Many people start drinking tea for the health benefits provided by antioxidants from the Camellia sinensis plant. Study after study has proven the positive effects of regular tea consumption, and makers of mass produced teas are eager to market this selling point. Unfortunately, not all teas are created equal, and marketers often take advantage of tea’s healthy reputation to sell sub-par products. Bottled iced teas, popular for their grab-and-go convenience, are some of the worst offenders, with research showing that they rarely live up to the health hype.
Despite heavy promotion of their antioxidant content, most bottled teas have only a small fraction of the antioxidants in a freshly brewed cup. By some research estimates, it can take as many as 20 bottles (each containing 16 ounces of tea) to equal the level of antioxidants found in a single cup of freshly brewed tea.
This is primarily because the antioxidants in tea, called polyphenols, begin to degrade after the tea is brewed. While some tested examples of bottled teas contain moderate levels of antioxidants, it’s safe to say that the longer it’s been sitting on the shelf, the fewer polyphenols it has. Additionally, some polyphenol compounds can contribute to bitter flavors in the brewed tea, leading manufacturers to water down the brew or add artificial flavorings to achieve a flavor with broader appeal.
In addition to flavorings, most ready-to-drink teas are filled with added sugars, or even worse, artificial sweeteners. Bottled teas, brewed and packaged en masse by large tea corporations, are made with large, blended batches of mass-produced tea in order to produce consistent flavor and keep costs low. These low grade teas, usually picked during the most productive months of the summer, have fewer complex flavor compounds due to their rapid growth. They also produce more bitter compounds as a natural defense against rising pest populations during the summer months. To make these teas palatable to the largest market, most bottled versions have plenty of added sugar, often even exceeding the levels found in soda.
In contrast, a cold brew of any good loose leaf tea will be naturally sweet and contain zero calories or chemicals. Leave a pitcher to brew overnight in the fridge and fill a water bottle in the morning for a healthier and better tasting alternative to commercial bottles.
Advantages to Brewing Your Own Tea
It’s clear that bottled teas aren’t the healthy option they often claim to be, but there are even more reasons to ditch the bottle and brew your own tea:
- The price of packaging means you’re getting lower grade tea. Buy your leaves loose and brew them multiple times to spend less and enjoy more flavor (with less sugar).
- The mass-produced teas used to brew these bottled beverages are typically grown with the help of pesticides and fertilizers, and a pre-brewed beverage offers no opportunity to inspect the quality of the tea. Find a vendor you trust and ask about origin to buy naturally grown leaves.
- Disposable bottles take energy to produce and recycle, and negatively impact the environment. Just one of our cold brew tea bags will brew 2 liters of tea, enough to fill more than four pint-sized plastic bottles.
In the end, the convenience of bottled teas sacrifices not only health benefits, but also flavor, quality, the environment, and your hard-earned cash. Do you think they’re worth it? Let us know in the comments below!
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