A method of precolumn derivatization-high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) for the determination of theanine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in tea was established. o-Phthalaldehyde (OPA) and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) were chosen as the derivatization reagents. The effects of teapolyphenol (Tp), proline (Pro) and Vitamin C (Vc) on derivatization yields were investigated. The results indicated that Vc not only stabilized the stock solution of OPA, but also enhanced the yield of GABA derivative. However, the yield of theanine derivative was less affected. The HPLC separation system was also optimized. The resolution of the derivatives was improved by adjusting the pH value and phosphate-citric buffer concentration of the mobile phase. The limits of detection (LODs) for GABA and theanine were 3.01 x 10(-5) mmol/L and 7.98 x 10(-5) mmol/L, and the limits of quantification (LOQs) were 9.99 x 10(-5) mmol/L and 2.658 x 10(-4) mmol/L, respectively. The linear ranges of GABA and theanine were 0.01 - 0.4 mmol/L with the correlation coefficient of 0.996 and 0.05 - 0.8 mmol/L with the correlation coefficient of 0.995, respectively. The main recoveries for GABA and theanine in green tea, Oolong tea, and black tea, ranged from 99.29% to 119.60% and from 62.88% to 141.06% respectively. The method with simple procedure and efficient separation was proved to be suitable for the determination of GABA and theanine in tea.