Potential health benefits of tea consumption are often attributed to the antioxidant activity of polyphenols. Whether steep time, often variable in a real-life situation, makes a biological difference in terms of polyphenol content and antioxidant activity is uncertain. The study objective was to characterize eight popular and commercially available teas for total polyphenol content (TPC) and antioxidant capacity in relation to steep time. Dragonwell (DW), Sencha (S), English Breakfast (EB), Golden Monkey (GM), Green Rooibos (GR), Red Rooibos (RR), Chamomile (C), and Peppermint (P) loose leaf teas were individually steeped in water for 1–10 min at 1 min intervals. TPC increased with longer durations of steep time; however, the majority of polyphenols observed after 10 minutes were extracted in the first 5 min regardless of tea type. After 5 min of steeping, differences (p
< 0.05) in TPC were observed across teas (JS~EB~P > DW > GM~GR~RR > C). Different teas also varied in their ability to inhibit the free radical 2, 2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) when normalized for polyphenol concentration (1 µg/mL) and there was no effect due to steep time. Predicted antioxidant capacity of teas also demonstrated significant differences among teas after 5 and 10 min. In conclusion, steep time modulates TPC but not the antioxidative capacity of tea polyphenols.
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