Does the Source of Green Tea Matter?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Does the Source of the Tea Matter?

The exact amounts of the catechins and theaflavins that are present in any sample of tea, (green, black or oolong) depends on where the leaves are grown and just how the leaves are processed prior to drying. Of course, factors such as the soil the tea is grown in can influence the content of polyphenols. In addition, whether the tea is decaffeinated, blended or freeze-dried (“instant”) and the specifics of its preparation (how much tea is used per cup or glass, how long the tea is left to steep, brew or dissolve, and at what temperature) all affect the resulting beverage’s phytonutrient content. The process of decaffeination removes some of the phytonutrients along with the caffeine (an unavoidable consequence of the chemistry of decaffeination).

Brewed hot tea contains the largest amount of phytonutrients, “instant” teas have lost about 80% of their phytonutrients and “iced” and other ready-to-drink tea products contain even less. Diluting tea with milk, water or ice obviously reduces the amount of phytonutrients contained in each cup or glass. Interestingly, recent studies have found that taking tea with milk may reduce its ability to enhance blood circulation and hinder some of its antioxidant benefits. It’s also important to realize that so-called “herbal teas” really are not “teas” but are boiled decoctions of the herbs used to make them – and they contain none of the beneficial tea catechins or theaflavins, although they certainly do contain beneficial compounds present in the particular herbs.

Tea as a Dietary Supplement

Why is all this important to you? It is important for you to remember that even though drinking tea is an extremely healthy practice, hot or cold teas prepared from either loose dried leaves, powdered leaves or “bags” are less reliable sources of tea phytonutrients than are the standardized powders used in the highest-quality dietary supplements. Standardized extracts control for the level of collective and individual tea polyphenols, and research shows that in order to receive optimal benefits from tea intake, an optimal amount of polyphenols needs to be consumed on a daily basis. This could mean drinking cups and cups of tea per day. In addition, the catechins in high-quality standardized powders are absorbed about twice as readily as they are from teas.1

Of course, when it comes to drinking tea, sometimes enough can be enough! And some days you’d just rather drink something else. Not to worry – combining tea (or even replacing tea as a beverage) with a top-of-the-line dietary supplement high in catechin content is the perfect answer. Make sure to look for products that contain the multiple polyphenols present in tea as each polyphenol has unique benefits and together they create synergistic effects.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
How Do the Phytonutrients in Tea Benefit Health?

1. Henning SM, Niu Y, Lee NH, Thames GD, Minutti RR, Wang H, Go VL, Heber D. Bioavailability and antioxidant activity of tea flavanols after consumption of green tea, black tea, or a green tea extract supplement. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1558-1564.

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