Drinking at least three cups of green tea a week could be the key to a longer and healthier life, according to a new study.

"Habitual tea consumption is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death," said Dr. Xinyan Wang of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing, the lead author of the report which appears in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology.  "The favourable health effects are the most robust for green tea and for long-term habitual tea drinkers," he added.

The researchers followed the health histories of 100,000 people, some who drank green tea and some who did not.  Those who drank at least three cups of green tea per week had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke, a 22 percent lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and 15 percent decrease risk of all-cause death.  

The researchers credit this to the polyphenols found in tea, which are linked to protective effects against heart disease and raised blood pressure.  But, it's got to be green tea - drinkers of British-style black tea did not show the same results.

"In our study population, 49 percent of habitual tea drinkers consumed green tea most frequently, while only eight per cent preferred black tea," said Dr. Dongfeng Gu from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.  "The small proportion of habitual black tea drinkers might make it more difficult to observe robust associations, but our findings hint at a differential effect between tea types."