Background: Epidemiological studies have indicated a protective role of dietary flavonoids in cardiovascular disease, but evidence is still conflicting. Tea is the major dietary source for flavonoids in Western populations. We studied the association of tea intake with aortic atherosclerosis in a general population. Methods: The present analysis formed part of the Rotterdam Study, a prospective study of men and women 55 years and older. Dietary intakes were assessed at baseline by a trained dietician who used a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. Calcified plaques in the abdominal aorta were radiographically detected after 2 to 3 years of follow-up. Aortic atherosclerosis was classified as 'mild,' 'moderate,' or 'severe,' according to the length of the calcified area (<1 cm, 1-5 cm, and >5 cm, respectively). The association of tea intake with severity of aortic atherosclerosis was studied in 3454 subjects who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. Data were analyzed by logistic regression, adjusting for age, sex, body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters), smoking, education, and intake of alcohol, coffee, vitamin antioxidants total fat, and total energy. Results: Multivariable analyses showed a significant, inverse association of tea intake with severe aortic atherosclerosis. Odds ratios decreased from 0.54 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.32-0.92) for drinking 125 to 250 mL (1-2 cups) of tea to 0.31 (CI, 0.16-0.59) for drinking more than 500 mL/d (4 cups per day). The associations were stronger in women than in men. The association of tea intake with mild and moderate atherosclerosis was not statistically significant. Conclusion: This study indicates a protective effect of tea drinking against ischemic heart disease.