Is bottled tea healthy?

You can’t turn the aisle in the supermarket these days without running headlong into an endcap stocked with bottles of RTD (ready-to-drink) green tea. 

Bottled tea is a $2.2 billion consumer market. The popularity of these beverages continues to skyrocket and people literally stop me on the street to ask if they are really getting the health benefits they want.

The short answer is: possibly, but you would benefit more – and save money – by making your own ready-to-drink tea at home using fresh loose leaf green tea.

A recent study by WellGen, Inc., a biotechnology company in North Brunswick, NJ, helps put the perceived health benefits into data we can understand. Shiming Li, a WelGen analytical and natural product chemist tested 49 commercial samples and was invited to report the findings at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Boston.

Li’s team compared the level of polyphenols in RTD teas purchased from supermarkets.

“Half of them contained virtually no antioxidants,” he reported while others had low amounts of polyphenols, the researchers found using a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

They examined six brands of bottled teas that contained 81, 43, 40, 13, 4, and 3 milligrams of polyphenols per 16-ounce bottle.

In contrast, Elmwood Inn Fine Teas co-sponsored a 2009 laboratory study that showed a single cup of home-brewed tea, which costs only a few cents, contains 100-150 mg. of the powerful catechin EGCG.

Li also pointed out that apart from containing small amounts of polyphenols, bottled tea contains large amounts of sugar that should be avoided.

The simple solution is to make your own healthy cold tea beverages in your kitchen and bottle it in a reusable container. It’s easy, inexpensive, and you’ll save the environment from another six pack of empty plastic bottles.

Remember this healthy tip: Citric acid extends the viability of the powerful antioxidant EGCG as it passes through your digestive system. So add a bit of lemon or orange juice to your green tea drink.

Cold-steeping green tea with a cold-steep pitcher is one of the most popular ways to make easy-to-drink teas at a low cost per serving.

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