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Spoiler: They’re both pretty great for your heart.
Whether you’re an avid tea drinker or you’re trying to consume less coffee in your day-to-day, odds are you’ve probably sipped green or black tea at least once. And yup, you probably noticed that while they taste and look a lot different. What’s the deal?
ICYMI, all variations of tea can carry varying purposes nutritionally, explains New York-based dietitian Marissa Meshulam, founder of MPM nutrition. This ultimately impacts the look and taste of black and green tea—even though they both come from the same plant called camellia sinensis. (Yup!)
“Knowing that green and black tea come from the same plant, many may be wondering if there are differences aside from taste that separate the two,” explains Erica Zellner, a nutritionist and health coach at Parsley Health in California.
The major difference between black tea and green tea is how the leaves are processed after being harvested, Zellner says. (More on that later!) That said, the teas also have their similarities: For example, both teas are rich sources of caffeine and antioxidants.
But TBH, these similarities and differences only scratch the surface. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of black tea versus green tea, and which one might be best for you, keep reading.
Below, experts literally spill the tea.
If you’re searching for a deep-dive on the differences, look no further. This is what sets black and green tea apart, even though they come from the camellia sinensis plant.
“The biggest difference between black and green tea is how they are processed,” Meshulam explains. ICYMI, black tea leaves get oxidized after being harvested, which means that they are exposed to the air to dry, says Meshulam. This step ultimately impacts the tea’s aroma and flavoring, giving black tea that earthy, dark taste.
On the flipside, green tea leaves are heated immediately after being harvested in order to stop oxidation, Zellner says. This is part of the reason green tea can taste lighter and more herbaceous than black tea.
In addition to being processed differently, green tea and black tea are also prepared for drinking in varying ways, too, explains Keri Gans, a New-York based dietitian and author. For example, black tea is typically prepared with a splash of milk and maybe even some honey. Green tea, however, is usually consumed as is, with a drop of honey, or a squeeze of lemon wedge. Sugar can be added to both black tea and green tea for a bit of sweetness. How you have yours is really up to your preferences.
And PSA: Did you know that your favorite drink orders like matcha and chai lattes are made from green and black tea? Yup, chai lattes, often made with steamed milk, honey, and a blend of spices, are prepared with black tea. Matcha-based drinks are made from green tea leaves processed and ground into a fine powder, and are similarly combined with steamed milk and sweetener for a creamy texture. (Conversely, either drink can be poured over ice, too.)
Many tea drinkers love their cuppa for the caffeine content, among other things. However, black tea containing more than green tea overall, Zellner explains.
Specifically, black tea contains about 47 milligrams of caffeine per cup of tea, whereas green tea contains about 28 milligrams of caffeine per cup. AKA, if you want to drink tea in the afternoon, you might want to opt for green tea instead of black tea so you don’t run the risk of disrupting your sleep schedule.
So, curious about the shared traits of black tea and green tea, too? For all their differences, black tea and green tea can also be pretty similar when it comes to giving you a health boost.
Both green tea and black tea contain antioxidant properties that can promote heart health, Meshulam says.
“Green tea is specifically rich in EGCG and black tea is rich in theaflavins,” Meshulam says. EGCG is thought to have beneficial effects on cancer, blood sugar management, and cognitive health, Meshulam adds. Theaflavins support both cardiovascular and metabolic health, Zellner notes.
The jolt you get in these teas can stimulate your mental abilities, Meshulam says, which is why you might find yourself gravitating toward these drinks when you’re doing work or need a boost of focus or energy.
Plus, both teas have caffeine that contain the amino acid L-theanine, Gans says, which works differently than the caffeine found in coffee. L-theanine keeps you more relaxed while also alert whereas, at times, caffeine from coffee can trigger anxiety or stress. (And P.S., green tea contains a bit more L-theanine than black tea.)
You probably know that in order to prepare tea, you need one key ingredient: water. Most of the time, tea is prepared by boiling or heating water and then pouring it over a cluster of black or green tea leaves, giving the drink its flavor and aroma.
This means that while you sip on a brewed cup of tea you’re, yup, also drinking water. For this reason, tea is great for hydration, too, explains Zellner. In short, if you need more ways to up your water intake during the day, consider adding black or green tea to your drink list.
In short, black and green tea are great drink choices, and both will support your overall health when you drink them in moderation. (Read: They’re both packed with antioxidants, caffeine, relaxation, and hydrating benefits.)
That said, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you might want to consider opting for green tea instead of black tea, Gans says. As mentioned, green tea contains a lower amount of caffeine than black tea or coffee, so you ultimately might feel caffeine’s effects less when drinking green tea.