Tea is the world’s most widely consumed beverage, not coffee. Just in the US, the market last year stood at $7 Billion in sales of tea bags and bottles, including iced tea. The industry has quadrupled itself since the early 1990′s partly due to the health halo tea , and especially green tea, enjoy. Scientists discovered that tea contains antioxidants called polyphenols that may reduce risks of heart disease, cancer, and other maladies.
Unfortunately, a study presented this weekend at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed that bottled tea contains very low levels of polyphenols compared to tea brewed at home:
“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.” read more…
Just how low were the levels of polyphenols in the bottled tea products? Testing 6 different brands, a 16 ounce bottle contained on average less than 30mg, or 15mg per cup. That’s compared to a home brewed cup of tea with 50-150mg. Some bottled teas contained less than 2mg per cup.
Why such a difference? Polyphenols in tea tend to “evaporate” once the tea leaves are brewed or otherwise processed, at home as well. In addition,
“Polyphenols are bitter and astringent, but to target as many consumers as they can, manufacturers want to keep the bitterness and astringency at a minimum,” Li explained. “The simplest way is to add less tea, which makes the tea polyphenol content low, but tastes smoother and sweeter.”
Once again we see how clever marketing trumps health and nutrition.
What to do at the supermarket:
Consider any non-water drink as a treat rather than a necessary hydration vehicle. That way you won’t be expecting any health benefits and won’t need to read health claims marketing claims that dupe you into shelling out money for something that is not.
As it relates to brewed tea, it doesn’t get much easier – boil some water, pour into your favorite mug, dunk in your favorite flavored tea (Earl Grey anyone?) and enjoy. Oh, and you can add your own sugar in sane amounts.