Fresh Leaf Composition

Tea leaf contains all of the enzymes, metabolic intermediates, and structural elements normally associated with photosynthesis and plant growth. In addition, the tea plant contains a large quantity of substances that are responsible for its unique properties as a beverage. Chief among these are polyphenols (mostly flavonoids) and caffeine. A representative analysis of young shoots from fresh assam-ica leaf is depicted in Table 1.

Flavanols

The most striking chemical characteristic of tea flush is its very high content of flavanols. Although amounts vary, depending on all of the factors that influence plant metabolism, such as light, rainfall, temperature, nutrient availability, leaf age, and genetic makeup, a small number of flavanols alone may constitute more than 20% of the dry matter. The most important group of the tea flavanols are the catechins. These include the free catechins as well as monogallate and digallate esters and a single caffeic acid ester (12). Free catechins and the monogallate esters predominate, and their reaction products are the best known (Fig. 1).

Table 1. Composition of Tea Flush (% Dry Weight)

Flavanols

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