How to maximise the health benefits of your cup of tea 

As new research shows even more ways that tea can help your heart health, we explain how to brew a healthier you.

Taking a few moments to enjoy a cup of tea is one of life’s simple pleasures. It helps us to get moving in the morning and feel more alert. Tea warms us up when it’s chilly outside. It also helps us to unwind when we need to have a little time out from a hectic day. 

Tea is also an excellent choice when it comes to your health. For example, tea helps to keep you hydrated, and it offers protection against tooth decay (because of its fluoride content). Tea also provides some essential minerals including manganese.  

Research is also discovering new ways in which tea might benefit your heart health. 

Aerial shot of a cup of teaCredit: Shutterstock/Towfiqu ahamed barbhuiya

What does the research say?

New research into tea and heart health

A giant study just combined the findings from over 20 smaller ones, and guess what they discovered? Regularly sipping tea over the long term can bring down your risk of dying from heart disease by a whopping 19%. 

The study investigated the effects of six different drinks: tea, coffee, sugary concoctions, diet drinks, juice and alcohol. Tea emerged as the champion for heart health, lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke for both men and women. Coffee followed close behind, but with a twist – its benefits seemed to be enjoyed more by men.

“The results of this new super study show that tea comes top in terms of protecting our hearts and circulation,” says dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Tea Advisory Panel.

“Previous studies found similar effects but looked at a single point in time, capturing only a snapshot of drinking behaviour. This new study shows the benefits of starting a long-term tea drinking habit from early adulthood or even childhood.”


Reduces the risk of blood clotting

Other research has highlighted a recently discovered natural tea compound called cystatin. Research has suggested that it could help to reduce the risk of blood clotting and thrombosis.

The research also found that cystatin could help to thin the blood naturally by preventing platelets (the substances in your blood that stick together to form a clot) from sticking together. 

Why is tea so good for you?

The polyphenols effect

Tea contains a number of antioxidants that are associated with your heart health. Dr Ruxton tells us more about tea’s potential benefits. 

“Tea is made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant and is rich in polyphenols,” she explains. “Polyphenols are antioxidants in tea which are beneficial for heart health and several other aspects of our wellbeing too.

“These have an anti-inflammatory effect in blood vessels, resulting in the dilation (widening) of blood vessels. This leads to the lowering of blood pressure.” 

“Tea also contains L-theanine, a natural compound which promotes relaxation and gives us that ‘aaaahhh’ feeling when we sit down to a cuppa,” she adds. 

Which type of tea is best for your health?

Choose your cuppa wisely

Woman relaxing with a cup of teaCredit: Shutterstock / Simona Pilolla

All types of tea made from the camellia sinensis plant (black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea) have the same number of total polyphenols (those heart-healthy plant compounds).

How they differ is in the proportion of each type of polyphenol that they contain. For example, black tea contains more of the polyphenols called theaflavins and thearubigins.

Black tea

Theaflavins are formed in the production of black tea and are more commonly associated with its blood cholesterol-lowering effects. Thearubigins contribute to black tea’s distinctive dark brown colour and are associated with anti-inflammatory and gastrointestinal regulating effects.  


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Green tea

In contrast, green tea contains more of the polyphenols known as catechins. Green tea is also thought to provide more antioxidants but whether you prefer black or green, they all offer health and wellbeing benefits. 

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Herbal tea

Herbal teas can be made from a wide range of plants, so their benefit can vary greatly depending on what they’re made from. 

The Tea Advisory Panel recently conducted some research into the best herbal teas and found that German chamomile, rosehip and spearmint can boost sleep quality and in turn help memory function and low mood.

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Does it matter if you add milk to tea?

Milk isn’t the enemy

Woman holding a cup of tea while outdoorsCredit: Shutterstock / Butsaya

Many of us like to add milk to our tea, so you may be wondering whether that affects its benefits. Thankfully, Dr Ruxton reassures us that research indicates adding milk to tea doesn’t lessen the heart health effects. 

“It has sometimes been thought that milk could reduce the antioxidant content of tea. Yet, research has found consuming black tea increases blood levels of antioxidants and adding milk does not seem to inhibit this effect.” 

What we might need to tweak to better absorb the heart-healthy antioxidants in tea is the brewing time we apply. 

How long should you brew your tea for?

Longer is better

Dr Ruxton says leaving the tea bag to brew for three to five minutes is important, as this will ensure the optimal amount of polyphenol compounds are released. 

The number of cups of tea we consume per day matters too for maximising heart health benefits. According to tea habits research by Tetley, tea drinkers typically drink three cups per day. But as Dr Ruxton explains, four cups (or even more if you like your tea weak) is best for your heart. 

Four cups of tea is optimal for getting the most from your brew,” she says. “But for people who prefer to have weak or milky tea, drinking 4-6 cups per day would be more beneficial for your heart health.” 

Whilst tea does contain healthy antioxidants, so do many foods, especially fruit and vegetables. Getting your five-a-day and eating plenty of wholegrains will also help to support your heart health as well as your overall health.  

How to make a perfect brew

Top tips for making a healthy cup of tea

Want to know what makes the best brew? Dr Sharon Hall from the UK Tea and Infusions Association has put together a few simple steps to help ensure we make a great cup of tea. 

  • Use a good quality tea bag or loose-leaf tea. 
  • Store tea in a cool, dry place, away from strongly flavoured or perfumed foods. 
  • Always use freshly drawn water and consider using a water filter. “In some parts of the country, the tap water is hard or soft and this can affect the taste of tea,” Dr Hall explains. 
  • Use one tea bag or one rounded teaspoon of loose tea for each cup or mug. 
  • Put fresh water in the kettle each time. “The flavour of tea develops best when made with freshly boiled water”, Dr Hall says. “The lack of oxygen bubbles in re-boiled water can give tea a flat taste.” Try to boil only the amount you need each time, to save energy and so you don’t get tempted to use re-boiled water for the next cup. 
  • Allow the tea to brew for the recommended time before pouring, and always read the instructions on the pack. 
  • When brewing tea from a bag in a mug, adding milk last is best. 
  • Most black teas should be brewed for three to four minutes (or up to five to gain maximum heart health benefits). 
  • Lapsang Souchong tea tastes best after four to five minutes.  
  • Green tea is best brewed for three to four minutes and oolong tea for three to five minutes, depending on your strength preference. 
  • Remove the bag after brewing, before you add the milk. 
Julie Penfold

Written by Julie Penfold she/her


Julie Penfold has been a specialist health and wellbeing journalist for more than 15 years and has been a finalist in three prestigious health and medical journalism awards during that time. She has written for a wide variety of health, medical, wellbeing and fitness magazines and websites. These have included Running, TechRadar, Outdoor Fitness, Be Healthy, Top Sante, and The Guardian’s Social Care network.

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