Bitterness reduction, especially of foods and beverages containing phytonutrients, is one of the biggest challenges in the food industry because bitterness has a deleterious effect on the taste profile of foods and beverages. Neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) is a medicinal tree, indigenous to the Indian-subcontinent, whose medicinal properties have led to it being heralded as the tree which is the “panacea for all diseases”. However, neem leaf is extremely bitter, in large part due to its limonoid content, making it unpalatable. The objective of this study was to apply two adsorbent based strategies, namely solid phase extraction (SPE) and Amberlite XAD-16 (AMB) resin, to achieve de-bittering of neem tea and to determine the effects of the de-bittering on the bio-active, color and volatile properties. The solid SPE treatment completely removed the flavonol, quercetin, from neem tea while in Amberlite XAD-16 treated tea (AMB) it was only insignificantly (p > 0.05) reduced. We also observed decreases in total phenolic content and consequently anti-oxidant activities after de-bittering. A 62% mean reduction of limonoid aglycones indicated diminished levels of bitterness. The loss of phenolics lead to a visually appreciable color changes in the treated teas. The de-bittering also leads to a loss of sesquiterpenes, ketones and acids from neem tea. In conclusion, we found that while SPE cartridges were more efficient in removing bitterness, they caused a greater reduction in bio-active compounds than AMB XAD-16 resins, which may ultimately affect the health properties of neem tea.
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