Bean Tea Anyone?

In my Jan. 20 column in The Japan Times, I wrote about wagashi and adzuki beans as an unusually good source of polyphenol, an antioxidant that appears to play an important role in preventing all kinds of diseases.

In the course of researching that column, I learned that a Japanese company called Endo Seian 遠藤製餡 has launched a bottled tea drink made from adzuki beans. It’s called Azuki Bijin-cha あずき美人茶. In marketing the product, the company took a different approach. They’re promoting it as a beauty drink while citing its polyphenol and potassium content. (“Bijin” means “beautiful woman” in Japanese.)

I picked up a bottle for 168 yen at my local Natural Lawson store. The tea is brown in color and tastes something like bottled mugicha (barley tea) drinks, but with a slightly sweet overtone reminiscent of bean-filled wagashi. The tea contains no calories or caffeine, and 200 mg of polyphenol. Ok, but is that a significant dose?

I went looking for data on foods with high polyphenol content, which I knew are generally red- and dark-colored foods, including red wine, chocolate, and cherries. I learned that a small glass of red wine may contain 60-170 mg of polyphenols, an average cup of home-brewed green or black tea contains 50-150 mg, and an apple has about 200 mg. That makes the tea seem like a reasonably good source of polyphenols, although it can’t compete with my personal favorite — dark chocolate, which has 200-400 mg in a 20g portion (two squares of a thin European gourmet bar).

Then again, that much chocolate has 100 calories and the tea has none!

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2 Responses to Bean Tea Anyone?

  1. Hi Alice,
    Congratulations on your new blog!
    I enjoyed your JT piece yesterday on wagashi/yogashi. I had no idea that azuki were a source of polyphenals.
    It also made me think about yokan and why the kanji used for writing the word are ‘sheep’ and ‘stew/broth’. I didn’t realize that the original Chinese recipe was for a meat stew. I’d always assumed it was because the gelatine was derived from boiling down sheep bones — and that got changed to agar derived from tengusa seaweed to meet the Buddhist strictures.
    Plenty of food for thought!
    all best, Robbie

  2. Hi Robbie,
    Thanks for stopping by, and especially for the interesting comment. That made me realize that it would be useful to provide the kanji for yokan, which as you said, are the characters for “sheep” and “stew/broth.” So here they are: 羊羹.

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