Data reviewed by the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) reveals that more than eight out of 10 Brits are not hitting the “sweet spot” of five daily cups of tea, according to a new poll of over 1,000 U.K. adults (see footnote one).
The Tea Advisory Panel is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from the UK Tea & Infusions Association, the trade association for the U.K. tea industry. The panel was created to provide impartial information regarding the health benefits of tea. Members include nutritionists, dietitians and doctors.
The data, which was provided last month around International Tea Day (May 21), pointed out that almost 85 percent of Brits are missing that sweet spot when it comes to the ideal number of cups of tea to consume in a day.
Scientific studies examining associations between tea and cardiovascular health suggest that the ideal daily amount of tea to drink for a healthy heart is in the range of four to five cups a day, per the Tea Advisory Panel.
The new poll delves into Brits' tea drinking habits, along with their knowledge of the nation's favorite hot beverage, from how it's produced to how it confers health benefits. Worryingly though, on the recent eve of International Tea Day, the data revealed the low volume of tea many Brits drink.
Tea Advisory Panel Member Dr. Gill Jenkins said: “We're all used to thinking of our fruit and veg intake in terms of the recommended five-a-day thanks to successful marketing campaigns, but few people know that there's evidence that five-a-day of cuppas can also be a healthy choice.”
Tea Advisory Panel Member Dr. Tim Bond commented: “International Tea Day aims to encourage the sustainable production and consumption of tea and raise awareness of the importance of our beloved cuppa to people around the world. It's also a good time of the year to raise awareness of tea's multiple health and wellness benefits thanks to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, heart health and weight management properties.”
As one example, authors of a large U.K. study published in The British Journal of Nutrition found a significant association between regular tea intake and a consistently lower risk of early death from various health causes (see footnote three).
Dr Chris Etheridge and colleagues from the Tea Advisory Panel have also reported clear evidence of a connection between having four to five cups of black or green tea a day and a reduced risk of high blood pressure, along with emerging evidence that drinking tea protects blood vessels and lowers inflammation (see footnote four).
Tea Five-a-Day Fail
According to the Tea Advisory Panel research, only 15 percent of Brits are achieving at least five cups of tea a day. Some may be teetering on the brink, however, with over a third (36 percent) reporting that they consume just three cups a day, and two percent said they didn't drink any tea at all, thus, much of the U.K. is missing out on the health and wellness benefits of a cuppa, per the advisory panel.
Mind the Gaps
While many respondents were aware of some of the health benefits of tea consumption, there were clearly a lot of knowledge gaps. For instance:
- Just two in five (39 percent) knew tea could ease stress and anxiety
- Only three in 10 (29 percent) knew it counted towards hydration levels
- Just one in five (21 percent) knew it could improve low mood and depression
- And a similar proportion (20 percent) were aware of its heart health benefits.
Explaining the health-supporting benefits of tea's naturally occurring plant bioactives, known as polyphenols, Dr. Bond said: “A study from 2021 in Nutrients examined a range of different teas to see which ones made an impact on the cellular recycling process, known as autophagy. Six of the nine different teas studied – green tea, oolong tea, black tea, safflower tea, ginger tea and hibiscus tea – as well as their polyphenols [health-promoting plant chemicals], including flavan-3-ols and epigallocatechin gallate [EGCG], were found to regulate this process. The authors suggested that this mechanism could be linked to many of tea's claimed health-promoting and therapeutic properties.”
Public Health Nutritionist and Tea Advisory Panel Member, Dr. Emma Derbyshire, also offered an important tip on the process of tea making. She noted: “Ideally, when having our four to five daily cups, we should leave the tea bag to brew for at least three minutes to release the optimal amount of polyphenols. Unfortunately, in the TAP poll, fewer than a fifth [19 percent] brewed their tea for the correct time, and some (three percent) said they simply dipped their tea bag in and took it out again, missing out on the benefits of the brew.”
Last year, an international group of scientists (see footnote five) set a daily recommendation of 400 to 600 milligrams a day for one particular health-giving polyphenol – flavan-3-ols. The richest source by far of flavan-3-ols is tea – both black and green tea – followed by berries and nuts, and pome fruits [including apples, pears, nashi, and quince) (see footnote six). So, the good news is that it's easy (and delicious) to include them in our daily diet with tea.
Steeped in Science
Research highlights the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-hyperglycaemic, and weight management properties of black and green tea polyphenols specifically. Data has also found evidence that green tea could potentially have a positive effect on chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes (see footnote seven).
So, how does Brits' tea know-how measure up with the scientific evidence? Well, disappointingly, according to the Tea Advisory Panel, six in 10 (61 percent) said they wouldn't be able to explain why tea can support many health and wellbeing areas. When asked about the compounds we find in tea, 45 percent knew that it contained polyphenols, but only 20 percemt said they understood that polyphenols can support health.
Dr. Jenkins noted, “While it's clear that Brits love tea, with half [50 percent] of survey respondents reporting that it brings them comfort, and over a quarter [27 percent] saying it boosts their mood, many are still missing out on the optimal health benefits because they're not drinking enough. With two fifths [40 percent] consuming two cups or less a day, we've got some way to go to get everyone up to the optimal five daily cuppas to enjoy the many health and wellness benefits of tea.”