A rapid, selective and sensitive method for the detection of caffeine in tea infusion and tea beverages are proposed by using 3,5-diaminobenzoic acid as a fluorescent probe. The 3,5-diaminobenzoic acid emits strong fluorescence around 410 nm under the excitation of light at 280 nm. Both the molecular electrostatic potential analysis and fluorescent lifetime measurement proved that the existence of caffeine can quench the fluorescence of 3,5-diaminobenzoic acid. Under the optimal experimental parameters, the 3,5-diaminobenzoic acid was used as a fluorescent probe to detect the caffeine aqueous solution. There exists a good linear relationship between the fluorescence quenching of the fluorescent probe and the concentration of caffeine in the range of 0.1–100 μM, with recovery within 96.0 to 106.2%, while the limit of detection of caffeine is 0.03 μM. This method shows a high selectivity for caffeine. The caffeine content in different tea infusions and tea beverages has been determined and compared with the results from HPLC measurement.
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