Fast method development of rooibos tea phenolics using a variable column length strategy
The development of a method for the separation of standard compounds of the 15 main phenolics found in rooibos tea is presented. The separation of these compounds in a single HPLC analysis is particularly challenging due to the similarity of rooibos phenolics. As a result, multiple methods are often required to analyze all major phenolics in rooibos tea samples. The method development process is significantly enhanced in this study by using the recently introduced automated column coupler in combination with the variable column length strategy. This strategy consists of performing the initial scouting runs, wherein the best separation conditions are determined, on a short column and subsequently fine-tuning the separation on longer columns to benefit from their higher separation performance. It is demonstrated that the method development process can further be expedited by operating each column length at the maximum pressure, in this case 1000 bar. Although this holds in general, it is even more the case for the presently considered sample, since the selectivity of the sample is more pressure- than temperature-dependent. Applying the optimized method to unfermented and fermented aqueous rooibos tea extracts in combination with Q-TOF mass spectrometry, some 30 phenolic compounds are tentatively identified. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.