Tea 101
What Is In Tea? – Pt. 2 Minerals, Carbohydrates, & More

What Is In Tea? – Pt. 2 Minerals, Carbohydrates, & More

Tea is a fascinating beverage. We all know & love our favorite teas for the flavor, but tea is so much more than just a tasty cuppa, it is a full on body experience!

I personally got into tea because of what was in it versus the actual flavor. Back in high school I was up early for practice & stayed after school for practice, all while trying to maintain my focus in class. I wanted a small boost of for my day but knew I wanted to avoid coffee. After talking with a few family members & looking into it myself, I found that green tea seemed to fit my desires! It not only met my energy desires, but kick started a lifelong passion!

Before jumping into the nitty gritty, it is important to note that whenever you brew a cup or pot of tea you are performing a small chemistry experiment. This means that time, temperature, type, amount, etc. all make a difference on what will ultimately be in your cup. All tea comes from the same plant. That plant is known as Camellia sinensis. This is important to note because whether you drink green, black, oolong, or white tea you will be getting the same compounds, but different quantities. Tea truly is a science!

This article will provide a general idea of what tea contains & will help layout the answers to the question, “What is in tea?”. It will discuss the commonly known constituents, while also diving deeper into the less common compounds!

This is part 2 of a 2 part series! Check out Part 1 here if you haven’t already.

Tannins

Different amounts of tannins = different colored teas!

Tannins may be a bit of a repeat if you already read through Part 1. Why? Well they are also known as & considered to be polyphenols! Tannins are the largest contributor to what is in your cuppa. The polyphenols we mostly touched on were flavonoids, but tannins are also important!

Tannins are primarily responsible for the astringency in tea. They change the color of your water, provide part of the flavor you experience, & are even responsible for the slightly dry feeling tea leaves in your mouth. They are also thought to be part of the reason tea is considered disease-busting!

The concentration of tannins in your cuppa will vary depending on a few factors. The type of tea; typically black tea is considered to have more tannins & green tea less. Also, how long you steep your tea; the longer, the more tannins.

Overall, more research needs to be done to discover the potential benefits & side-effects, but tannins are definitely present in your cuppa!

Carbohydrates

Yes there are carbs in your tea & no, if you are on a ketogenic diet you do not need to be concerned! The carbs in tea are very important to balancing the flavor. They provide the yummy sweetness that works perfectly with some of the bitter & umami flavors in tea. They are also vital to fueling the enzymatic processes discussed in Part 1!

The carbs are naturally found in the tea leaves due to the process of photosynthesis. Without them, the plant would not be able to form the polyphenol we know & love! Needless to say, these are important parts of your cuppa & form about 11% of the composition of the tea!

Minerals

We all get told to always get your daily vitamins & minerals, so why not see if tea can help out with that? Tea can contain up to 28 mineral elements! While the minerals change, it has been studied that tea, when compared to other plants, contains higher mineral concentrations of fluorine, manganese, arsenic, nickel, selenium, iodine, aluminum, and potassium.

Yes, there is arsenic present. While it has been detectable in studies, it has shown no threat to the well-being of the consumer. Fluorine is another frequently studied mineral. This mineral has many studies showing it to be great for tooth health & safe otherwise. More research is needed to be done, but results are positive.

Another mineral of question is aluminum. This heavy metal is a concern for the cognitive function of people. There have been studies showing increased aluminum concentration in patients with Alzheimer’s. All this said, is my tea safe to drink? Short answer, yes. The bioavailability of aluminum in tea is minimal. If you are concerned about your aluminum consumption, we would recommend first looking at your antiperspirant, but it is always something to be aware of!

The other higher concentrated minerals like manganese, selenium, iodine, & potassium all have greater positives than negatives! It is important to be aware of what you are getting still.

Volatiles

A volatile is a substance that easily enters the air. If you have ever cooked with garlic or rosemary, the aroma fills the kitchen almost immediately! Same thing happens in tea & this is largely why tea tastes & smells the way it does. The incredible thing is that volatiles only make up 0.01% of the weight of the dry tea leaves!

Look at those steamy volatiles!

The aroma & flavor is not always present in the tea leaves when picked, some actually form throughout the processing of the leaves. There are primary volatiles (volatiles present in the tea plant before processing) & secondary volatiles (volatiles present in the tea plant during/after processing).

Here are some of the compounds responsible for specific flavors:

  • Floral & Sweet Flavor: Linalool & Linalool Oxide
  • Floral Aroma: Geraniol & Phenylacetaldehyde
  • Fruity Flavor: Nerolidol, Benzaldehyde, Methyl Salicylate, & Phenyl Ethanol
  • Fresh Flavor: trans-2-hexenal, n-hexanal, cis-3-hexenol, & b-ionone

More research is being done to learn more about these awesome compounds & how they react with our senses.

Overview

Tea is complex beverage! There are so many compounds & minerals all acting & reacting together at once to form a deliciously perfect cup of tea! Each time you brew a cup, just think of yourself as a chemist in your very own lab!

All of these constituents have some potentially cool benefits & definitely some side effects that you should be aware of. Fresh Steeps is here to help guide & educate, should you have any health related questions it is always recommended asking a licensed physician or dietitian.

What is in tea? Well a lot! In part 1 we talked about caffeine, polyphenols, enzymes, & amino acids. We wrapped up the series here with tannins, carbs, minerals, & volatiles!

Did we answer the question, “What is in tea?”? Let us know in the comments below! Also, be on the lookout for more in depth articles on each of the constituents described above!

References:

  1. Tea Compounds
  2. Chemistry of Tea
  3. Tannins
  4. Aluminum & Tea
  5. Arsenic & Tea
  6. Tea Nutrition

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