Varietal Differences in the Total and Enantiomeric Composition of Theanine in Tea
Author: K. Helen Ekborg-Ott, and Andre Taylor, and Daniel W. Armstrong
Theanine is the main amino acid component in tea. It usually constitutes between 1 and 2% of the dry weight of the tea leaves. It is as prevalent in tea as all other free amino acids combined. Both enantiomers of theanine were found to have a similar sweet taste, with little or no aftertaste. It was found that black and half-green teas (except for Formosa Oolong) contained as much, or more, theanine as green teas. No correlation was found between the absolute concentration of theanine in tea and its enantiomeric composition. An inverse correlation was found between certain grades of tea (e.g., pekoe, Flowery Orange Pekoe, etc.) and the percent of d-theanine present. This could provide the basis for a reproducible, scientific method to grade and/or evaluate teas. Theanine slowly racemizes in aqueous solution. It also undergoes hydrolysis, particularly at basic pH values. By monitoring these processes, information may be gleaned on the production, storage, handling, and shipping of tea and tea products.