A prospective study of half a million tea drinkers in the United Kingdom has shown that higher tea intake was associated with a modestly lowered risk of death. The study, led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, is a large and comprehensive analysis of the potential mortality benefits of drinking black tea, which is the most common type of tea consumed in the U.K.
Past studies finding a modest association between higher tea intake and lower risk of death have mainly focused on Asian populations, who commonly drink green tea. Studies on black tea have yielded mixed results.
In the new study, the researchers found that people who consumed two or more cups of tea per day had a 9% to 13% lower risk of death from any cause than people who did not drink tea. Higher tea consumption was also associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and stroke. The association was seen regardless of preferred tea temperature, the addition of milk or sugar, and genetic variations affecting the rate at which people metabolize caffeine.
The findings, which appear Aug. 30, 2022, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, suggest that black tea, even at higher levels of intake, can be part of a healthy diet, the researchers wrote.
The study involved 498,043 men and women between ages 40 and 69 who participated in a large cohort study called UK Biobank. The participants were followed for about 11 years, and death information came from a linked database from the UK National Health Service.
Azerbaijan and Georgia are part of the world’s northernmost tea-producing region. Both supplied a large share of tea consumed in the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, making the Soviet Union the fourth largest tea producer in the world at the time, after India, China and Sri Lanka.
But the upheaval of the post-Soviet Union era led to a dramatic decline in the two countries’ tea industries. Today, with a total combined production of around 3 000 tonnes, they account for just under 0.05 percent of global tea production.
Interest in Georgian and Azerbaijani teas is picking up, however, with the governments, farmers and the private sector taking decisive steps in recent years to revive their once thriving tea sectors.
For example, Azerbaijan approved a development programme in 2018 that would increase tea production to 3 000 hectares with an annual output of 8 500 tonnes by 2027 – more than eight times what they produced in 2018.
And in Georgia, the government adopted a programme in 2016 to rehabilitate up to 7 000 hectares of abandoned tea plantations over the coming years.
Demand for specialty tea, both domestically and internationally, is on the rise.
Azerbaijanis are already avid tea drinkers, consuming over 2 kilograms of tea per capita, ranking them alongside the United Kingdom, Turkey and Morocco as some of the top tea-drinking countries.
Azerbaijani and Georgian teas boast unique characteristics thanks to their northerly origins and specific growing conditions along the Caspian and Black Sea coasts. The teas have a bright colour, for example, and can be produced with almost zero chemicals.
This could create interesting opportunities for organic production in both countries, potentially giving their teas an edge in the export tea market, catering to consumers concerned with health and environmental considerations.
FAO Investment Centre Service Chief, Wafaa Elkhouri said that “a sustainable and forward-looking approach is key to the successful development of Azerbaijan and Georgia’s tea sectors, taking into consideration potential risks, including those posed by climate change.”
In fact, rising temperatures and more irregular precipitation patterns could introduce new pests, posing a threat to the currently limited use of pesticides and putting further pressure on the two countries’ water resources.
But as the recently published FAO-EBRD publication shows, the potential is there for producers of Georgian and Azerbaijani teas to build on the positive image their teas enjoy at home and in neighbouring countries and, with the right support, carve out a wider space in the international market