BACKGROUND: The flavor and quality of tea are widely believed to be associated with the pot in which the tea is made. However, this claim is mostly by experiences and lacks solid support from scientific evidence. The current study investigated and compared the chemical compositions of oolong tea made with six different teapot materials, namely Zisha, Zhuni, stainless steel, ceramic, glass and plastic. RESULTS: For each tea sample, polyphenols and caffeine were examined by HPLC-UV, volatile compounds by GC/MS, amino acids by LC/MS and minerals by ICP-MS. The results suggested that tea infusions from Zisha and Zhuni pots contain higher levels of EGC, EGCG and total catechins and less caffeine than those from ceramic, glass and plastic pots and tend to have the lowest total mineral contents, potassium and volatile compounds in tea soup. The statistical differences were not all significant among Zisha, Zhuni and stainless steel pots. CONCLUSION: Based on the overall chemical composition of the tea infusion, Yixing clay pots (Zisha and Zhuni) produce tea infusions that are presumably less bitter and more fragrant and tend to contain more healthful compounds than tea infusions from other pots. The results could partially explain why Yixing clay pots are among the most popular teapots. The beneficial effects of long-term repeated use of these teapots warrants further study.
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