Let’s Talk Tea!

TeaCarolina summer is just ‘round the corner and with it comes icy pitchers of sweet tea to fend off the sweltering heat. As a dietitian, I sometimes hesitate about southern sweet tea given that it has a reputation for being sweeter than cola! It’s why I love sweet tea best when I can make it myself. Tea is a versatile beverage and there are plenty of ways you can spice it up without upping the sugar. It is a great way to stay hydrated in the summer heat if plain water is not your thing. Here are some tips to liven up unsweetened tea:


  • Adding orange slices, lemon slices for sweetness and aroma
  • Adding cucumber or mint leaves for freshness
  • Adding a dash of baking soda to make tea less stringent
  • Adding milk for creaminess
  • Adding 100% fruit juice for some sweetness

There are many different types of teas on the market but I find green tea and black tea to be the most popular. I am often asked: Why are green and black teas different?

Both green and black teas are made from the leaves of the same plant but they are processed differently. Drying the leaves of Camellia sinensis gives us green tea while fermenting and heating the leaves gives us black tea. This is why green tea tends to be milder while black tea develops a stronger flavor.

What about nutritional differences between green and black teas?

Unsweetened tea has virtually no calories, fat, protein, carbohydrate or many of the vitamins and minerals. What it does have are antioxidants and caffeine.

Antioxidants: Polyphenols and flavonoids are antioxidants in teas prized for protecting our cells from damage. Green and black teas both contain antioxidants but green tea has a higher amount because the fermentation and heating process in black teas destroys antioxidants. Green tea is high in a particular antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC), which can help with weight loss and cancer prevention.

Caffeine: I don’t need to explain this one do I? 😉 Caffeine is commonly found in coffee and colas giving us that “perky” or “awake” feeling. Although herbal teas won’t contain caffeine both green and black tea will. Keep in mind that black tea can have higher caffeine content than green tea though never as high as coffee.

Beverage Caffeine
Brewed coffee, 8 oz 95-200 mg
Brewed decaffeinated coffee, 8 oz 2-212 mg
Black tea, 8 oz 14-70 mg
Green tea, 8 oz 24-45 mg

Table Reference: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372

Special Thanks to Trinh Le for her assistance with this post!


  1. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/green-tea
  2. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/antioxidants-in-green-and-black-tea
  3. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/tea-types-and-their-health-benefits
  4. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/whats-in-your-green-tea/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Photo Credits:

  1. http://img1.southernliving.timeinc.net/sites/default/files/image/2010/09/southern-secrets/sweet-tea-l.jpg
  2. http://www.tiestatea.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Black-Tea-Health-Benefits.jpg
  3. http://www.mcquearydental.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Green-Tea-Good-or-Bad.jpg?aacd3f