Antioxidants in butterfly pea tea


  1. What are antioxidants?
  2. How do antioxidants work?
  3. Thé Paon – antioxidants you can see!

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What are antioxidants?

Our butterfly pea teas are packed with naturally-blue, potent antioxidants.

Antioxidants come in many forms. Common antioxidants that you may be familiar with include: vitamins A, C, and E; carotenoids like beta-carotene; and minerals like zinc and manganese. Your body can also produce antioxidant proteins. These are large complex molecules that act to recognise, repair, or recycle molecules damaged by a process called oxidation. Preventing or reversing the process of oxidation is why these molecules are called ‘anti-oxidants’. 

Most people have heard about antioxidants and their health benefits, but what exactly ARE antioxidants?  We often hear doctors and scientists advocate for a diet rich in colourful fruit, vegetables, and other plants in order to maintain general health. It’s in these brightly coloured plants that potent antioxidants can be found. In fact, these antioxidants are often responsible for the vibrant colours of edible plants. 

As well as vitamins, minerals, and proteins, the final group of antioxidants to be aware of is the most diverse  – the polyphenols. Polyphenols are present in colourful foods and edible plants, and are highly concentrated in butterfly pea flowers. You may have heard of polyphenols before – think curcumin from turmeric root, gingerol from ginger, or the potent mixes of flavonoids found in chocolate, coffee, tea, and wine. Polyphenols are often present in food and drink that we associate with a healthy lifestyle. It’s these polyphenol antioxidants that give our blue tea both its unique colour and its well-known health benefits. A diet rich in antioxidants, such as the “Mediterranean diet”, is associated with slowing the development of many human diseases that result from oxidative damage. These diseases include cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and cancer.

[Those interested in learning more about oxidative damage and disease can check out this scientific review from Clinical Interventions and Aging].

Examples of antioxidant molecules

How do antioxidants work?

To understand how antioxidants work, we first have to understand “oxidation”.  In biochemistry, oxidation is the process whereby unstable oxygen or nitrogen species (called free radicals) bind and modify protein, carbohydrate, lipid, or DNA molecules. Do I really need to remember that? Not really – it just means that oxidised molecules can be unstable, stop functioning, or aggregate with other molecules, all of which have negative consequences in our cells.

“Anti-oxidants” protect other molecules from being oxidised by being oxidised themselves. They essentially take the ‘oxidation hit’ – sacrificing themselves by jumping in front of the oxidation bullet. By neutralising oxidation threats they ensure that essential molecules remain functional. This means that antioxidants protect important proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and even DNA from attacks by free radicals. They are crucial in maintaining healthy cellular function, and why it’s important to eat a diet rich in antioxidant-packed plants. Butterfly pea flowers are a rich source of potent antioxidants.

For many antioxidants, the ‘oxidation hit’ is often reversible. Regenerating ‘used’ antioxidants so that they can continue to function allows us to maintain antioxidant capacity. This is important in blood, tissues, and cells – guarding our DNA and proteins from oxidation. As noted earlier, oxidation and oxidative stress is strongly associated with the development of many diseases. It is also a major contributing factor in the ageing process, and oxidative stress is known to induce telomere dysfunction. Telomeres are DNA caps on our chromosomes which shrink after each cell division, marking the passage of time. Telomeres are key to cellular renewal and replication, and antioxidant-mediated protection of telomeres can extend the timeline of natural cell turnover.

Further reading:

Review from Clinical Interventions in Aging: Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases
Oxidative stress promotes telomere dysfunction

Thé Paon – antioxidants you can see! 

Our high quality butterfly pea flowers (also known as Clitoria ternatea and pois bleu) contain a potent mix of antioxidants from the polyphenol family. More specifically, Thé Paon blue teas contain vivid polyphenols called anthocyanins – from the greek ‘anthos’ (flower) and kyaneos (dark blue). In fact, the deep blue colour of our butterfly pea tea is actually due to a mixture of blue, purple, and red anthocyanins. This mix of anthocyanins acts as a natural pH indicator, and adding citrus juice results in a spectacular colour change.

Blue is a rare colour in nature, so embrace the blue colour of butterfly pea tea. The colour intensity of the tea is directly related to the anthocyanin content. The darker the drink, the more beneficial antioxidants there are! Want maximum antioxidants in your cup? Use more butterfly pea flowers, or steep your tea for longer. And as noted above, a diet rich in antioxidants can help slow or prevent the development of many diseases. They can even assist in slowing the ageing process.

We are proud to offer a unique and healthy blue tea. And unlike other teas, you can literally see the antioxidant goodness in each cup! And the colour change? Who doesn’t love a dramatic reveal.

What does butterfly pea tea taste like?

Thé Paon butterfly pea teas are caffeine-free, which makes them a healthy alternative to traditional tea. Each tea blend contains high quality butterfly pea flowers and unique ingredients sourced from across the globe. Each ingredient has been chosen for both flavour and beneficial bio-active components – we don’t add fillers, flavours, or oils. We focus on the health benefits attributed to the butterfly pea flowers themselves, so our teas are only lightly flavoured.

Steeping 6-8 dried butterfly pea flowers in hot water (95°C, 150mL, 10mins, stirring occasionally) will result in an antioxidant-packed dark blue tea. Steeping in cold water overnight in the fridge will also have the same result. This tea will have a neutral flavour, slightly grassy/herbaceous. Enjoy the tea as is, or add lemon slices/juice for extra flavour and to change the colour to pink/purple.

However, not everyone enjoys a neutral herbal flavour. So we have developed three tea blends: chamomile, ginger, and apple-passion (Camomille bleue, Gingembre épicé bleu, and Pomme-passion bleu respectively). Regardless of flavour-profile preferences, now everyone can enjoy the beneficial antioxidants of thé paon’s butterfly pea flowers.

For more information on how to brew butterfly pea tea, go to “How to make butterfly pea tea”.