Black Tea’s Protective Power

pic 2Dementia: A Worldwide Problem that Isn’t Going Away

Nearly a year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) held its first global conference on dementia, calling that syndrome a public health priority. According to WHO, 47.5 million people have dementia—a total that grows by 7.7 million every year!

Benefits of Green Tea

In my last post, I looked at a study that found that Japanese elderly people who drank more green tea had better cognitive activity, greater motor function, and more social engagement than non-tea drinkers. In other words, the more green tea they drank, the lower their level of functional disability.

Another Study—and How Much Is in Your Cup?

Another study that was published a few months ago focused on elderly Chinese (over 9,000 people, at least 60 years old). In this one, they considered a “cup” of tea as 250 ml or 8.45 ounces, which is considerably more than that in the study of Japanese elderly, in which a “cup” was only 100 ml or 3.38 ounces.

Study in Japan:
less than 1 cup/day = less than 3.38 ounces/day
1–2 cups/day = 3.38–6.76 ounces/day
3–4 cups/day = 10.14–13.52 ounces/day
5 or more cups/day = 16.9 or more ounces/day

Study in China:
less than 2 cups/day = less than 16.9 ounces/day
2–4 cups/day = 16.9–33.8 ounces/day
4 or more cups/day = 33.8 or more ounces/day

So people didn’t need to drink a huge amount of green tea in the Japan study to realize benefits—a “cup” in the U.S. means 8 ounces, so this is only 2 cups per day!

Black Tea: More Beneficial than Green?

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English Westminster black tea

The study in China found that when at least 16.9 ounces of tea were consumed per day, the levels of depression and cognitive impairment decreased and the levels of daily living activity increased, which is consistent with the study in Japan.

Breaking down tea consumption between green and black tea (and adjusting for variables), the researchers found that drinking either green or black tea resulted in less cognitive impairment. However, “black tea consumption was significantly associated with a lower prevalence of cognitive impairment,” regardless of the tea’s strength—good news for those who prefer black tea.

Still . . .

Scientists are typically cautious about overstating their research, listing the limitations of their studies or hedging their interpretations of data with other possibilities. The authors here cite additional research studies—some of which have shown that black tea has an effect on cognitive impairment and decline whereas green tea affects only impairment, and others that have shown that green tea has a greater impact on cognitive function than does black tea.

Everyone agrees that more research needs to be done—to determine what specific components of tea (whether green or black) are producing these positive effects, and how to maximize the effects so that they can truly impact cognition and functional disability. Polyphenols and catechins seem to be top contenders, and I’ll take a look at them in future posts.

MEANWHILE: Drink Tea!!

–”Dementia,” Fact Sheet No. 362, World Health Organization, March 2015.
–”Tea Consumption and Cognitive Impairment: A Cross-Sectional Study among Chinese Elderly,” by Wei Shen et al. PLoS ONE 10(9):e0137781. 2015.


Protective Power of Tea

pic 1

She was yelling at the aides? Not possible!

Yet. . . . Accusations of conspiracy. Demands for apologies for perceived slights. Refusals to comply. The normal filters gone.

Coupled with frailty and extreme loss of mobility.

My husband and I have joined the family of those who, sadly, understand the difference between delusions and hallucinations. Where the word “sundowning” speaks multitudes. Where we long to avoid following the same path—and losing ourselves—as we age.

Of course many research dollars have been funneled toward studies into dementia—its cause, treatment, and prevention. Links between physical health/mobility and dementia have been considered. But do people who remain more physically active stave off dementia—or—does dementia cause people to be less physically active? Which is cause and which is effect?

With its myriad health benefits, tea has been studied in relation to both physical and cognitive disability, with some intriguing results.

Green Tea: Health Benefits

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South Korea Seogwang Sencha

Drinking green tea lowers the likelihood of dying by stroke or pneumonia; it also lowers the risk of cognitive impairment, depression, psychological distress, osteoporosis, cardiovascular issues.

So, as the authors of one study (Tomata et al.) framed it: “Because all of the above conditions are major causes of functional disability . . . it is expected that green tea consumption would contribute to disability prevention”—and they designed an experiment to test this.

Physical and Social and Cognitive!

The study seems thorough, with responses from nearly 14,000 people (Japanese, at least 65 years old) analyzed, adjusted for possible confounding factors. One of the tables of the resulting data is quite compelling—showing that those who drank greater amounts (17 or more ounces per day) of green tea had lower rates of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, liver disease, and body pain.

AND, those who drank more green tea reported higher levels of social support systems, were more engaged in community activities (such as socializing, volunteering, and exercise), had better motor function, and had better cognitive activity!

Functional disability can be caused by many things, but in the elderly, stroke, dementia, osteoporosis, and depression are common. The authors point out that drinking green tea protects to some extent against all of these, and cite another study that suggests that the polyphenols of green tea increase leg strength, which would clearly help prevent falls and frailty in the elderly.

Because the researchers found no similar correlation of functional disability with black or oolong tea or with coffee, they posit that there is a component specific to green tea that has these effects. Polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties and are found in greater amounts in green tea, may be that component. In fact, there has been a great deal of research into the role of polyphenols in tea, and of course many of us are asking:

What About Black Tea?

If you prefer drinking black tea, no worries. I will be taking a look at another fascinating study on black tea, showing its positive effects, as well as a closer look at polyphenols.

But for now, it’s tea time!

Source: “Green Tea Consumption and the Risk of Incident Functional Disability in Elderly Japanese: The Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study,” by Yasutake Tomata et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 95:732–39. 2012. 

Tea News Snippets

On the home front, TABELog featured some of the great places to visit in Ann Arbor—including our own TeaHaus!—in their recent article, Culinary and Cultural Finds in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Whether you live here or are planning to visit, be sure to check out these great places. Although I still need to get to Slurping Turtle myself, I can certainly attest to the terrific quality of all the other restaurants listed here!

Farther afield, this week the World Tea News featured an article about Sri Lanka’s upcoming tea industry sesquicentennial (in 2017), highlighting all that’s positive—how the tea industry employs around around a million people, paying them “significantly higher wages than nearby India,” and how it “enforces mandates on herbicides and pesticides that conform to export standards.”

In light of earlier news about the decline of tea consumption in Sri Lanka (see my October post), I imagine that the sesquicentennial will be vital to reigniting the Sri Lankans’ interest in their own tea. (Sort of how we take something for granted—until someone else shows an interest and then we examine it with fresh eyes.) The country of Sri Lanka, those in the tea industry, and tourism boards are planning plenty of events to take full advantage of this milestone. For more information and a few photos, see Royston Ellis’ post as well.

Does Tea Matter?

My dad is big on hospitality. When I was a teenager, any friend of mine who visited our home was asked without fail what they would like to drink—lemonade, pop, tea. . . .

Not if. What.


I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but years later, several of my friends mentioned this. That it had been a relatively unique experience for them. That it had stuck with them.

Looking back, I realize that my parents’ simple gesture of hospitality set up my friends as guests. They were not simply kids, but guests, worthy of true consideration—in a manner, treated as peers of my parents.

Hospitality changes the lens through which we view the world.


In my in-laws’ close-knit rural town, a tradition was to go “for coffee”—a ritual that was woven into the fabric of the community. Perhaps a table or two of women, or when we went, a family, but mostly men at large round tables. Discussing crops, local news, weather. Hundreds of cups of coffee had permeated the advertising mugs, rendering even bad teabag tea undrinkable, I quickly learned.

Did anyone care about the quality or strength of the coffee? Not at all. It was strictly about community.

Think about the times that you are served really bad tea or coffee in a styrofoam cup. Meetings and work functions? At a party? In a hospital or funeral home? How it tastes never matters. It is mindlessly drinking a hot beverage while debating issues or making small talk or complaining.

Or it is the comfort of holding a hot cup—even styrofoam—when facing profound sadness.

Hospitality changes the lens through which we view the world.

We are easily swayed by our own perceptions, our surroundings, the people around us. Studies, for instance, have shown that:wine_sm

~the color of the cup influences how people rate the flavor of coffee and hot chocolate

~people who like strong coffee drink more of it when the room is brightly lit, whereas those who like weaker coffee drink more of it in dim light

~the perceived idea of how much a wine costs influences how people rate its flavor


And clearly, being the recipient of an act of hospitality or being part of a community colors how we view what we consume.

Yes, I prefer my favorite organic loose leaf tea, perfectly steeped. Yes, my husband prefers impeccably roasted, freshly ground coffee beans brewed in a French press. But how often is it really about community and hospitality instead?

So yes, tea—and coffee and soda and wine and icy cold water—matters. Not the least of which is so you can share it with someone else.

Because hospitality colors our world in beautiful ways.


–McRaney, David. “‘You Are Not So Smart’: Why We Can’t Tell Good Wine from Bad.” The Atlantic, Oct. 28, 2011.
–Van Doorn, George H., Dianne Wuillemin, and Charles Spence. “Does the colour of the mug influence the taste of the coffee?” Flavour 3:10, 2014.