It Could Take 20 Bottles Of Tea To Get Health Benefits Of 1 Home-Brewed Cup

Bottled tea has seen a substantial increase in recent years as more people turn to it as a purportedly healthier alternative to sodas and energy drinks, but a new study claims that if you’re really out to get the health benefits of tea-drinking, you’d be better off brewing it yourself.

According to the study released by the American Chemical Society, bottled tea contains significantly lower levels of polyphenols, the antioxidants in green or black tea, than you’ll find in fresh-brewed tea. In some cases, you would need to consume 20 bottles of the tea to equal the antioxidants in just one cup brewed at home.

Explains one labcoat-wearing type:

Consumers understand very well the concept of the health benefits from drinking tea or consuming other tea products… However, there is a huge gap between the perception that tea consumption is healthy and the actual amount of the healthful nutrients — polyphenols — found in bottled tea beverages. Our analysis of tea beverages found that the polyphenol content is extremely low…

Someone would have to drink bottle after bottle of these teas in some cases to receive health benefits. I was surprised at the low polyphenol content. I didn’t expect it to be at such a low level.

Of the six bottled brands tested, half contained “virtually no” antioxidants.

The researchers theorize that one of the reasons for the lower level of polyphenols in bottled teas is, well… a matter of taste:

Polyphenols are bitter and astringent, but to target as many consumers as they can, manufacturers want to keep the bitterness and astringency at a minimum… The simplest way is to add less tea, which makes the tea polyphenol content low, but tastes smoother and sweeter.

Do these findings change the way you look at bottled tea?

Bottled tea beverages may contain fewer polyphenols than brewed tea []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Not to mention, a lot of the bottled teas are sweetened with HFCS and contain tea flavor, rather than 100% real tea.

    • kc2idf says:


      I brew my own iced tea throughout the course of the workday. I brew it .5L at a time, and that .5L has about 45-50 calories in it, from cane sugar, not HFCS.

      By comparison, a bottle of Snapple or AriZona will be about 740mL (a little more) and have 200+ calories (a LOT more), and it’s HFCS at that.

      It also provides me with a little ritual to break up my workday.

  2. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    I wonder if this applies to the Japanese stuff I drink at work (Itoen). The stuff is goooood.

    • lain1k says:

      Ito En is the shit, their American versions do taste lighter (watered down?).

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Huh… 伊藤園 in English is Ito En? I’ll be damned. I had always just read the kanji and romanized it as one word. Stupid non-standardized Romanization!

        Anyway, yeah, it’s awesome. The stuff I have at work is Teas’ Tea, and it’s pretty close to what I had in Japan– if not the same. I just don’t get my damn mugicha. We misses it, Precious, oh yes we does.

    • Tevokkia says:

      Ito En is the only bottled tea I’ll drink … it tastes like tea, not like sugar. Since it does have the tendency to be a bit astringent, I would bet that it has more of the good stuff in it than most others.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    This reminds me of those old cereal commercials.

    “You’d have to consumer 20 bowls of Froot Loops to get the fiber content of just one bowl of Fiber One”
    *cue man carrying 20 bowels of Froot Loops

    Of coure, it also reminds me of SNL’s parody commercial for Colon Blow…

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Oh god, please ignore the mis-typing of “bowels” instead of bowls. That’s quite the interesting visual image.

      • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

        actually, it’s kind of hard to picture 20 bowels of Froot Loops.
        Giant colons like the one from P&T: BS ? ?

  4. denros says:

    Not really. I always looked at bottled tea the same way as I did soda – something sweet to quench the thirst. If I want the real deal, antioxidants and all, I’ll stir up some matcha with a little lemon and stevia.

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Also, sweet tea can’t possibly count as real tea because all of the sugar completely wipes out any benefits you get from it being brewed. I love sweet tea but I know there’s no way it is actually good for you.

    • trey says:

      so what you are saying is that by containing sugar it can in no way have nutritional benefit? is that what you are really saying?.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Have you ever had sweet tea? The tea just happens to be the method by which sugar is delivered to the body.

        • zandar says:

          I can vouch for this- I never get sweet tea but remember the sweet tea my grandparents made. I got some completely by accident via the McD’s drive through and I’m pretty sure it was every bit as sweet as a soda, and nothing at all like my grandparent’s much more modestly sweetened tea.

          • Saltpork says:

            I make iced sweet tea at home. I grew up with it and know how to make a good batch of it.
            Part of the reason that commerical sweet teas taste like a sugar bomb with tea-flavored water is due to how real sugar breaks down in hot water. The other reason is that people like things psychotically sweet.

            If you had true southern parents like myself they made a simple syrup out of the water & sugar before adding the tea.
            Simple syrup is sweeter than the sugar it’s derived from. Due to this(turning 1 sugar into 2), the amount of sweetening agent you need is lessened compared to corn syrups and provides a little more complexity in your sweet taste.

            Good sweet tea is a little sweet, a little bitter, and a damn fine drink to have on a hot summer day. The stuff you get in public is largely junk.

        • trey says:

          you obviously know nothing about properly brewed sweet tea and you have proven it by stating “The tea just happens to be the method by which sugar is delivered to the body.”

      • Michaela says:

        lol. I was thinking the same thing!

        Yes, too much sugar in your diet isn’t wise, but putting sugar in your tea doesn’t magically make all the good stuff in tea disappear. It just means you pumped up the sugar (and calorie) content.

      • Dory says:

        No, they’re saying that heavily-sweetened teas are often just as bad as the “unhealthy” sodas it’s trying to displace.

    • dizzy says:

      I’m in the deep south and I’m currently breaking my sweet tea habits, for the sake of diet. It’s been the one thing I stuck with despite cutting out everything else. I’m down to 3/4 cup of sugar per gallon, down from what was about 2.5 cups. By the third or fourth day in the fridge, it truly tasted like syrup. (But then again, it rarely lasted 3 days in the fridge, because it’s all I ever drink.)

  6. Zegridathes says:

    I can see how they are an attractive/healthier(-ish?) alternative to pop.

    Some antioxidants are better than none, right?

  7. trey says:

    if you like tea in a bottle you obviously dont know how tea is supposed to taste. i find it to be very bitter or way too sweet. who do they make these flavors for?

    • jessjj347 says:

      Lipton iced tea in a bottle is the worst tasting of all…
      And Brisk resembles tea in no way.

      • trey says:

        you should see it here in Florida… most places serve Nestea. Man is that the worst tasting liquid i have ever had.

    • zandar says:

      there are some unsweetened teas in a bottle that I rather like. But you’re right, they aren’t directly comparable to manually brewed tea. They are a thing totally separate from the superior stuff you can make yourself.

      A friend of mine extols bottled tea because it’s so easy to oversteep tea to the point of bitterness. If you follow the directions on a package of Lipton’s verbatim, I can see how you might have that problem. 5 minutes in water right off the boil? Whoa.

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        Right. A friend of mine got “Cold-brew” iced tea, complained that it was disgusting, and I told her that was the problem right there. For a good cup of tea, you cannot take shortcuts with the brewing.

        And even then, how hard is it to wait for some water to boil? Brewing tea might not be as fast as grabbing a bottle from the freezer, but it is easy to prepare and cool in advance.

  8. OnePumpChump says:

    But it takes 20 cups of home-brewed tea to give you 1 bottle worth of sugar.

  9. Jeff_Number_3 says:

    I make my own tea at home……..


  10. BuyerOfGoods3 says:

    My fiance’s boss tried to make Sun Tea outside of his office one day – and some crazy Russian lady thought it was a bomb.

    She freaked out.

    I am not EVEN kidding.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I probably shouldn’t laugh…but that was really, really funny.

    • Conformist138 says:

      Best “bomb” I’ve ever seen while working security:

      A huge copy of a physicians reference book (very large hardcover) with a USB-to-cell phone cable suck in the cover. The other end of the USB cable was shoved between the glass doors of a cafe (so the cable going to nowhere was easy to see). Some guy freaked out and wouldn’t go near it. It wasn’t hidden or anything, it was quite clearly a simple cable and a book sitting on the ground.

  11. AT203 says:

    I’d like to see what the 6 brands that they tested were. No-one would be shocked to learn that Snapple, Lipton, et al are total crap. I’d be more surprised to find that the artisinal brands (Ito En, Honest Tea, etc.) suffer from the defects found in this study.

    • jessjj347 says:

      I think the most interesting part of this article is the comment that most consumers don’t realize there are little health benefits in products like bottled-iced tea that claim to have them. I can absolutely believe that people think these things are healthy…or at least healthier than soda..

      Also, what about bubble tea ? :)

  12. jessjj347 says:

    I think the most interesting part of this article is the comment that most consumers don’t realize there are little health benefits in products like bottled-iced tea that claim to have them. I can absolutely believe that people think these things are healthy…or at least healthier than soda..

    Also, what about bubble tea ? :)

    • qwickone says:

      mmmm, bubble tea

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Most of the bubble tea I encounter at places which prepare and serve it has little resemblance to tea. It is more, tapioca in the bottom of a fruit and ice smoothie, or a fruit milkshake.

      I sometimes make bubble tea to take to work. In that, when I brew hot tea, I add a few half-cooked tapioca pearls; at the end of the day I open the lid and scoop out the bubbles, which have soaked up all of the tea-ey goodness. :D

  13. crazydavythe1st says:

    Da*n Yankee tea – I’d probably drink tons of bottled tea if they didn’t drown the bottles with disgusting amounts of lemon. I’ve even bought “unsweeted tea” and yet it still has the lemon sh*t in it. I love lemon, but it doesn’t belong in cold tea.

    Around these here parts, there’s two legit types of iced tea: completely unsweet or the supersaturated solution of sugar and tea in which sugar is dumped into tea that is heated as hot as humanly possible (which is later cooled). The idea is that you either have no sweetness at all (and you can dump whatever you want into the tea), or you have the socially acceptable version of simple syrup that you can down in massive 44 oz cups when it is 110 degrees outside. Tea as a health drink is sort of a foreign concept. Here it’s considered along the same lines as soda in terms of sweetness and nutrition.

    Heck, most restaurants here even ask if you want sweet or unsweet tea so you don’t have to try and get the 12 packets of sugar into your drink without it settling on the bottom. I can’t tell you how much I missed that when I was on vacation. Yes, they offer lemon on the side, but you never see it jammed into the drink like you do with bottled tea.

    Slightly more on subject, I don’t see how this isn’t obvious once pointed out. The first ingredient on many of those bottled teas is water, then instant tea. I would hope that someone grabbing a container of Crystal Light “green tea” for instance wouldn’t think that they would actually be getting the benefits of fresh brewed green tea.

    • dizzy says:

      I despise lemon in tea and it’s the main reason that I will always make my own at home and never by bottled. I searched endlessly for those little singles packets of some kind of tea that wasn’t flavored, and there were none anywhere.

      I can admit to being raised on the super sweet sugar kind, but now when I’m out and I want tea I ask for half sweet, half unsweet. I’m always surprised at how well people at fast food restaurants react to that. Clearly, a lot of people do it. I’ve ever had some agree with me – ‘yeah, our tea is WAY too sweet.’

      • crazydavythe1st says:

        In my opinion, instant tea is disgusting. So my theory is that they have to put flavoring in the single serving packets to mask the really poor taste of the tea.

  14. Blow a fuse? I can fix that... says:

    All bottled teas I’ve ever encountered are sweetened, so you don’t actually taste the tea, which defeats the purpose of drinking tea in the first place.

    I make a batch or two of unsweetened ice tea per week, perfect thirst quencher, and completely guilt-free. At least until they announce that tea causes cancer or something….

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      I think almost every study done pretty much ever has lauded tea for it’s high level of antioxidants that prevent damage from cell damage from free radicals. Fresh brewed tea is probably one of the top “anti-cancer” drinks, if you will.

      • Willnet says:

        Doesn’t it have a lot of caffeine, more than coffee even?

        • crazydavythe1st says:

          I had to look it up, but tea has about half the caffeine, if you’re comparing fresh brewed to fresh brewed. Caffeine actually reduces the risk of some forms of cancer, while possibly boosting others.

          • RvLeshrac says:

            I’d like to note, for the record, that a single brewed cup of Early Grey has more caffeine than most bottled, caffeinated soft drinks.

  15. Hungry Dog says:

    When I was in Korea I noticed that many people would have tea bags in their water bottles. I always presumed it was much better than the premixed junk.

  16. grumpskeez says:

    Teas Tea and Unsweetened Honest Teas for the win!

  17. golddog says:

    Thanks ACS “Chemistry For Life” for telling us who under-polyphenoled brands are. Very helpful.

  18. matukonyc says:

    It makes sense that nutrients would be compromised in the bottling process of any tea, whether “artisanal” or not….

  19. CoolTri says:

    LIPTON Diet Green Tea, when it 1st came out, was made with Honey, then they changed to aspritin or what ever its called. used to even warm it up when the throat was sore, never tasted the same after that. now if i have to buy tea in the bottle its just TeJava

    • webweazel says:

      “used to even warm it up when the throat was sore”

      For a sore throat during a cold or flu, try this tea. It’s my great-grandma’s recipe, and it works very well.
      Make a LARGE mug of very HOT tea, regular teabag tea, like Lipton. Steep for 5 minutes. Remove bag. Add tablespoons of honey until it is quite sweet. (Stir and taste often!) Add teaspoons of lemon juice until a “magic” balance of sweet & sour is achieved. (You’ll know by taste.) Add one (to one and a half) tablespoon of Southern Comfort or Jack Daniels. Curl up in the blankets, breathe in the steam, and sip slowly. (Reheat in the microwave as needed.)

  20. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I prefer homemade tea, with sugar of course. When I was a kid, I drank Nestea. Now the thought of that just makes me shudder.

  21. smo0 says:

    I get the unsweetened lipton pure leaf tea… but yeah I try to brew my own at home.

    • finbar says:

      I like the Tejava’s unsweetened tea a little better, but the best stuff is something you brew yourself then poor over ice.

  22. Willnet says:

    Is it just me or does tea taste 10x better than coffee?

  23. JulesNoctambule says:

    Nothing’s better than a massive cup of Tetley British Blend to me. I like to leave the bag in my cup even though I’ve been told by friends that the results could, in their opinions, strip paint off a wall. Delicious!

  24. madtube says:

    I have brewing my own tea for years. Most of it is black tea in the mornings with regular tea bags. I know your Bigelow, Tetley, or Lipton is not as nutritious as most, but it is loads more than the bottled stuff. The other teas I brew are roobios, green, and herbal teas loose leaf blends. Now, that stuff tastes better and is far healthier than anything you get at a 7-11.

  25. erratapage says:

    I never considered antioxidants in my tea consumption. I just look at the ridiculous price and the ecological consequences of disposal of the bottles.

  26. pc95 says:

    Harney and Sons is the best stuff out there – but a bit pricey but worth the excess:

  27. jenl1625 says:

    So, if I’m understanding this correctly, manufacturers know that people will pick up and buy bottled tea because of the expected health benefits. In order to make it taste good enough for the consumer to buy another bottle, the manufacturers add so much sweetener and so little tea that it essentially isn’t tea, and has little to none of the expected health benefits that are the reason for picking up a bottle labeled “tea”. And yet labeling the bottle “tea” isn’t considered false advertising?

    (I personally don’t have a dog in this race, because I dislike tea enough that I would never pick up a bottle of it. But it seems ridiculous.)

  28. MrEvil says:

    I never could acquire the taste for coffee. However, I find myself getting grumpy without my morning cup of warm tea.

  29. Pandrogas says:

    I tried drinking lots of bottled tea once. I stopped after the kidney stone(s).