About 20 years ago tea was rediscovered in many western countries. Every new tea blend was associated with certain health benefits. However, only recently has tea started getting much-deserved attention from science. Among all the compounds found in green tea, EGCG is considered the most important one. Learn how to choose tea with the most EGCG.
What is EGCG?
Catechins EGCG or Epigallocatechin gallate is a type of catechin most abundantly found in tea. Very small amounts can be found in apples, avocados, blackberries, cranberries, plums, onions, pecan nuts, hazelnuts and a few other fruits and vegetables. EGCG is known to have cytotoxic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making green tea a good natural option for increasing the quality of life. However, not all tea types have high levels of EGCG.
Tea with the most EGCG
It’s impossible to know the exact amount of EGCG in each tea. FDA doesn’t require testing EGCG levels and any label stating the amount of EGCG is likely to be false. However, we can guess the average amount of EGCG in each tea type based on numerous factors such as growing and processing conditions, harvest time and the type of leaf used for making tea. One research found that catechin levels range from “1,600 to 20,320 mg/100 g dried leaves.” This is a very wide range, showing that not all teas are the same, and won’t provide the same benefits.
Green tea generally has the highest amounts of EGCG, while oolong and black tea have significantly less because they are either partially or fully oxidized. Teas made from Camellia sinensis var. Sinesis have higher EGCG content than teas made from assamica tea plant. Both popular Chinese and Japanese green teas are usually made from sinensis tea plant. Assamica is popular in India, Vietnam and Chinese Yunnan.
Some shaded green teas tend to have more catechins than unshaded teas. A reason could be in the use of nitrogen as a fertilizer to promote the growth of plants that are not getting enough energy from the sun. Gyokuro, matcha, and kabusecha are all shade-grown teas.
One study showed that teas from Chinese Zhejiang tend to have more catechins than teas from other regions. Zhejiang has a perfect terroir for growing Camellia sinensis and, therefore, making teas with potentially more benefits than some other regions. Furthermore, steamed teas may have more catechins than pan-fired teas. Japanese steamed teas are often considered higher in catechins than Chinese teas. China produces steamed teas too, and a perfect example is Enshi Yulu, a tea originating in Hubei, with a very different flavor as a result of a steaming process.
Teas from the second harvest usually have more catechins than first spring teas. Although the first spring teas are often regarded as the best harvest, this is due to light and sweet flavor, with little bitterness. Mature leaves from the lower part of plants will have the least EGCG, while the first, second and third leaf next to the bud will have a much higher content .
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What surprises is that the teas with the most EGCG are usually not the most expensive ones. Traditionally, tea was respected for flavor, aroma, appearance and chi, tea energy, not for the content of catechins, making the healthiest teas very affordable.
Supplements often offer a huge dose of EGCG in only one pill. However, supplements do not always contain the level of EGCG listed on the label. This could be extremely dangerous if the level of actual EGCG exceeds the daily recommendation. Long-term use of supplements with high EGCG amount may cause serious liver problems. Studies have shown that there is „no evidence of hepatotoxicity below 800 mg EGCG/day up to 12 months”, but supplements with less EGCG might still cause liver problems due to other substances. Today, 500mg of EGCG per day is considered a safe amount for adults.
How to extract the most EGCG
It’s important to know that catechins are bitter, and this is one of the reasons why some of the green teas will have more bitterness than the others. Some teas are better brewed with 70 degrees Celsius. Gyokuro, for example, requires 50 degrees or it will become very bitter. However, very little EGCG is extracted at that temperature. One study suggested that it’s possible to extract different types of catechins from the same leaves using two infusions – first at 50 degrees for 10 minutes, and the second at 90 degrees for 10 minutes to extract the majority of EGCG.
However, this is rarely the case when brewing tea at home. To get the most pleasant brew, the best would be to brew your green tea at 70 degrees Celsius for 1-2 minutes, then use a bit hotter water and longer steeping times for subsequent infusions. Alternatively, you could brew leaves only once for 5-10 minutes. In fact, if you do not plan to brew tea for over an hour, a higher temperature will not significantly increase the total amount of extracted catechins. Cold brewing is not an option if you are looking for high EGCG content.. Using more tea leaves will give you more EGCG, while blends with fruits, flowers, and spices will have less EGCG per 1 gram of tea.
To benefit from EGCG in green tea, it’s advisable to drink at least 3 cups of tea per day. Keep away from ready to drink teas as they are known to have very little nutrients if any. And most importantly, enjoy the tea you are drinking.