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Chlorophyll as an indicator of green tea quality

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The objective of this work was to study the changes in chlorophyll contents in green teas stored under different conditions and to suggest the most suitable way and length of green tea storage. A secondary aim was to evaluate the possibility of using the chlorophyll content as an indicator of tea freshness. Samples for analysis were obtained from a range of tea-growing regions. Chlorophyll contents were measured using UV-vis spectrophotometry. Chlorophyll absorbance was measured at 642.5 and 660 nm. Prior to storage, chlorophyll concentration in teas ranged from 1.12 to 1.89 mg per 1 g of tea, which corresponded to data given by other authors. Storage was found to lead to a decline in chlorophyll concentration. From the 6(th) month of storage onwards, a significant decrease (P < 0.05) was observed in all samples, irrespective of storage conditions. Based on the findings of this study, original and metal packaging can be considered the most chlorophyll-friendly. On the other hand, glass and paper packaging stored in direct daylight were found to have the strongest impact on chlorophyll concentration. Overall, it can be concluded that the storage time can have a strong influence on oolong green tea colour as an important qualitative variable. Thus, the shelf-life of tea should be shorter than the 12 months claimed by most manufacturers. Once the relationship between changes in chlorophyll concentration and length of the storage period had been established, the chlorophyll content was suggested as an indicator of the storage time (freshness) of a tea substance.
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Chlorophyll as an indicator of green tea quality
Martina Ošťádalová, Bohuslava Tremlová, Jana Pokorná, Martin Král
University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology,
Department of Vegetable Foodstuffs Hygiene and Technology, Brno, Czech Republic
Received August 28, 2014
Accepted February 25, 2015
Abstract
The objective of this work was to study the changes in chlorophyll contents in green teas
stored under different conditions and to suggest the most suitable way and length of green tea
storage. A secondary aim was to evaluate the possibility of using the chlorophyll content as
an indicator of tea freshness. Samples for analysis were obtained from a range of tea-growing
regions. Chlorophyll contents were measured using UV-vis spectrophotometry. Chlorophyll
absorbance was measured at 642.5 and 660 nm. Prior to storage, chlorophyll concentration
in teas ranged from 1.12 to 1.89 mg per 1 g of tea, which corresponded to data given by other
authors. Storage was found to lead to a decline in chlorophyll concentration. From the 6th month
of storage onwards, a signicant decrease (P < 0.05) was observed in all samples, irrespective
of storage conditions. Based on the ndings of this study, original and metal packaging can
be considered the most chlorophyll-friendly. On the other hand, glass and paper packaging
stored in direct daylight were found to have the strongest impact on chlorophyll concentration.
Overall, it can be concluded that the storage time can have a strong inuence on oolong green tea
colour as an important qualitative variable. Thus, the shelf-life of tea should be shorter than the
12 months claimed by most manufacturers. Once the relationship between changes in
chlorophyll concentration and length of the storage period had been established, the chlorophyll
content was suggested as an indicator of the storage time (freshness) of a tea substance.
Camellia sinensis L., pigments, tea storage, UV-vis spectrophotometry
Tea is one of the world’s most common beverages. Recently, green tea has received
particular attention due to an increase in its consumption. Green tea production is on the rise
worldwide, and the tea arrives in Europe from a variety of tea-growing regions which differ
not only in the manufacturing technology, but often also in the tea plant age (Mitscher and
Dolby 2006; Sa n g et al. 2011). Green tea is manufactured from the leaves of a tea plant
(Camellia sinensis L.). During the manufacturing process, tea leaves are not subjected to
the process of fermentation (or enzymatic oxidation). Thus, green tea is non-fermented.
Fresh leaves are subjected to heat treatment immediately after harvest to prevent activation
of oxidative enzymes and subsequent fermentation of the contained phenolic substances.
As a result, the leaves retain their original green colour as well as the majority of content
substances (Othmer 2008; Belitz et al. 2009).
Green teas are a source of important antioxidants and, due to their gentle preparation,
most of them are also fairly unstable compared to the fermented ones (Cartaxana et al.
2003; Ow u o r 2003). In Europe, green tea comes with no unied “guidelines” regarding
preparation and storage; rather, these exist in the form of supposedly all-purpose
recommendations, with discrepancies between them. So far it has not been established for
how long tea can be stored or under what conditions and form. The common knowledge
that tea loses its original sensory and pharmacological character has not been scientically
proved. Neither the duration of storage nor its most suitable conditions have been suggested
yet, whether concerning tea-selling shops or consumers’ homes. It has not been determined,
either, how the shelf-life of tea from different tea-growing regions can be estimated.
ACTA VET. BRNO 2014, 83: S103–S109; doi:10.2754/avb201483S10S103
Address for correspondence:
Ing. Martina Ošťádalová
University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno
Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology
Department of Vegetable Foodstuffs Hygiene and Technology
Palackého tř.1/3, 612 42 Brno, Czech Republic
Phone:+420 541 562 702
E-mail: m.ostadalova@gmail.com
http://www.vfu.cz/acta-vet/actavet.htm
An important pigment in green tea is chlorophyll. It is a natural pigment contained
in tea leaves and all green parts of plants. Chlorophyll pigments (chlorophylls) are
a group of green pigments that can be found in photosynthesizing tissues. They constitute
a key element of photosynthesis, one that is needed for light absorption (Hörtenst e i n e r
and Kräutler 2011). Originally, the term chlorophyll was only used to refer to the green
pigments which enter into photosynthesis in higher plants; later it was extended to include
all photosynthetic porphyrin pigments (Velíšek and H a jšlová 2009). In tea leaves and
non-fermented teas, chlorophyll is a highly important pigment as its amount determines the
nal colour of green tea infusion. The fermentation process, on the other hand, transforms
chlorophylls into pheophorbides and pheophytins, which give rise to the dark colour of
black tea (Harbowy and B a l e n t ine 1999). Therefore, pheophorbides and pheophytins
are the main products of chlorophyll degradation (Cartaxana et al. 2003).
The objective of this study was to investigate the changes in chlorophyll quantity in
green teas stored under different conditions and, based on the results, to suggest the most
appropriate storage conditions and time. An additional objective was to assess the possibility
of using the amount of chlorophyll in green teas as a freshness indicator.
Materials and Methods
For the purposes of analysis, samples of green teas not subjected to the process of partial fermentation were
purposefully selected to ensure the initial presence of chlorophyll in the leaves. Thus, the variation in chlorophyll
stability depending on the duration and conditions of storage could be studied. Fourteen samples of loose teas
were analysed; they were harvested in autumn 2012 in different tea-growing regions of China and Taiwan. The
samples were obtained from originally-packed products immediately after they were opened. The products
from which the samples were taken were obtained in the Czech Republic market (tea-growing region: China,
India, Japan) and tea factory from Russian (Sochi) and Vietnamese markets. Table 1 contains an overview of the
commercial green tea samples.
The samples were subjected to different storage conditions for the period of 12 months (which is the minimum
shelf-life of tea recommended by Czech tea manufacturers). During this period, samples were repeatedly examined
for changes in the chlorophyll content. The storage conditions corresponded to those in most consumers’ homes.
More specically, the samples were stored in covered containers made of glass (ground asks), in lidded paper
and metal boxes and in original packaging (recloseable, coated paper bags with a plastic lm on the outer side).
The samples were then stored for the period of 12 months both in cupboards with no direct exposure to either
daylight or air and in direct daylight in the laboratory. All samples were stored at a room temperature of 20 °C.
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Sample
number Type and name of tea Tea-growing region Province
1 Gunpowder China Zhejiang (lowlands)
2 Yunnan green China Assam (lowlands)
3 Darjeeling Green, SFTGFOP1 CH India Darjeeling (mountains)
4 Assam Green, Tea OP India Assam (lowlands)
5 Sencha Satsuma Japan Satsuma (mountains)
6 Gunpowder Temple of Heaven China Hubel (mountains)
7 China Sencha China En Shi (mountains)
8 En Shi Yu Lu “Green Dew” China Hubel (mountains)
9 Green tea Russia Sochi (lowlands)
10 Green tea “Class 1” Russia Krasnodar (mountains)
11 Green tea “Extra” Russia Krasnodar (mountains)
12 Vietnam Tea Vietnam lowlands
13 Vietnam Chéngon So Vietnam (mountains) mountains
14 Chéuὃphoanhai with jasmine – hand made Vietnam (lowlands) mountains
Table 1. Analysed samples of commercial green teas.
Chlorophyll determination
The principle of the method was the extraction of chlorophyll in acetone and the subsequent measuring of its
absorbance at different wavelengths of 642.5 and 660 nm, using diethyl ether as a blank sample. The amount of
chlorophyll in samples was established by calculation. The results are given in mg per 1 g of tea (Wri ght 2005;
Oš ťád alová et al. 2010).
Chlorophyll concentration was calculated using international standard conversion coefcients and linear
regression:
chc = 7.12 x A642.5 + 16.8 x A660
chc - total amount of chlorophyll in tea infusion (mg/g)
A660nm - absorbance value at 660 nm
A642,5nm - absorbance value at 642.5 nm
Tea samples (1 g) were weighed and bathed in 10 ml diethyl ether. The samples prepared in this way were
extracted for 15 minutes and then their absorbance was measured. In all cases, the measurement maximum
absorption of the absorption spectrum was checked in a broader wavelength range (Oš ťád alov á et al. 2014).
Statistical analysis
Data were analysed using the R i386 2.15.2 for Windows statistical program. ANOVA test was used to
determine the differences in chlorophyll content, Tukey’s HSD comparison test was used when the analysis of
variances showed signicant differences between the groups. Differences were considered signicant at P < 0.05.
Results
Table 2 shows the concentration of chlorophyll in individual tea samples. The values
ranged from 1.18 to 1.98 mg per 1 g of tea. The highest amount of chlorophyll – 1.98 mg/g
– was found in the Japanese green tea Sencha Satsuma, followed by the Chinese green tea
Yunnan (1.88 mg/g), and the Vietnamese Chéuὃphoanhai with jasmine (1.77 mg/g). The
amount of chlorophyll in the above teas was found to be signicantly higher (P < 0.05) than
in the other samples. All of the three samples come from high-mountain tea-growing regions.
The lowest amount of chlorophyll was found in the Indian Assam Green Tea OP
(1.18 mg/g), followed by the Russian Green tea “Class 1” (1.19 mg/g), and the Vietnamese
Vietnam Tea (1.28 mg/g).
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Sample number Sample type and name Chlorophyll mean content (mg/g of tea)
1 Gunpowder 1.46 ± 0.13
2 Yunnan green 1.88 ± 0.02 a
3 Darjeeling Green, SFTGFOP1 CH 1.58 ± 0.12
4 Assam Green, Tea OP 1.18 ± 0.16
5 Sencha Satsuma 1.98 ± 0.11 a
6 Gunpowder Temple of Heaven 1.38 ± 0.33
7 China Sencha 1.24 ± 0.99
8 En Shi Yu Lu “Green Dew” 1.34 ± 0.89
9 Green tea 1.40 ± 0.33
10 Green tea “Class 1” 1.19 ± 0.25
11 Green tea “Extra” 1.35 ± 0.52
12 Vietnam Tea 1.28 ± 0.08
13 Vietnam Chéngon So 1.50 ± 0.09
14 Chéuὃphoanhai with jasmine 1.77 ± 0.02 a
Mean and Standard Deviation 1.47 ± 0.24
Table 2. Mean total amount of chlorophyll (mg/g of tea) in the analysed teas.
a Mean values with common superscript in the same column are signicantly different from each other (P < 0.05)
The storage conditions led to changes in chlorophyll concentration, causing it to
drop signicantly in all samples during the last months of storage, which applied to all
conditions of storage. Table 3 shows the mean amount of chlorophyll for each month as
well as storage condition.
The initial chlorophyll value was 1.47 mg per 1 g of tea. Storage (Table 3) led to
a steady decrease in chlorophyll concentration. A noticeable and signicant decrease
(P < 0.05) was observed in the 5th month of storage (a decrease of up to 50%). In the 6th
month of storage the mean chlorophyll concentration was 0.5 mg per 1 g of tea and by the
12th month it dropped by 93.20% (the resulting amount was 0.1 mg per 1 g of tea). The
differences are shown in Fig. 1.
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Condition Months of storage
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 12
MP - 1.2 ± 0.1 1.1 ± 0.2 1.2 ± 0.2 1.0 ± 0.1 0.8 ± 0.1a 0.5 ± 0.1a 0.1 ± 0.01a
OP - 1.0 ± 0.2 1.4 ± 0.2 1.4 ± 0.1 1.3 ± 0.3 1.1 ± 0.2 0.8 ± 0.2a 0.3 ± 0.04a
PDL - 1.1 ± 0.1 0.7 ± 0.2 a 0.7 ± 0.2a 0.6 ± 0.1a 0.6 ± 0.1a 0.4 ± 0.1a 0.06 ± 0.004a
PD - 1.2 ± 0.1 1.1 ± 0.1 0.8 ± 0.2 0.8 ± 0.2 0.6 ± 0.1a 0.4 ± 0.1a 0.07 ± 0.005a
GDL - 1.4 ± 0.2 0.8 ± 0.2 0.7 ± 0.1a 0.6 ± 0.1a 0.5 ± 0.1a 0.4 ± 0.1a 0.05 ± 0.001a
GD - 1.3 ± 0.3 0.9 ± 0.1 1.0 ± 0.1 0.8 ± 0.1 0.7 ± 0.1a 0.6 ± 0.1a 0.1 ± 0.05a
Mean 1.47 ± 0.24 1.2 ± 0.13 1.0 ± 0.23 1.0 ± 0.26 0.9 ± 0.24 0.7 ± 0.20a 0.5 ± 0.15a 0.1 ± 0.09a
Table 3. Mean total chlorophyll content (mg/g of tea) in green tea samples after a particular way and period of
storage (0–6 months and 12 months).
Legend: MP metal packaging , OP original packaging, PDL paper packaging stored in direct daylight,
PD – paper packaging stored in a dark place, GDL – glass packaging stored in direct daylight, GD – glass
packaging stored in a dark place
a Mean values with superscript in the same row are signicantly different from initial date of storage (P <0.05)
Fig. 1. Changes in the amount of chlorophyll (mg/g of tea) in green tea samples after particular conditions and
duration of storage (0–6 monhts and 12 months).
As shown in Fig. 1, the most signicant decline in chlorophyll contents was observed
in samples stored in direct daylight. Samples stored in direct daylight in paper packaging
exhibited a signicant (P < 0.05) decline in chlorophyll contents (the resulting amount being
0.7 mg per 1 g of tea) as early as in the 2nd month, and samples stored in direct daylight in
glass packaging in the 3rd month (a decrease to 0.7 mg per 1 g of tea). By the 12th month the
chlorophyll contents in these samples were practically eliminated.
The original and metal packaging, on the other hand, were the most chlorophyll-friendly.
During the rst months, the observed decrease was fairly mild; a signicant decrease
(P < 0.05) was not observed until the 5th month of storage for samples stored in metal
packaging (a decline to 0.8 mg per 1 g of tea) and until the 6th month for samples stored
in original packaging (with chlorophyll contents of 0.8 mg per 1 g of tea). By the 12th month
chlorophyll contents had dropped by 90% in samples stored in metal packaging (the resulting
amount being 0.1 mg per 1 g of tea) and by 70% in samples stored in original packaging
(the resulting amount being 0.3 mg per 1 g of tea).
Based on the above-quoted ndings, original and metal packaging can be considered the
most chlorophyll-friendly. Glass and paper packaging, on the other hand, were found to
pose the least favourable conditions (P < 0.05).
Discussion
The ndings obtained by the present study correspond to the results of other studies
focusing on chlorophyll content in green teas. At the beginning of the experiment,
chlorophyll values ranged from 1.18 to 1.98 mg/g. A signicant difference (P < 0.05)
in chlorophyll contents was observed in three samples of teas from high-mountain tea-
growing regions (higher values in comparison with other samples). We i et al. (2011)
stated that the chlorophyll content in tea plants varies depending on the environmental
and plant-growing conditions, higher contents being connected with lower temperatures
and higher relative humidity (which corresponds to mountain regions). The above-quoted
ndings are in accordance with the ndings by Wol f (1959), who studied the total amount
of chlorophylls in tea plant leaves and in selected sorts of tea. In his study, chlorophyll
contents in green teas were found to reach 1.39 mg per 1 g of dried leaves. Recently,
similar results were published by Wrigh t (2005) and Lorant y et al. (2010), who analysed
chlorophyll contents in large samples of commercial teas. They found chlorophyll values
averaging 1.4 mg per 1 g of dry substance. Ošťádalová et al. (2014) reported the amount
of chlorophyll in particular types of teas, coming from the same growing area, but from the
2013 harvest. They found chlorophyll values averaging 1.39 mg per 1 g of dry substance.
It can support the importance of chlorophyll as a stable indicator of the quality of tea.
Chlorophyll concentration varies depending on technological processing, too. According
to Khamessan and Kermasha (1995) and Daood (2003), during processes such as
fermentation the chlorophyll-degradation chlorophyllase enzymes remain active, causing
chlorophyll to degrade to pheophorbides and pheophytins. These compounds play a
leading role in causing the resulting dark colour of fermented tea. Chlorophyll values in
non-fermented fresh teas are not lower than 1 mg per 1 g of tea (D a o o d 2003; O w u o r
2003; Wei et al. 2011; Milenković et al. 2012).
Storage has been found to lead to the decline in chlorophyll concentration. In some samples,
a signicant decrease (P < 0.05) was observed as early as in the 2nd month of storage; from the
6th month onwards it was observed in all samples. Based on the ndings, original and metal
packaging can be considered the most chlorophyll-friendly. On the other hand, glass and paper
packaging stored in direct daylight were found to pose the least favourable conditions.
Chlorophyll loss can be explained by its sensitivity to light, higher temperatures and
pH. According to As t l e y (2003), storage is accompanied by the release of fatty acids
S107
and a subsequent acidication of tea substance, which in turn leads to chlorophyll
instability. Moreover, access of oxygen to the substance in combination with direct
sun rays leads to the release of magnesium from the chlorophyll molecule. Magnesium
then starts to be replaced by hydrogen, which leads rst to the creation of pheophytins,
the hydrogen derivatives, and then pyropheophytins and pheophorbides. The process
is accompanied by a change in colour from green to brown as described by Mayer
(1987). Pi n g h a i (2006) conrms all of the above, adding that any manipulation
with tea samples facilitates the access of oxygen, thus strengthening its effects,
which contributes to the degradation of natural pigments, including chlorophyll. The
possibility of the effect of enzymes on chlorophyll degradation cannot be excluded.
Khamessan and Ke r m a s h a (1995) found that processed tea leaves contain a
partially active chlorophyllase enzyme which can have a strong impact on the stability
of chlorophyll molecules during storage. According to He a ton and Marango n i
(1996), it is clear that the degradation of chlorophyll is caused by several enzymes,
e.g. peroxidase, lipoxygenase and chlorophyll-oxidase.
It can be concluded that the type and duration of storage can have a signicant impact on
green tea colour as an important qualitative property. Thus, the shelf-life of tea should be
shorter than 12 months as given by most manufacturers.
In addition, it follows from the results of our study that chlorophyll concentration in
teas from related tea plants is similar prior to storage and is subject to signicant storage-
related changes. As early as in the 2nd month of storage, chlorophyll contents were found
to drop below the 1 mg/g value, which by no means corresponds to chlorophyll values
found in fresh, non-fermented teas. For all ways of storing, there was a signicant decrease
in chlorophyll between the 5th and 6th months of storage. Taking into account the way of
storage, it is possible to use chlorophyll content as an indicator of the age (freshness) of tea
substance by means of total amount and quantitative loss assessment.
Acknowledgments
This study was supported by the Internal Grant Agency of the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical
Sciences Brno (Project No. 75/2010/FVHE).
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... Green tea, with its scientific name Camellia Sinensis, was chosen because of the strong presence of chlorophyll. Previous researches stated that in 1 g of green tea, it consists of 1.12 to 1.89 mg chlorophyll [22]. ...
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