Black Tea is the most consumed tea in the United States. In fact, after water, Tea is the most consumed beverage in the entire world! Many love it brewed hot while others like it sweetened over ice. The choices and flavors are endless and tea has raised its status to the hottest new food trend in America. Times have changed since your grandmother served it up, as now celebrities, models, singers and politicians are seen gulping it down and touting its benefits.
Hollywood movie star, Hugh Jackman of X Men, is now the celebrity endorser for a popular Ice Tea brand. And in Super Bowl 2011, if you were paying attention to the ads, you may have heard rapper Eminem’s voice in an animated Tea commercial gulping down iced tea. And who would associate Rock Music with warm tea? Apparently- Led Zeppelin! Robert Plant, the band’s lead singer may not look like your typical tea-drinker, but he’s known to tour the country with a mug of hot tea flavored with honey. Even the other members in the band have got in on the act and now these former bad-boy rockers order a steady supply of herbal tea while on the road! Heidi Klum, famous model and wife to singer Seal, love tea so much they went on a three-hour Tea Date through the city of London. And did you know that President Obama has even stocked the White House with tea? It’s been disclosed he even keeps a stash on the official presidential helicopter. And one time, Obama’s aide had to drive two hours to find the tea in South Carolina when the President ran out of his favorite tea while on the Marine One aircraft!
You’ve probably begun to spot it more yourself, since the majority of all teas sold in the West are of the Black Tea variety. More and more retailers have taken notice of the tea drinking craze and are making changes to accommodate the demand. Even the local Starbucks has remade its’ menu. It seems everywhere you turn you find more and more tea choices. Companies are taking note of the consumer’s cravings for this healthier beverage and they’re responding with offering more variety on grocery shelves, retail outlets, and restaurant menus.
There are tons of reasons to choose tea as a hot or cold beverage, and taste isn’t the reigning factor. Yes tea is delicious and one of the latest food crazes, but it’s also extremely healthy. In fact, if you’re looking for a way to increase your mental alertness and treat headaches you’d be hard-pressed to find a better drink. It certainly beats soda, and because of the antioxidants Black Tea contains, it’s an even better choice than water.
So, how is Black tea made and what makes it so healthy?
Black Tea is made from the same plant (Camelia Sinensis) as the other varieties- oolong, green and white tea, but unlike the others, Black tea is oxidized. This is why it contains more caffeine and a stronger flavor. The first stage in all teas is the same; the bud and two small leaves are plucked from the tea plants. Then the leaves are laid out to dry where heated air is forced over them. (This is where White tea leaf processing ends. They do not get oxidized like Black Tea). The Black tea leaves are now pliable enough to roll. This rolling process breaks down the cell structure in the leaves, causing them to release the oils and other juices. This reaction gives the tea its color and its distinctive flavor. The longer it is oxidized, the darker the leaf color and overall taste. Lighter oxidation provides a lighter, more floral taste, while more heavily oxidized teas are roasted to create a different taste. That’s why the dark color of the leaf and deep red-brown liquid is stronger than white or green teas.
Black Tea contains the most caffeine, though still less than a typical cup of brewed coffee. And there’s good news for Decaf drinkers- Decaffeinated tea does not remove any of the flavonoids- so you still reap all the benefits! “Studies of humans and animals show that the antioxidants in black and green teas are highly beneficial to our health.” A leading Cancer Researcher, John Weisburger, goes on to state, “I was the first American researcher to show that tea modifies the metabolism to detoxify harmful chemicals.”(1)
Some popular black teas you may have heard of include Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Darjeeling. These are generally served hot and many times with sugar or tea. And while 50% of Americans claim to drink tea daily, almost 80% of that number drink their tea over ice. In fact, more than two billion gallons of Iced Tea are consumed annually! Tea Sales in the US are expected to surpass $15 billion in 2012, a significant growth over the last $8 billion last recorded. This accounts for the annual rise in imported tea to the US as it’s grown over 25 % in the last 20 years. Remarkably, Green Tea imports have increased by an astronomical 118%.(4)
What started the craze? Iced Tea originated in the South, way back in the 1860’s, but it didn’t gain national popularity until it was promoted at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair.(3) Since that time, over 200 ready-to-drink” (RTD) tea labels have popped up with popular brands like Snapple, Arizona, Lipton and Brisk leading the pack. Since Black tea blends well with other fruits to create flavorful mixes, its no surprise that Lemon flavor is now taking a backseat to choices like Cranberry, Raspberry, Peach, Kiwi-Strawberry, and Mango Flavored teas. Maroon 5, the popular rock band, has teamed up with Snapple to create a five-flavor mash-up to support Feeding America. This tea combines Pomegranate, Orange, Raspberry, Blackberry and Hibiscus to create a unique blended tea in hopes of raising money to provide 1.75 million meals to fight hunger!
The next big thing is to brew loose tea at home with fresh fruit. By brewing black tea and combining with your favorite fresh fruit, you can create your own special blend. It will save you money, give you a better, more flavorful tea, and because you know exactly what is in it, you’ll feel great drinking it. Other teas, like the flowering variety and herbal teas can also be added to Black tea to give a unique flavor and load it with even more healthy antioxidants. And because you’ll be preparing it yourself, you’ll have less waste and a lot less preservatives. Give it a try, as brewing Tea at home is becoming quite fashionable. In fact, you may want to host your very own tea party. Invite your friends, put out the perfect Teapot and pour them a cup of your special creation. Entertaining with a Tea Party is the latest social trend, especially with the recent publicized Royal wedding of Kate and Prince William. Thousands of people across the USA held private tea parties to toast the new Prince and Princess on their wedding day!
Tea- it really is more than just a beverage! In addition to fueling charity donations, it can also be used in recipes. Baked goods like Chocolate Black Tea Cake uses 1 cup of brewed black tea, eggs, sugar, cocoa and more to create a delicious treat the whole family can enjoy. For the complete recipe, click on: http://www.food.com/recipe/chocolate-black-tea-cake-318532. And Black tea combined with black pepper, salt and garlic powder makes a delicious rub for steaks.
So if you want to improve your health, detoxify your body, and enjoy a delicious beverage all at the same time- there’s no better choice than Black Tea. Enjoy it during the day over ice, or as a healthier pick-me-up in the mornings. You’ll be well on your way to a healthier you!
(1) WebMD(Antioxidants in Green and Black Tea - http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/antioxidants-in-green-and-black-tea
(2) New York Daily News January, 29, 2009 - http://articles.nydailynews.com/2009-01-29/entertainment/17914296_1_black-forest-berry-honest-drink