Polyphenols in tea, responsible for the health benefits, are found by researchers to be higher in brewed tea. In some instances, it would take 20 bottles of commercial beverage to get the health benefits of one cup of home brewed green or black tea say researchers.
“Consumers understand very well the concept of the health benefits from drinking tea or consuming other tea products,” said Shiming Li, Ph.D., who reported on the new study with Professor Chi-Tang Ho and his colleagues. “However, there is a huge gap between the perception that tea consumption is healthy and the actual amount of the healthful nutrients - polyphenols - found in bottled tea beverages. Our analysis of tea beverages found that the polyphenol content is extremely low.”
Bottled Tea Low in Polyphenols, High in Sugar
The healthy benefits of home brewed green or black tea also comes from the lower sugar content, compared to bottled, says Li who is an analytical and natural product chemist at WellGen, Inc., a biotechnology company in North Brunswick, N.J. focused on finding foods that fight disease.
When the scientists analyzed commercially prepared tea they found “virtually no antioxidants” in six brands purchased from supermarkets. Polyphenols fight cancer, diabetes and reduce inflammation, but Li says the low amounts in bottle tea combined with sugar would offer little in the way of health benefits.
Someone would have to drink bottle after bottle of these teas in some cases to receive health benefits,” he said. “I was surprised at the low polyphenol content. I didn’t expect it to be at such a low level.”
Home brewed green or black tea was found to have 50-150 mg of polyphenols but bottled tea only had 81, 43, 40, 13, 4, and 3 milligrams (mg) of polyphenols per 16-ounce bottle in the analysis. Li says it may be an attempt to keep the bitterness and astringency of tea at a minimum. “The simplest way is to add less tea, which makes the tea polyphenol content low, but tastes smoother and sweeter.”
Li also says the amount of polyphenols listed on some bottled tea might not be correct because of lack of government regulations for measuring and listing the polyphenolic compounds in a given product. Home brewed green or black tea has more antioxidants than bottled, but dwindle the longer tea is seeped, and can vary between manufacturers.
The researchers found the higher content of antioxidants in home brewed tea versus bottled by using HPLC or high-performance liquid chromatography. Li says he hopes the study will inspire manufacturers to use the technique so consumers can get better nutritional information. If you want the health benefits from green or black tea, the study shows it's better to brew it at home.