Monday, 11 January 2010

A Little Chemistry with your Cup?

I'm not a particularly scientifically-minded person, but I was fascinated to read this simple introduction to some of the chemistry that affects the way tea tastes. I came across it thanks to a re-tweet by Nigel Melican (@teacraftecm on Twitter), who is a fount of knowledge of all things tea-related and definitely one of the go-to people for tea-myth-busting and accurate information.

Tea is a complex thing. In fact, given all the variables associated with the manufacture of different kinds of tea, it is actually many, many complex things. One thing I've learned to appreciate, especially where complex things are involved, is that it really DOES make a difference if you know WHY - even the most simplified version of why - a particular action has a given effect. For example: cold-brewing green tea over a longer period is more likely to produce a sweeter cup. Why? Because caffeine is extracted at higher temperatures, and caffeine is a bitter-tasting component of tea. Ah. Now I understand.

But reader beware: a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. According to the 'Gourmet Tea' article, spring-picked (ie. early season) leaf is lower in catechins, the potent antioxidants in tea, than summer leaves. So does this mean that white teas, made from leaves picked in the early spring, are actually not the richest tea source of antioxidants (despite being heavily marketed as such)?? Hmm. Now I'm confused...


  1. You are right about the antioxidant content of white tea often being overstated! The same is also true of green tea. It's often used as a marketing ploy...

    I wrote an article that explores this question in detail:

    Health Benefits of Tea - How These Effects Vary Among Different Types of Tea

    Tea in general is pretty healthy but you're right when you say "Tea is a complex thing". There are so many variables...and each individual tea is very different both in terms of its chemical makeup and its health effects!

  2. Thanks for your comment Alex! Will check out your article today, am most interested :) See you around on Steepster!

  3. I usually like to make my tea with almost-boiling water so it doesn't taste so bitter! And that's interesting about the anti-oxidants... hmm!

  4. Hi Joie De:

    I am Alexa, a sales assistant from VICONY TEAS CO.,LTD. I am also an
    editor of Vicony Tea Directory which is a niche tea directory created for
    people involved in tea industry.

    Recently, I found your website was so great that I added it at
    Is it ok? Kindly give us your feedback.

    I wish you could also add a link to our website at your link page.
    URL: are a chinese tea manufacturer &

    We will also be glad to send you samples if you are glad to.

    Happy 2010.

    Best Regards

    Alexa Wang

  5. Penny, it's all very confusing... but I think the best thing is just to drink what you enjoy without stressing too much ;)

    Hi Alexa - thanks for including joie de tea on your list of websites, you have a great collection there!


Thanks for taking the time to comment... I appreciate it!


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