Abstract: Recent investigations have associated white teas with anti-carcinogenic, immune-boosting, and antioxidative properties that may impact human health in a manner comparable to green teas. An in-depth chemical analysis of white tea types was conducted to quantify polyphenols and antioxidant potential of 8 commercially available white teas, and compare them to green tea. Extraction and HPLC protocols were optimized and validated for the quantification of 9 phenolic and 3 methylxanthine compounds to examine inter- and intra-variation in white and green tea types and subtypes. A sampling strategy was devised to assess various subtypes procured from different commercial sources. Variation in antioxidant activity and total phenolic content (TPC) of both tea types was further assessed by the 1-1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and Folin–Ciocalteau (F–C) assays, respectively. Total catechin content (TCC) for white teas ranged widely from 14.40 to 369.60 mg/g of dry plant material for water extracts and 47.16 to 163.94 mg/g for methanol extracts. TCC for green teas also ranged more than 10-fold, from 21.38 to 228.20 mg/g of dry plant material for water extracts and 32.23 to 141.24 mg/g for methanol extracts. These findings indicate that statements suggesting a hierarchical order of catechin content among tea types are inconclusive and should be made with attention to a sampling strategy that specifies the tea subtype and its source. Certain white teas have comparable quantities of total catechins to some green teas, but lesser antioxidant capacity, suggesting that white teas have fewer non-catechin antioxidants present.
Practical Application: In this investigation white and green teas were extracted in ways that mimic common tea preparation practices, and their chemical profiles were determined using validated analytical chemistry methods. The results suggest certain green and white tea types have comparable levels of catechins with potential health promoting qualities. Specifically, the polyphenolic content of green teas was found to be similar to certain white tea varieties, which makes the latter tea type a potential substitute for people interested in consuming polyphenols for health reasons. Moreover, this study is among the first to demonstrate the effect subtype sampling, source of procurement, cultivation, and processing practices have on the final white tea product, as such analysis has previously been mostly carried out on green teas.