What are the chemical components of pu-erh tea? Are these each individual ingredients we add to the tea?  Why do we care? The chemical compounds or constituents are the inherent properties of the tea that can be determined when the leaves are liquefied. The active components in tea are much the same as in blueberries, which have pigments in the skin to make it dark and those pigments act as anti-oxidants. Today we’ll explore a little more of that relationship in regards to pu-erh tea.

While the chemical constituents of pu’er tea may seem too technical for this type of blog (and it is), I think its helpful to name some of the more recognizable ones.  With everyone from Bryce Wylde on Dr. Oz to “Dr. Tea” to Tim Ferriss are talking about the active components of tea, recognizing the names of the important ones makes these discussions easier to understand.  It also shows from where come the conclusions and claims about all the benefits of tea.

Multiple studies into the constituents of pu’er tea suggest it contains as many as “twenty phenolic compounds and caffeine.”  Phenols are a specific type of chemical compounds, with the most well-known being polyphenols. Polyphenols are often associated with (red) wine and are actually very similar to those found in tea; in both drinks phenols may affect taste, color, and tannins.

Pu-erh’s chemical compounds are:

epicatechin (EC),
epigallocatechin (EGC),
epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG),
epicatechin gallate (ECG),
epifzelechin gallate,
gallocatechin (GC).
chlorogenic acid,
gallic acid.

Click to read about EGCG / EGC, etc listed at the top.  For the lower half, Wikipedia is an excellent source for understanding what each of these is and what they do.  So let me highlight a few:

(Flavonol: a type of flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables (not to be confused with flavanol).

  • Quercetin: a flavonol thought to reduce allergic response, boost immunity, act as an anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant.
  • Rutin: a flavonoid with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Kaempferol:  a flavonoid which is thought to increase bile secretions, which in turn aids digestion in the stomach and small intestine.
  • Strictinin: a polyphenol that research show to be anti-oxidant and anti-viral.
  • Theogallin: a polyphenol; research in rats shows it may enhance cognition.
  • Chlorogenic acid: an anti-oxidant which slows the release of glucose (sugar) into the blood after a meal, meaning a slower rise in blood sugar and thus insulin.
  • Myricetin: a flavonoid that affects LDL cholesterol; a Finnish study correlated high consumption of myricetin with lowered rates of prostrate cancer and a another study indicated that myricetin in combination with quercetin and kaempferol reduced risk of pancreatic cancer by 23%.
  • Gallic acid: a phenolic acid. Quoting from Wikipedia, “Gallic acid seems to have anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Gallic acid acts as an antioxidant and helps to protect human cells against oxidative damage. Gallic acid was found to show cytotoxicity against cancer cells, without harming healthy cells. Gallic acid is used as a remote astringent in cases of internal haemorrhage. Gallic acid is also used to treat albuminuria and diabetes.”

Sources: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J. Agric. Food ChemActa Botanica Yunnanica, and big thanks to Scholar.Google.com.