Every conversation around tea almost always boils down to a blasé discussion around the health benefits associated with it. And when the tea in question is a certain green tea, you can bet your bottom dollar that there’ll be eloquent but equally dizzying mentions of green tea antioxidants, words like catechins and polyphenols, and how all of this helps you lose weight, rid your body of toxins, and makes your skin as bright as a sunny spring day.
The fact is that no drink is more synonymous with good health as green tea. And while there are a significant number of studies linking green tea consumption to good health, most have failed to empirically establish causality. Possibly because there are so many variables to factor in, from the age of the leaf, and quality of the beverage, to consumption patterns and individual lifestyle design, it’s been a challenge for the scientific community to conduct controlled trials with green tea.
But keeping aside the lack of empirical proof of causality, most studies have competently and reliably identified the source of perceived benefits of green tea. Meta-analyse these studies together, and you get a clear picture of the chemical compounds that make a green tea and the health benefitting properties of each. And what becomes clear is not that the benefits are all there, but that the potential of it definitely exists.
What’s in a green tea
Green tea composition is very similar to that of the fresh leaf except for a few enzymatically catalysed chemical changes which occur immediately after the leaves have been plucked. A group of polyphenols called ‘catechins’ stand out among the many bioactive components in a green tea, the most abundant being the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epigallocatechin (EGC), both of which have high antioxidant properties.
These compounds make about 50% of the entire green tea’s chemical composition. Two more catechins that comprise green tea are epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epicatechin (EC).
In addition to these four catechins, green tea contains the amino acid ‘theanine’, a compound responsible for the broth-like, umami quality that’s commonly experienced in steamed green teas. Trace amounts of proteins, fibre, lipids, and minerals are also found in green teas.
Composition of a typical green tea
- Polyphenolic compounds/Catechins
- epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG),
- epigallocatechin (EGC)
- epicatechin gallate (ECG), and
- epicatechin (EC)
- gallic acid (GA)
- Amino acids
- Vitamin C, Minerals such as Zinc and Manganese, and phytochemicals
Antioxidant properties of green tea
Catechins are what give a tea its antioxidant properties and seemingly enough it is easy to assume that the more abundantly present these compounds, the more the antioxidant properties of the tea.
Green tea has been touted as the most potent source of antioxidants because of all the types of teas available to us, green tea has the most catechin content, often as high a 100mg/g of tea. To put things in perspective, a regular black tea has around 30-65mg/g flavanol content while a decaf version may contain no more than 5mg of catechins per gram of tea.
However, mere availability of these compounds does not guarantee positive outcomes. The fact is that these compounds are metabolized differently by different consumers. Factors such as the lifestyle, food patterns, choice of tea, quality of the leaf, and even the brewing techniques heavily impact how effectively these compounds are broken down and absorbed by the body.
Is drinking green tea still worth it?
Absolutely. And not just for the potential benefits of the green tea antioxidants. While the many elaborate notions around green tea’s health benefits may give someone the reason to choose it, there are plenty more ‘real’ reasons to try a cuppa, like its distinctive taste or the many varieties of it produced all over world.
Don’t let the talk of antioxidants distract you from seeking the pleasures of a good cup of green tea, which is possibly more observable and appreciable than such notions.
And to get started, we recommend choosing orthodox leaf green teas, like the Halmari Gold Green Tea. Leafy green teas tend to have better liquoring properties and produce a flavourful cup, tipped with great taste and all the goodness one expects from a green tea.