Is There More Caffeine in Coffee or Tea?
America’s Drug of Choice Takes a Powder….
This little white powder is consumed daily by over 90% of Americans. It’s caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant found in coffee, tea, and cocoa. If you prefer decaf, take note: Formaldehyde was used in the past to decaffeinate coffee and tea; today we use chemical solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate (both leave a residue), or supercritical CO2. And there’s a price to pay.
“Decaffeinating coffee is achieved through a variety of decaffeination processes, all of which are relatively harmless to your health, but harmful to coffee quality.” (Michael Griffin, researcher and founder of the Coffee Research Institute.)
The same holds true for tea. But tea, unlike other caffeinated beverages, has a splendid little secret – a naturally occurring amino acid called L-theanine (theanine, for short). And the little tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) has a bunch of it. Theanine has been used historically as a relaxing agent. Research has shown that theanine suppresses the excitation produced by caffeine.
Here’s how it works: You drink a cup of delicious tea and it winds its way to where it has to go; through your stomach, where the caffeine is absorbed, and into your small intestines, where the theanine is absorbed. Caffeine hits your brain and triggers the “fight-or-flight” beta waves, and shortly thereafter, the theanine gets to your brain and triggers the “alert relaxation” waves, your alpha waves.
Because of L-theanine’s effect on alpha brain waves, it is a natural medicine for the relief of stress, anxiety, and tension. In 2004, researchers at the Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory, Brain Sciences Institute, in Victoria, Australia, compared L-theanine to Xanax and found that L-theanine tended to reduce anxiety during a relaxation phase of the study, while the drug had no such effect. And studies in 2008 at the Unilever Food and Health Research Institute found that tea also increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.
We all know that a cup of coffee can jump-start your heart, which is fine in the morning but not so fine later in the day. And now you know that a cup of tea can not only get you going in the morning but also get you relaxed at day’s-end. Even at bedtime! So, Baby Boomers, as you’re switching from coffee to tea, remember that you can get that same kick but without the headache – or the racing heart!
Here’s to a great cuppa — till next time!