Monday, January 7, 2013

The ups and downs of tea science

As a curious person by nature, one of the fun parts about being enrolled in a university is having access to research libraries. Nearly any paper published in an academic journal is usually a couple of clicks away. You'd be amazed — at least I was recently — at the amount of research still going on into the continuing mystery of tea. Just in the last year, papers have included "Chemistry and Pharmacology of Caffeine in Different Types of Tea Leaves," "The Chemistry and Biotransformation of Tea Constituents" and "Flavour Chemistry of Mate and Some Common Herbal Teas."

But chemist Matthew Harbowy, who's focused a lot of his own work on tea and caffeine, has taken to Quora (a question-and-answer service with massively greater credibility than most "answers" sites) in recent months to bring a lot of this kind of research out from behind academy walls.

For instance, Harbowy tackles a question I've heard debated almost as often as the great milk-first debate: "Does bouncing your tea bag actually do anything substantial?" After discussing the Noyes-Whitney equation, the hydrophobic barrier and several experiments, he concludes: "Within statistical error, under almost all testing conditions, I cannot find a difference between dunking and not dunking under controlled circumstances, so do it how you want."

Also see his answers to "Does green tea have more caffeine than black tea?" and "How much caffeine is there in jasmine tea?" He's also a contributor to the scholarly collection Caffeine.

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