Antioxidants and Tea: The Science of Flavor and Aroma
The next time you take a sip of tea, consider this fact: after water, the most consumed beverage in the world is tea! Some 1.4 billion cups of tea are consumed every single day by over two billion people worldwide. Tea has been used as medicine and as food since ancient times. In modern times, we know that there’s even more to tea than just drinking it – research suggests that antioxidants present in tea leaves can help reduce oxidative damage in the body, which is one of the leading causes of disease and illness.
Tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which contains a variety of flavonoids. Catechins are specific types of flavonoids found in tea that help protect the brain and liver from damage.
One study found that a particular type of catechin, EGCG, blocks a key molecule that leads to liver damage. In fact, EGCG is so powerful that it can protect against brain damage as well. Plus, tea contains more antioxidants than either green or black coffee. Now you know why tea is the world’s most consumed beverage!
The first step in making tea is to harvest the leaves. These are then dried, often through a process called panning. This removes some of the water from the leaves so that they do not rot before they can be processed. Once dried, the leaves are heated in either an oven or a stovetop grill until they turn dark green, brown or black in color. This process is called fermentation and it is what changes their chemical composition. It also releases Catechins which protect against brain and liver damage, according to one study by Dr. Bruce Ames at UC Berkeley. Next, the leaves are crushed into small pieces (or fannings) for easier brewing with boiling water.
Tea is a beverage that has been consumed for centuries in countries such as India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. There are over 1,200 variations of the tea plant found around the world. After water, the most consumed beverage in the world is tea.
In recent years there has been an increased interest in the health benefits of drinking tea. Some studies have found that drinking green or black tea may reduce risk factors for diseases like type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease and certain cancers.