Green tea benefits are endless, but how does one really know if they are getting the same amount of antioxidants in the bagged tea compared to loose leaf tea? Most people just assume that loose leaf is better for you (i.e. has more antioxidants) because they aren’t getting the tea leaf stems and other such ingredients often mixed in a tea bag.
There are many things that affect a tea’s antioxidant capacity and thus health properties, such as the way it is prepared or environmental effects. Green tea can be prepared by steaming, drying, chopping before put into a package and sent to your local store. The composition of tea can also be influenced by additional factors that will also contribute to it’s downstream health benefits. These can include, the season the tea leaves were picked, the age of the leaf, climate, horticultural practices and a bit less by the effect of locality.
One study published in the Journal of Food Research International found interesting results that are worth sharing about different types of green tea. Their study looked at different extraction conditions [(1) water temperature (2) time (3) multiple extractions (i.e. if you use a tea bag more than one time) and (4) storage conditions] on the the polyphenol and methylxanthine (antioxidants and caffeine) content of tea samples. Specifically, they looked at powder (Matcha), loose leaf (Gyokuro) and bagged (Twinings of London) green teas.
Among the teas tested, bagged green tea was recognized as the richest source of phenolic antioxidant compounds (surprising!), which reached there maximum values when the water was heated to 100 degrees Celsius. Note though that this study only involved 3 different brands of green tea and had only one in each category.
The two main things to take away from this study are:
(1) Water at higher temperatures (80-100 degrees Celsius) extracted higher phenolic and flavanoid antioxidants (i.e. Bagged green tea 3585 mg/L versus. 2865 mg/L)
(2) From a “green tea and health perspective” It is not a good idea to reuse a tea bag since most of the health enhancing compounds (flavanoids) decompose.