The Tea-ing of Things



Recently I've been searching far and wide on the internet to find any research concerning putting tea in food or other beverages besides "tea" (camellia sinensis leaves steeped in water). This turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Tea has been hailed for its health benefits and medicinal value, usually misguided or over-hyped. I thought I'd share what I've found on the subject and hopefully receive some comments on what I missed.

Tea is usually added as an ingredient to food or non-tea drinks in the form of either powdered green tea or matcha powder. It's important to draw a distinction between the these two. Powdered green tea can really be any style of leaf of any origin that has been processed in the green tea method. Matcha on the other hand, is a Japanese tea whose quality ranges from low to high, but in general it retains much of its health benefits (in the form of flavoids/catechins which provide antioxidants like EGCG) due to being processed in the shade. Powdered tea that is added to food or non-tea beverages that is matcha, not "green tea", would indicate a higher quality additive.

This information encouraged my next questions: does the ingestion of matcha provide the same if not more catechins, antioxidants, caffeine, and theanine than steeping it? Does adding a scoop of matcha powder to your Smoothie King smoothie really provide you with as much caffeine and theanine as brewing it?

The answer to this question is usually the citing of a 2003 University of Colorado study, which claims that "the concentration of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) available from drinking matcha is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from China Green Tips green tea, and at least three times higher than the largest literature value for other green teas."

After reading that I had several problems with the study, though I could not find a free version of the entire study to read it. It compared a Japanese style tea to "China Green Tips" which are not comparable styles. Secondly, according to this great post that also questions the study, they are not steeping the leaves multiple times. Finally, was the "China Green Tips" used whole leaf or were they dust, like you would find in tea bags? The Amazing Green Tea blog post also noted that the fibrous leaves also filter out contaminants such as chemicals and heavy metals from the steeped tea, which would be lost if ingested.

I would really like to read more information on the subject, and it remains a major interest of mine as the "tea-ing" of foods and beverages increases. In fact, I just picked up some sports drink powder that includes matcha in it (pictured) even though the lemon taste overpowers it.

Ending on a fun note, there has been recent buzz about adding tea to beer, like the Stone Brewery IPA in the photo. Other breweries are also experimenting with tea and chai, like Dogfish Head’s Sah’Tea and Goose Island’s Sai-shan-tea beer.