The Science Breakdown of Tea

the science of tea

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You might not think of your morning cup of tea as being a cup of chemicals, but there’s interesting science to know about tea. This is the science breakdown of tea.

These include the chemical process that tea undergoes to reach your tea full of flavor.

What is the chemical process of tea?

Many types of tea go through a process of oxidation, which can make them have more amounts of caffeine in them. Black tea, for example, is highly oxidized and this makes it contain more caffeine than other types of tea.

Tea also contains interesting chemical compounds, which contribute to it being a healthy beverage.

Let’s take a look at its compounds.

What Is the Science Breakdown of Tea?

What are the chemical compounds found in tea?

There are lots of interesting compounds that are naturally found in tea. Here’s a rundown of the science breakdown of tea.

Polyphenols

These are compounds, or plant metabolites, that the plant produces to protect themselves. This keeps Insects and other animals that away from the plant. If you look at the science breakdown of tea, polyphenols are a popular topic.

When consumed by people, such as in tea, polyphenols work to protect the body against free radicals that can damage the body’s cells, as Healthline reports.

When you enjoy a strong cup of tea, it will have approximately 240mg of polyphenols.

It’s been said that adding milk to tea could make polyphenols lose their antioxidant properties, but there’s still research to be done on this subject, as Compound Chem reports.

Flavonoids

These are part of the polyphenol family but are otherwise known as tannins.

The main types of flavanols (a group of flavonoids) are catechins, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallage, and epicatechin.

Epigallocatechin gallate is the most active and has come up a lot in research that looks at the protective antioxidants that are found in tea, such as when it comes to preventing cancer.

The average cup of tea will contain between 24 and 40mg of catechins and eight to 15mg of flavonols, as An International Journal of Medicine reports.

Alkaloids

These compounds add to the bitter taste that’s found in tea.

How much of these are present in the tea plant depends on various factors, such as the climate in which the tea plants grow and the age of the tea leaves.

Interestingly, there are three alkaloids that are found in tea: they’re theophylline, theobromine, and caffeine.

L-theanine

This is an amino acid that’s found in tea. It has health benefits, such as being able to reduce stress.

The presence of it along with caffeine in tea has been said to boost memory and one’s learning processes.

So, it’s thanks to caffeine and L-theanine for why your morning cup of tea helps to boost your mental prowess!

Now, What’s The Oxidation Of Tea Really About? 

Earlier, we mentioned that tea undergoes oxidation, but what does the process really entail? Here’s a breakdown.

Tea leaves undergo a process of oxidation after the tea leaves have been picked and their cell walls are broken after they have withered.

What this means is that the polyphenols in tea become exposed to oxygen and oxidase enzymes.

These have the effect of turning polyphenols into thearubigins and theaflavins.

Thearubigins are polymeric polyphenols that are produced during enzymatic oxidation of two types of gallocatechin.

Theaflavins, on the other hand, are antioxidant polyphenols.

Tea is Good Stuff

Although that sounds pretty scientific, there’s an even easier explanation: during the oxidation process, tea leaves are spread out in a damp, cool place and they start to become brown in color as the oxygen reacts with their cell tissues, as How Stuff Works explains.

The actual ingredients that cause the leaves to turn brown are the enzymes and catechins that are present in the leaves.

These work to create a browning of the leaves.

This is an important part of the process because it gives the tea leaves their taste. Simple, right?

What’s interesting about this oxidation process is that it’s not left to chance.

Tea manufacturers can actually control and manipulate it to produce different flavors and aromas in tea, as Chemistry World reports.

Not just important when it comes to how the tea tastes when you brew a cup of it at home, the oxidation process that tea leaves undergo is also responsible for why tea has such varied types.

For example, black teas have their dark color and strong taste. That’s because they are fully oxidized during the oxidation process.

On the other hand, green teas are not oxidized.

Heat gets applied to the leaves after they’ve been harvested, which means that the catechins in green tea are not oxidized and this is what keeps the leaves in their natural color, Chemistry World reports.

The Science Behind Tea: What Happens Next?

Once tea leaves have been oxidized, they have to be processed.

Although this sounds like a complicated or chemical process, it’s actually pretty simple: nothing is added to the tea leaves and only water is removed, which keeps tea very pure.

Of course, after tea production, other processes can occur, such as the addition of flavors or spices that you might find in packaged teas.

The Soil And Rainfall Required For Delicious Tea

When it comes to growing tea plants, they require the right soil and amount of water in order to be of good quality and have a strong flavor.

Tea plants need acidic soil and they should be planted in areas where there is heavy rainfall, as How Stuff Works reports.

How Tea Bags Differ From Whole-Leaf Tea

what's the difference between loose leaf and tea bags?

Maybe you love drinking tea in bags instead of whole-leaf tea, but how are tea bags produced?

The difference between the two types of tea is quite interesting.

Whole-leaf tea is basically large, unbroken tea leaves that release essential oils which increase the flavor of the tea when the leaves are brewed.

On the other hand, tea bags generally contain dust and fannings, which are basically smaller pieces of tea leaves.

This means that they don’t have as much of a strong taste as whole-leaf tea, as The Spruce Eats reports.

One of the biggest problems with tea bags is that they are small and cannot allow the pieces of tea leaves to expand and properly release their flavor.

However, this is changing as tea manufacturers are finding new and innovative ways to make tea from tea bags much tastier.

This involves changing the shape of the tea bag, such as by using pyramid-shaped tea bags to encourage better infusion.

Nine Health Benefits Of Tea

what are the health benefits of tea?

Now that we’ve looked at the science behind tea, let’s look at why you should be drinking more tea.

There are actually many good reasons.

Here are some health benefits you can enjoy if you enjoy brewing a cup on a regular.

Tea Is Good For Your Heart Health

A study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology (via Today) found that people who drank tea regularly were less likely to get atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, which is the accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the artery walls.

In addition, they were found to be less likely to die prematurely from strokes as compared to people who didn’t drink tea.

Tea Can Enhance Your Exercise Success

Exercising regularly can help you to stay healthy, and drinking tea could help you achieve more success with your regular exercise routine.

As reported in Time, researchers have discovered that antioxidants in green tea specifically that are known as catechins boost the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel.

This means that it can improve your muscle endurance during exercise.

Green tea is the type of tea that has the most catechins, and this is largely due to how it is oxidized much less than types such as black or oolong tea.

Tea Keeps Your Brain Strong

Green tea is said to preserve the parts of the brain that are involved with memory and learning, and that’s thanks to its healthy polyphenols.

This means that green tea can protect one against diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s worth bearing in mind that other teas also have polyphenols, so they’ll all contribute to a healthier brain in some way.

Tea may Prevent Cancer

Although more research is needed in order to see what the links are between tea and cancer prevention, there have been some interesting studies already done that show how tea can have a positive influence on cancer cells.

One study in particular that was published in Biofactors journal found that people in Japan who drank more than 10 cups of green tea daily had a lower risk of cancer than those who drank less than three cups.

In addition to this discovery, it was also found that people experienced a significant delay in the onset of cancer, so it seems that the healthy compounds in green tea can keep cancer at bay.

Tea Hydrates The Body

Although we’ve been told that tea can have a dehydrating effect on the body, it actually helps to boost your body’s intake of water!

A study that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that drinking cups of black tea every day will hydrate your body in the same way as if you had consumed water.

Of course, you should always drink water, but tea is still hydrating and worth adding to your daily liquids consumption.

Tea Protects Your Teeth

As long as you don’t put a lot of sugar in your tea, white tea is actually really good to drink as it can maintain your dental health.

This is because it’s a source of healthy ingredients such as fluoride that strengthens teeth.

In addition, it contains tannins and catechins, of which the latter are antioxidants that protect your body’s cells and fight off free radical damage.

Again, other tea types will also contain catechins so it’s worth drinking any kind of tea, but white tea is considered to be so healthy because it doesn’t undergo a lot of oxidation. When you look at the science breakdown of teas, oxidation levels are a big factor.

Tea Keeps Your Bones Strong

It’s not just your teeth that can benefit from you drinking white tea.

This healthy beverage has been found to suppress cells that cause bones to break down. Again it’s thanks to its catechins content, as Healthline reports.

While you should never view one item, such as tea, as being a miracle cure for a health condition. Tea is certainly worth adding to your diet to prevent bone problems as you age.

Tea Gives You Healthier Blood Sugar

If you want to have lower blood sugar, tea could help you achieve this goal.

A test-tube study that was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that black tea boosted insulin activity.

The researchers found that compounds in tea had the effect of improving people’s insulin levels.

The compound that does this is epigallocatechin gallate.

In another study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, it was found that both black and green tea extract helped to lower blood sugar levels while also improving how the body was able to metabolize sugar.

Tea Gives You Better Skin

If you want to look healthier, drink more tea.

During our daily lives, we’re exposed to free radicals that can cause our skin to become damaged. And one of the biggest culprits of free radicals in the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Drinking tea can be beneficial to our skin because it contains polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory properties. The science breakdown of tea includes a lot of benefits for our body as a whole.

These actually repair cellular mutations that have been caused by free radicals, as Women’s Health reports.

What’s The Healthiest Tea?

What's the best tea for your health?

Now that we’ve covered some of the biggest health benefits of drinking tea, you might be wondering what the healthiest tea is that you can drink in order to make the most of its health benefits.

If you’re thinking it’s green tea you’re – probably – right.

Green tea was called the healthiest beverage on the planet by Authority Nutrition (via Mashed). This is probably as a result of its high concentrations of epigallocatechin gallate. Which we’ve already seen is quite a powerful ingredient to keep us healthy.

White tea is also considered to be one of the healthiest teas that you can drink.

As reported by The Spruce, different types of tea will undergo different processing, and this affects their antioxidant levels.

White tea has the largest concentration of antioxidants. That’s because it’s the least processed, it can certainly be said to be the healthiest tea to drink.

When it comes to flavonoids, all teas have good amounts of these nutrients, so you can choose the tea that you like best and benefit from it.

Avoid Drinking Unsafe Teas

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on purchasing your favorite tea. However, you really shouldn’t skimp on quality as this can make a big difference in taste and vitality.

A study published in The Journal of Toxicology has found that some teas can contain high levels of lead and aluminum.

That’s quite scary.

Another study found that some tea contains fluoride, which can be bad for your bones, joints, and teeth when taken in higher amounts.

So, how can you avoid these problems?

Experts have advised people to avoid drinking tea that’s grown in China, India, and Sri Lanka. In some cases, certain tea estates have soil being contaminated with byproducts of industrialism.

Related Questions about the science breakdown of tea

Is it bad to boil tea?

When brewing green, white, or black tea, you should avoid using boiling water. Steeping the tea for too long as this can release tannins that contribute to a bitter taste.

They can also give you digestive problems if taken in large quantities, as News reports. 

How many cups of tea should you drink every day?

This really depends on you. As long as you’re keeping your caffeine intake to less than 400mg, then it’s safe to consume tea. Some sources say two to four cups a day are a safe level of tea consumption. Caffeine levels vary by type of tea, of course.

Conclusion

green tea brewing loose leaf

Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world. But not much is known about its science breakdown of tea or how it’s produced.

After reading this article, you now have a better idea about what goes into making the tea variety that you love to enjoy on a regular basis.

We’ve also looked at some of the most important health benefits that you can gain from drinking tea. Whether your favorite one is green, black or white.

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