Coffees and teas are beverages that are both exceptionally rich in antioxidant molecules, and are also both associated with beneficial health effects. Thus although the quality characteristics of these beverages are conventionally assessed on the basis of their sensory properties, their antioxidant contents represent an additional and increasingly valued attribute of quality based on their contributions to healthy diets. Both beverages are prepared by hot water extraction of a pure plant-derived product, and thus their compositions can potentially change quite rapidly as a result of oxidation in contact with air. Oxidative processes often proceed via free radical intermediates, and sometimes also result in the formation of stable radical end-products; thus EPR spectroscopy is a convenient technique for investigating some of the various free radical reactions that occur in these beverages. This paper reviews progress that has been made in elucidating free radical processes that occur during the preparation and storage of coffees and teas, and the results are discussed in terms of quality criteria of the beverages.
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