The Chemistry of Sweet Tea

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Introduction

I have decided to study the chemistry of Sweet Tea.  Sweet Tea is a combination of green tea, water and granulated sugar.  I chose sweet tea because I drink sweet tea on a daily basis, also not many people truly know about sweet tea and what all is in the delicious, mouth-watering drink.  I drink sweet tea almost every day, so my life is greatly affected by sweet tea.


Composition of ...
  • Green tea (molecular formula- C22H18O11)
  • Granulated sugar (chemical formula- C12H22O11)
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Ice

Chemistry's Role

Green tea and granulated sugar are both naturally occurring but it takes a few steps to get the final products.  Tea leaves first must be dried out to add to the hot water and make strong, flavorful tea.  First, bring a kettle of water (H2O) to a boil.  Next, preheat the container that you will have your tea in, this keeps the temperature of the water from lowering.  After you pour the water in the container, drop in your tea leaves either in a strainer or just directly into the bottom of the container.  Let the tea steep (saturate flavor into the water) for about five to ten minutes.  If you have not strained the tea leaves to begin with place a strainer over your cup and pour the tea in. If you have strained it already just pour into the cup!  Lastly, just add honey, lemon, sugar, or whatever else you want to into your cup of tea and drink up!

To get granulated sugar takes a few more steps.  It starts with a sugar cane field being lit on fire to remove the leaves from the stalks.  After all of the leaves are gone the stalks are removed from the field and taken to a refinery.  In the refinery, the stalks are chopped, shredded, and rolled under a crushing machine.  By crushing the canes it removes the juices, which currently contain sugar cane juice, dirt, and cane pulp.  Calcium hydroxide is then added to the juice while carbon dioxide is bubbled through this mixture to create insoluble calcium compounds.  The calcium hydroxide also raises pH levels in the juices.  Polyacrylamides help remove cane pulps, dirt, and other impurities that are not wanted in the sugar juice.  Once the juice is clean of impurities it is ran through an activated carbon filter.  To remove the water, the juice is sent through an evaporator and the juice is thickened.  Seed crystals are then added to the thick juice to help form sugar crystals.  Once the crystals are formed the juice needs to still be removed from them using a centrifuge.  Mother juice is left behind in the crystallization process; the juice will later become molasses.  The dry crystals that are left is raw sugar which is now ready to be formed into white sugar.  I love having raw sugar put into my tea so that is where the sugar refining process ends for myself.

Background Research

The history of green tea
Green tea was accidentally found by a Chinese Emperor Shennong, in 2737 B.C.  He accidentally drank some boiled water that a dead tea leaf slipped into. Until the fourteenth century only emperors and people of high authority could afford to purchase tea. Tea was not even introduced to Eastern Asia until the sixteenth century through traders from East Asia.  Even today tea is Britain’s national beverage although most British people prefer black teas.  Along with the British settlers tea traveled quickly to the Americas and is still drank every day in today’s society.

Around the late 1700’s a French explorer named Andre Michaux planted the tea plant near Charleston at Middleton Barony, also known as the Middleton Place Gardens.  South Carolina was the first state to commercially produce sweet tea in 1795.  In states outside of the southern states tea is served without sugar or “black” so many people have no idea that sweet tea is commercially produced unless they visit the Southern parts of the United States.

The history of granulated sugar

Granulated sugar, which derives from the sugar cane, dates back thousands of years.  It is believed that sugar was first found in New Guinea.  After this, it spread through to Southeast Asia and India.  Around 500 B.C.  in India, the process of making granulated sugar (squeezing the juices out of the cane and then boil the juices to create sugar crystals) starts.  This cultivation did not reach Europe until the middle-ages when it came through Spain in the Arabs.  Columbus then took the plant with him to the Indies where it grew abundantly. Sugar did not make it to the Americas until the 18th century.  It started in New Orleans and grew on from there.

Resources


About the Author






Alexis Tedder is a junior at Billings Senior High.  Her favorite drink is sweet tea, which lead her to choosing it for her dot dot dot.  She hopes you enjoy her web page and find it entertaining and full of new knowledge!!
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