What You Need to Know to Get Health Benefits From Tea + How to Brew the Perfect Cup

Here’s how to sip up the health benefits of black tea, as well as oolong, white and green teas. Plus, learn to brew the perfect cup of tea.

Drinking black tea from a pretty cup is one of my favorite ways to catch my breath during a busy afternoon.

Sit, sip, recharge.

The benefit isn’t simply from the caffeine in tea. Tea boasts several compounds with health benefits. For example, the world’s most popular beverage (other than water) gives us the amino acid theanine, which acts on the brain and is thought to enhance focus and relaxation at the same time.

And after dinner, I sit in my comfy chair with a book and a cup of decaffeinated Earl Grey tea.

Sit, sip, wind down for the evening. A favorite bedtime ritual. And I’ve been doing it for a lot of years!

Chinese tea cups

Sit. Sip. Recharge

Still, other benefits of black tea, and its sisters white, oolong and green teas, come from their phytochemical disease-fighters, particularly flavonoids and other polyphenol compounds. These are the same types of health-boosting compounds in fruits, vegetables and other plants. My risk for heart disease is one reason I want plenty of these disease-fighters.

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Black, oolong, green and white teas each come from the leaves of the evergreen Camellia sinesis. They look and taste different because the leaves are harvested at different stages of growth and go through various levels of fermentation.

They all appear to have health benefits, so don’t fret about which is the best tea. But do pay attention to how you prepare your tea. I’ve got a list of 5 tips to get the most flavonoids from your hot or iced teas. It’s down the page a bit. But first, what drinking tea can do for you.

5 health benefits of black tea (and the others from the Camellia sinesis plant)

Research shares lots of good news about tea. Not all of it is rock solid, but I feel confident that tea and tea flavonoids are beneficial – just like the other plants we consume.

health benefits of black tea steeping with fruit

My daughters took me to a wonderful tea house for Mother’s Day. We each had a different tea.

  1. Tea is good for the heart. Tea drinking is associated with reduced risk of heart attack, lowering of high blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels.
  2. Drinking tea might help you keep your mental edge. Some studies have found that the cognitive abilities of tea drinkers are greater than those who do not drink tea. A Japanese study found that drinking green tea was associated with less risk of decreased mental abilities among older people.
  3. Tea might help prevent type 2 diabetes. In the large Women’s Health Study, women who consumed at least four cups of tea daily had a 30% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-tea drinkers. Other studies have shown that compounds in green tea help regulate blood sugar levels. And here’s a list of other foods I recommend for prediabetes.
  4. Black tea might help your bones. Drinking black tea appears to improve bone density.
  5. Tea might lower cancer risk. Here again, studies are not so clear cut, but tea compounds may protect against cancer by supporting antioxidant defenses.

How to get more disease-fighters from your tea

  1. Skip bottled teas. Though convenient, they contain little, if any, flavonoids.
  2. Brew tea in hot water. Tea brewed in cold or room-temperature water has fewer flavonoids.
  3. Brew iced tea double strength because ice dilutes the tea and the disease-fighting flavonoids.
  4. Store iced tea in the refrigerator for just a day or two. Time destroys flavonoids. If you notice the bottom of the pitcher is cloudy, you’re looking at degraded flavonoids.
  5. Add a few fresh lemon or orange slices to your tea pitcher. The vitamin C in citrus fruits protects flavonoids from destruction.
iced tea with lemon and mint

Protect tea flavonoids with citrus/ photo credit: © Can Stock Photo / fahrwasser

Learn how to get the most health boosters from tea. Plus, how to brew the perfect cup.Click To Tweet

Brew the perfect cup of tea

Now that you know how drinking tea may be good for, you’ll want to brew it right.

Type of TeaTemperatureSteeping Time
Black tea has the darkest color and strongest flavor. Its leaves are fully fermented.Bring water to a boil.3 – 5 minutes
Green tea has a delicate flavor and light color. Its leaves are not fermented.Allow boiled water to cool for about 10 minutes before pouring.1 minute
Oolong tea has a flavor and color between black and green teas because the leaves of oolong tea are partially fermented.180-190°F5 – 7 minutes
White tea comes from leaves harvested when they are very young. They are not fermented.180-190°F3 – 4 minutes
Iced tea is also packed with health-boosting compounds when freshly brewed and refrigerated for only a couple days. When the bottom of the pitcher is cloudy, the flavonoids have degraded.1 quart of boiling water for 8 – 10 tea bags3 – 5 minutes

Adjust the strength of your tea with additional cold water or ice cubes.

Cheers to happy, healthy sipping!

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Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

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  1. Paul Hinton on April 6, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Tea is considered the most widely consumed beverage around the world for its health benefits. Tea was first consumed in China as a medicine. To date, most of the studies on the health benefit of green tea, have been on mice or cell cultures. Despite its lack of evidence, drinking tea daily does appear to help with many health benefits and weight loss as well.

    Green tea is my favorite. I enjoy drinking at least 3 to 4 cups a day, despite the lack thereof. And I certainly do believe it helps to keep my weight down. The health benefit of green tea for weight loss is perhaps one of its biggest selling points, and pretty much the main reason I drink it.

    I have enjoyed reading a lot of articles but this one is really outstanding. Its really new to me that it contains not only the ideal temperature range but also the sipping time. I must share this great article with my FB followers

    • Jill Weisenberger on April 6, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Thank you Paul for sharing my post and leaving your comments. I enjoy green tea too, especially when flavored with mint. I’ve seen many preliminary studies about weight loss as well.

  2. Rose Rego on September 3, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Jill, very good advice. I use decaf tea during the day and celestial herbal teas. Caffeine and I do not do well. Will I get the same but reduced effect?

    • Jill Weisenberger on September 3, 2020 at 1:27 pm

      Your choices are great Rose. Decaffeinated teas also have the flavonoids. Your herbal teas have a different set of beneficial compounds.

  3. Heidi on September 3, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    I so enjoyed this article (as I do all of your articles!) — maybe because it was “preaching” to the converted. I adore tea. But, I have learned through my experiences that there is tea — and then there is … Tea!! For my tea drinking pleasure, I’ve fallen in love with loose tea that comes from Turkey, whether it’s black or green. Certainly, this tea can be made with the Turkish double tea pots method, which I have done, but it’s just as good made by the North American/European way. Loose tea leaves free or that you’ve contained in a tea bag in a pot. Cover with the right temperature of water. Steep. Enjoy. Why do I appreciate the teas that come from Turkey? Because they’re so very fresh tasting, and the leaves don’t taste dusty and stale at all. I use reverse osmosis filtered water to make my teas, and I brew it as in your above recommendations, and it’s just the best. And a really simple way to get a shot of sweetness to a cup of tea (if one MUST have sweet tea) is to use rock sugar (if you’re not diabetic, that is). Drop a gently rounded tsp of rock sugar in the bottom of your cup. Pour the hot tea over the sugar. Do not stir! Sip the tea down, and when you get to the bottom of your cup, you’ll have exactly the right amount of sweetness to finish off a delightful drink — plus, you’re teaching yourself to delay gratification. How good is that, I ask you?? The East Friesens of the Northern Germany/Netherlands also dropped in a tsp or so of heavy cream on the top of their cup of hot tea and watched it swirl an abstract and beautiful pattern on their drink. Again, no stirring. The idea here was to get three different flavour shots/sensations on the tongue. Drinking tea is a delightful ritual to develop. Oh! One more thing: try using a clear glass tea cup or mug to drink your tea. That way you can see the beautiful colour of the tea too — which makes your tea ritual all that more lovely! The Turkish markets sell a specially shaped, clear glass mug for tea. It’s a sensual pleasure to hold it in the hand.

    • Jill Weisenberger on September 3, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      I love reading about this Heidi! Thanks for sharing. Drinking tea is associated with lots of rituals, and I have some of my own. When I travel abroad, I love sampling local tea shops and often bring home local tea.

  4. Salma Yasmin Sumi on November 2, 2020 at 4:09 am

    Hi there,
    Thanks for your advice. Your article helps me to know about the health benefits of tea. I like to have tea 2 times a day at least.

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Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.

Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

And I believe willpower is way overrated.

Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.

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