Sorry black tea drinkers. The bad news is that if you’re adding more than a teaspoon of milk into your tea, you’re effectively eliminating the health benefits of the tea. I consider this to be very disturbing information. The International Standard Organization (ISO) recommends that no more than 2% (1.8%) milk should be added to black tea. (This is NOT referring to the fat content in milk.) It appears that the addition of this small amount of milk, less than a teaspoon per 8 ounce cup of tea, maintained the health promoting benefits of black tea. When typical amounts of milk were added to black tea however, the picture changes substantially. I spoke with Dr. John Weisburger about this and he confirmed my information. “In many Anglo Saxon countries, they add substantial amounts of milk, from 6% in the UK, to 20% in India. We showed that more than 2% milk in black tea destroys the health promoting actions of black tea.”

Epidemiological studies lend support to this conclusion. If we look at tea consumption in Japan, we know that the majority of tea consumed is green tea which is enjoyed without milk. A recent posting discussed how Japan has a higher incidence of cigarette smoking than we do in the U.S. however their rate of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease is less than in this country. It is believed that the chemo protective qualities in green tea may be responsible for this lower incidence of disease. If we look at tea consumption in England, we know that the majority of tea consumed is black tea which is typically enjoyed with milk and sugar and as Dr. Weisburger notes, considerably more milk than 2%. Their high rate of heart disease suggests that they’re not experiencing any chemo protective benefits from their high level of black tea consumption.

I’m very curious about the ISO recommendations. It would appear to me that they were aware of this significant factor when they made their recommendations. Why they wouldn’t have distributed this valuable information to the general public escapes me. I have emailed the ISO and requested additional information. I will post their reply as soon as I receive it.