As a natural and healthy beverage, tea is widely enjoyed; however, the pesticide residues in tea leaves affect the quality and food safety. To develop a highly selective and efficient method for the facile removal of pesticide residues, the subcritical butane extraction (SBE) technique was employed, and three variables involving temperature, time and extraction cycles were studied. The optimum SBE conditions were found to be as follows: extraction temperature 45 °C, extraction time 30 min, number of extraction cycles 1, and in such a condition that the extraction efficiency reached as high as 92%. Further, the catechins, theanine, caffeine and aroma components, which determine the quality of the tea, fluctuated after SBE treatment. Compared with the uncrushed leaves, pesticide residues can more easily be removed from crushed leaves, and the practical extraction efficiency was 97%. These results indicate that SBE is a useful method to efficiently remove the bifenthrin, and as appearance is not relevant in the production process, tea leaves should first be crushed and then extracted in order that residual pesticides are thoroughly removed.
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