How Healthy is Instant Green Tea? (with pictures)

Jennifer Voight
Jennifer Voight
A freshly brewed cup of green tea offers more health benefits than instant tea.
A freshly brewed cup of green tea offers more health benefits than instant tea.

The healthiest way to consume green tea is by drinking a freshly brewed cup of loose leaf green tea. Instant green tea manufacturers may claim to contain more antioxidants than freshly brewed tea, but the reality is that they nearly always contain significantly less antioxidants than the label claims. Another consideration is that unhealthy additives, like sugar and chemicals to enhance flavor and increase shelf life, may be lurking in instant versions of green tea.

Research shows that green tea made from loose leaves and teabags has the highest levels of catechins, a potent antioxidant.
Research shows that green tea made from loose leaves and teabags has the highest levels of catechins, a potent antioxidant.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) analyzed several commercial products for catechin content, the antioxidants responsible for green tea’s health benefits. They analyzed instant, decaffeinated, flavored, teabag, and loose leaf green teas. Loose leaf and teabag green tea brews had the highest total catechins, at 127 mg. Freshly brewed green tea also contained 77 mg of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most powerful of the catechins in green tea. Freshly brewed tea has far more of these flavenoids than any other food or beverage, including vegetables and fruits.

Instant green tea can be mixed with ice water to make iced green tea.
Instant green tea can be mixed with ice water to make iced green tea.

Decaffeinated green tea contained only about 56 mg total catechins and 26 mg EGCG. Flavored tea contained 43 mg catechins and 20 mg EGCG. Instant or ready-to-drink green tea contained only 12 mg catechins and 4 mg EGCG. While these results may seem dismal, instant green tea drinkers are still getting many more flavenoids than they might in other commercial beverage choices like soda.

Instant green tea drinkers get more flavenoids than other commercial beverages like soda.
Instant green tea drinkers get more flavenoids than other commercial beverages like soda.

Frequently, instant green tea labels inflate actual levels of flavenoids in the beverage. A study measured levels of catechins in green tea products that were either instant beverages or tea bags. The researchers compared actual catechin levels to label claims and found that products contained from 9 percent to 48 percent of label claims.

Instant green tea beverage manufacturers sometimes make health claims that may be misleading to consumers. In September 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned two manufacturers about inappropriate label claims regarding antioxidant content and cholesterol-lowering claims. According to the FDA, instant versions of green tea beverages are classified as a snack food and cannot make such nutritional and medical claims.

Labeling aside, consumers can make the best choices about which type of green tea to choose by knowing the facts and weighing the benefits against personal preferences. Part of the appeal of instant beverages is the convenience of having a beverage already prepared. Instant green tea can be a healthier choice than many other beverages. Yet it pales in comparison to freshly brewed tea. However, if someone is unable to tolerate brewed green tea, instant can be a healthy alternative as long as a brand is chosen without sweeteners and chemical additives.

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Discussion Comments

irontoenail

@croydon - Yeah, it's probably best for everyone to pick their tea leaves fresh from a bush grown in the mountain air and aged to just the right moment for maximum anti-oxidants but worrying about all that kind of thing seems like a waste of time.

I say, try to be as healthy and happy as you can be without compromising either one. Personally, I'm addicted to peach flavored green tea which probably isn't the most healthy thing I could be drinking, but I wouldn't bother to drink it all the time if I didn't like it. So other, perhaps healthier, teas are't going to cut it for me.

croydon

@pleonasm - I don't really have time to sit around waiting for my tea to brew and then chill when I'm at work and I want an ice green tea. So, I prefer instant green tea just for that.

I know it's not as healthy, but I think it tastes better and I can mix it up without having to fiddle around with hot water and pots and so on in our tiny kitchen.

I think it's better for people to be drinking green tea of any kind than soda or whatever else most people drink.

pleonasm

Really though, real green tea is so quick and easy to make (particularly if you use bags, although I think loose leaf tastes better) that I just can't see the point of "instant" green tea. I mean if you can't stand the flavor of normal green tea, add some honey or some lemon.

And if you can't wait for three or four minutes so your tea can brew, you've got bigger problems than the antioxidants in green tea are going to be able to solve. Stress is one of the biggest killers and anyone without the time to brew a pot of tea probably has it in spades.

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    • A freshly brewed cup of green tea offers more health benefits than instant tea.
      A freshly brewed cup of green tea offers more health benefits than instant tea.
    • Research shows that green tea made from loose leaves and teabags has the highest levels of catechins, a potent antioxidant.
      Research shows that green tea made from loose leaves and teabags has the highest levels of catechins, a potent antioxidant.
    • Instant green tea can be mixed with ice water to make iced green tea.
      Instant green tea can be mixed with ice water to make iced green tea.
    • Instant green tea drinkers get more flavenoids than other commercial beverages like soda.
      Instant green tea drinkers get more flavenoids than other commercial beverages like soda.