Health & the Chemistry of Tea

 

Contents of avg. Tea leaf

Compounds

Dry weight %

Description

Characteristics

Health

Polyphenols

25-30%

Polyphenolic compound. A class of flavanols w/ antioxidant properties.

color, taste, quality, bitterness, astringence

antioxidant, anti-aging, increases immunity

Epigallocatechin gallate

8-12%

Epicatechin gallate

3-6%

Epigallo catechin

3-6%

Epicatechin

1-3%

Catechin

1-2%

Gallocatechin

3-4%

Flavonol glycosides

3-4%

kaempherol, quercetin, myricetin

Proanthocyanidins

2-3%

pseudo-tannins, a class of flavanols, essentially polymer chains of the flavonoid catechins, health-promoting with oxygen radical absorbance capacity.

Theogallin

2%

polyphenolic compound, an ester of gallic acid with quinic acid. crosses blood brain barrier, enhancing activity.

savory, brothyness

Quinic Acid

2%

crystalline acid.

bitter

Theanine

4%

50-60% of total amino acid content. An amino acid that crosses blood-brain barrier. The psychoactive properties reduce mental and physical stress, improves cognition and mood in a synergistic manner with caffeine

taste, body, aroma, brothyness

reduces physical & mental stress, improves mood and cognition

Other amino acids

3%

the principal amino acids in tea leaf, Aspartic, glutamic, serine, glutamine, tyrosine, valine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine and theanine (5-N-ethylglutamine) Theanine alone contributed around . Asparagine forms during withering.

savory, brothyness

 

Caffeine

3-5%

xanthine alkaloid, aromatic organic compound base

briskness, stimulant

Theophylline

0.5%

Theobromine

0.2%

Volatiles

essential oils and organic compounds, 638 grand total

aroma, taste

 

The 3 key elements of tea

Polyphenols (Antioxidants)

Theanine

Caffeine

 

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are chemical groups found in plants that have Antioxidant qualities.

Flavonoids are the particular polyphenol chemical compounds found naturally in tea plants.

The major flavonoids in tea are Catechins (Flavonol, Theaflavin) & Kaemferol.

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Anti-oxidant: A molecule capable of slowing or preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Removes free radicals in the system by terminating naturally occurring oxidation reactions, preventing perpetual oxidation and continuous cell damage. For this reason, tea has been directly linked to cancer prevention due to its antioxidant-contents’ abilities to eliminate cancer-causing free radical scavenging.

Catechins

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polyphenolic antioxidant plant metabolites, They belong to the family of flavonoids.

  • Antibiotic properties
  • Anti-Aging properties, scavenges free radicals before cell damage occurs to proteins and the DNA replication process
  • Anti-Carcinogenic Effects: Decreases risk of many cancers including skin, ovarian, breast, prostrate, colon, stomach, and oral
  • Anti-inflammatory properties

Theaflavins ~ formed from Catechins

  • Reduces Cholesterol
  • Combats Cancer cell growth
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Dementia
  • Weight loss Mechanisms
  • Decreased Risk of Heart Disease, Hypertension and Type II Diabetes

The different health benefits of antioxidant polyphenols

  • Unoxidized and lightly oxidized teas naturally contain Catechins.
  • As a tea oxidizes further, Theaflavins are formed from the enzymatic oxidation ("ripening") of Catechins.
  • Theaflavins are types of thearubigins and appear reddish in color.
  • The less oxidized a tea is, the more non-oxidized Catechins and less Theaflavins it will contain.
  • The more oxidized a tea becomes, the more Theaflavins and less non-oxidized Catechins it will contain
  • Theaflavins are not found in "non-oxidized" teas such as Green. Non-oxidized Catechins are not as abundant in darker teas.

Oxidation: is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radical intermediates, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. As a result, antioxidants are often reducing agents such as Polyphenols.

 

Kaempferol

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One of two Flavanoids naturally found in tea

(along with Catechins), has antidepressant qualities

Research aimed at finding the active compounds in green tea revealed that its protective effects are due chiefly to catechins. Tea contains four main catechin substances: EC, ECg, EGC and EGCg, all of which are inclusively called catechin. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most powerful of these catechins. EGCG as an antioxidant is about 25-100 times more potent than vitamins C and E. One cup of green tea provides 10-40 mg of polyphenols and has antioxidant effects greater than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots, or strawberries. The high antioxidant activity of green tea makes it beneficial for protecting the body from oxidative damage due to free radicals. Research shows that green tea may help the arterial wall by reducing lipids. Green tea can protect against experimentally induced DNA damage, and slow or halt the initiation and progression of undesirable cell colonies. Studies show evidence that green tea provides immunoprotective qualities, particularly in the case of patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. White blood cell count appear to be maintained more effectively in patients consuming green tea compared to non-supplemented patients.

Greener tea is manufactured from fresh, "unripened" tea leaves; the oxidation of catechins is minimal, and hence they are able to serve as antioxidants. Researchers believe that catechin is effective because it easily sticks to proteins, blocking bacteria from adhering to cell walls and disrupting their ability to destroy them. Viruses have ‘hooks’ on their surfaces and can attach to cell walls. The catechin in green tea prevents viruses from adhering and causing harm. Catechin reacts with toxins created by harmful bacteria (many of which belong to the protein family) and harmful metals such as lead, mercury, chrome, and cadmium.

Pseudo tannins in greener tea is mostly catechin and is a key component in its taste providing the astringency. The amount of catechin tends to increase as the season progresses. Spring tea (first crop) contains 12-13% catechin (13-17% as tannin) while summer tea (third crop) contains 13-14% (17-21% as tannin). If leaf order is compared, younger leaves include more catechin than mature ones. First leaves contain 14%, second 13%, third 12%, and fourth 12%. This explains why second and third crop summer teas are more astringent while Bancha is less so. Gyokuro green tea, whose leaves are covered during growth, contains less catechin and astringency (10% as tannin) because it gets less sunshine then Sencha

 

Theanine

Theanine1a1

an amino acid commonly found in tea.

Because it can enter the brain, theanine has psychoactive properties. Theanine has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress, may produce feelings of relaxation and improves cognition and mood when taken in combination with caffeine. Theanine is speculated to produce these effects by increasing the level of gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA) production. Theanine increases brain serotonin, dopamine, GABA levels and has micro molar affinities for AMPA, Kainate and NMDA receptors. Theanine is not found in coffee.

Some amino acids are combined with proteins, producing tea leaves, while other amino acids turn into catechin. There are more significant amounts of amino acids contained in early-crop tea and are abundant in tea buds. Amino acids in tea helps to create the 4th tea element of broth (savory), the 3 other more common elements in tea being bitterness, astringence (tannins) and sweetness.

As theanine is present in tea in combination with naturally occurring caffeine, it is commonly recognized to simultaneously induce cognition and emotional stability. A calm, collected and focused disposition is inherently at the heart of tea consumption. This is perhaps why tea was so esteemed among meditative monks thousands of years ago in the Far East and why it seamlessly continues to gain popularity.

Thanine sedates and relaxes by suppressing the stimulant function of caffeine. Theanine also helps to protect nerve cells in the brain, lengthening the life of these cells.

 

Caffeine

Oxidation does not increase caffeine content, black tea is not necessarily higher in caffeine than green tea

The plant variety, not oxidation, causes black tea (typically the camellia "assamica" varietal, 3-5% caffeine) to have roughly the twice the caffeine as green tea (typically the camellia sinensis varietal, 1-3% caffeine) The younger the leaf, the more caffeine it contains. The bud and first leaf sets on the top of the tea bush or tree contain 5% caffeine in dry weight, the second leaf sets 3.5%, the upper level stems 2.5% and lower stems 1.4%.

Summer crops have a little more caffeine in them but not enough to make a significant difference. Similar to catechin and amino acid, young tea buds contain higher amounts of caffeine than mature buds. Roasted teas (processed in high temperatures) are low in caffeine content because caffeine is released as a gas from solid substances when heated. White Tea also contains less caffeine because it is less processed.

Given the amount of caffeine it contains, a cup of tea would normally be enough to produce the stimulant effects typically associated with caffeine. Because green tea also contains theanine, caffeine effects are counteracted and little if any stimulation actually occurs. The caffeine-counteraction effect of theanine is being further researched.

Health Benefits

Typically associated as a stimulant effecting central nervous system and mental alertness. Prevents sleepiness and speeds recovery from fatigue. Caffeine also enhances athletic ability and endurance. When caffeine is taken together with exercise, subcutaneous fat (paniculus adiposus) is metabolized as an energy source rather than depleting glycogen stores, leading to increased stamina. In addition, caffeine is considered a good remedy for hangovers because caffeine blocks absorption of alcohol and enhances its metabolization. Has a diuretic function (enhances urination), which encourages detoxification and the discharge of body wastes and natrium (Na) that raises blood pressure. Activates blood circulation.

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