Analytical strategy coupled to chemometrics to differentiate Camellia sinensis tea types based on phenolic composition, alkaloids, and amino acids.J Food Sci. 2020 Oct; 85(10):3253-3263.JF
Catechins, amino acids, and alkaloids are primary chemical components of tea and play a crucial role in determining tea quality. Their composition and content largely vary among different types of tea. In this study, a convenient chemical classification method was developed for six Camellia sinensis tea types (white, green, oolong, black, dark, and yellow) based on the quantification of their major components. Twenty-one free amino acids, 6 catechins, 2 alkaloids, and gallic acid in 24 teas were quantified using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC). The total catechin contents in these tea samples ranged from 10.96 to 95.67 mg/g, while total free amino acid content ranged from 2.63 to 25.89 mg/g. Theanine (Thea) was the most abundant amino acid in all tea varieties. Catechin and amino acid levels in tea were markedly reduced upon fermentation of tea. Furthermore, high-temperature processing (roasting) during tea production induced degradation and epimerization of catechins, yielding epimerized catechins, simple catechins, and gallic acid. Principal component analysis revealed that major ester-catechins (EGCG and ECG), major amino acids (Thea), and major alkaloids (caffeine) are potential factors for distinguishing different types of tea. Linear discriminant analysis showed that 100% of teas were correctly classified in which (+)-catechin, ECG, EGC, gallic acid, GABA, cysteine, lysine, and threonine were the most discriminating compounds. This study shows that quantification of the major tea components combined with chemometric analysis, can serve as a simple, convenient, and reliable approach for classifying tea according to fermentation level. PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Different Camellia sinensis tea types can be produced worldwide but it is still challenging to know which chemical markers can be used to trace their production. in this paper we used a targeted methodology to classify six tea types (white, green, oolong, black, dark, and yellow) based on phenolic composition, alkaloids, and amino acids. The main chemical markers responsible for the discrimination were pinpointed with the use of chemometric tools.