Professor explores benefits of drinking tea

Nixon Mwebi, professor of chemistry, lectures on the “The Chemistry of Tea: How Should You Drink It?” Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. Mwebi said the antioxidant percentage of tea is reduced when milk or sweeteners are added. / photo by Litsy Tellez
Nixon Mwebi, professor of chemistry, lectures on the “The Chemistry of Tea: How Should You Drink It?” Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. Mwebi said the antioxidant percentage of tea is reduced when milk or sweeteners are added. / photo by Litsy Tellez

Hailey Martinez
Staff Writer

Nixon Mwebi, professor and department chair of chemistry, gave an insightful lecture, “The Chemistry of Tea: How should you drink it?” at noon Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom. About 20 La Verne community members attended the talk.

“Tea grows in various countries, but the top 10 tea growing countries are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Iran, and Argentina,” Mwebi said. 

Most of the time tea is made and sipped dry, meaning there is no milk or sweetener added. But, it is common practice to add milk to tea in the United Kingdom, Mwebi said. 

Each tea is processed differently: White tea is withered and dried; green tea is often withered, steamed and pan fried, then it is dried or rolled; black tea is rolled into strips, then fully fermented and dried, Mwebi said.

“Tea is beneficial because of the antioxidant potentials it has,” Mwebi said.

Learning how much antioxidant potential is in your tea is important because of the free radicals that your body naturally forms, Mwebi said. Free radicals are linked to various illnesses like cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders, and antioxidants, when consumed, “trap” the free radicals.

As for the relative benefits of adding milk to your tea, Mwebi said there was controversy in the literature, Mwebi said. 

“We found just almost equal amounts of literature implying that milk enhances the antioxidant potential of tea, or has no effect, or actually diminishes it, so we were pretty well confused.”

It was this controversy behind the inconsistent study results that spurred Mwebi to do his own study. He said that he used very common techniques to run his study to avoid the controversy in the first place. 

Mwebi’s method was to brew the tea loose rather than in bags. He brewed the tea at 90 degrees celsius for five minutes, cooled it, filtered it, added milk, diluted it, and filtered it once again. 

He used various techniques, teas, and milks to test his results and find how and how much the antioxidant profile of the teas was altered when adding and changing the combinations.

He found that whole milk, when added to black tea, resulted in the greatest reduction of antioxidants, from 45 % to 50%; there is a 40% reduction of antioxidants with the addition of 2% milk; and 30% reduction of antioxidants with fat-free milk. 

Overall it is best to drink tea without milk to receive optimal antioxidants from tea, Mwebi said. 

If you must add a little milk, green tea, he found, even with  2% or fat free milk added, is an excellent choice for getting antioxidants, since green tea is already high in antioxidants. 

Drinking green tea over black or decaffeinated tea provides one the highest antioxidant potentials and is most beneficial healthwise, Mwebi said. 

“I’m a pretty big tea drinker,”said Abigail Robles, sophomore psychology major. “Green tea is my favorite (and) this presentation really puts things into perspective. My use of sugar because I mainly use white sugar and it’s not the healthiest option.”

“I’m definitely a tea drinker,” said Marcia Godwin, professor of public administration. “I normally boil water and dunk the tea bag.

Godwin said that this lecture convinced her that she should start drinking more green tea.

Hailey Martinez can be reached at hailey.martinez@laverne.edu.

Hailey Martinez is a junior journalism major with a photography minor. She is a staff writer for the Campus Times and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine.

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