, including “fat-reducing and glucose-lowering capabilities and lifestyle-related disease prevention related to anti-obesity, anticancer, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-osteoporotic, and anti-dental caries properties.” Not bad, right?
Bottom line: Both green tea and black tea boast some impressive health benefits, making it difficult to say which one is healthier. In other words, you really can’t go wrong with either one.
So, Should You Drink Green Tea or Black Tea?
Consuming green and black tea comes with an impressive list of potential health benefits, so the question of which one you should drink really comes down to personal preference and caffeine sensitivity. For instance, coffee lovers who are trying to make the switch might prefer black tea for its stronger buzz and more robust, bitter flavor, while folks who favor a mellower, brighter taste and a more subtle boost should make green tea their beverage of choice. Our suggestion? Sample both and see which one you fancy.
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