I’ve always considered myself caffeine sensitive. After more than about a half cup of coffee I get jittery with a belly ache, sometimes accompanied by dizziness and a headache to boot. So mostly I drink tea instead. I’m not one of those people who feels like I need caffeine to get through the day. I drink it because I like the taste, I enjoy the soothing effect of hot beverages, and I choose to believe that the antioxidants are keeping me forever young.
Our company president, Ana, referred me to an article in Fresh Cup Magazine that made me question pretty much everything I thought I knew about caffeine. According to the article “A Different Buzz” in the March 2011 issue, I’m not the only one. Apparently there has been little accurate lab science on tea’s caffeine content until the past few years. And what many of us have considered common knowledge (black tea contains slightly less caffeine than coffee, green tea has much less, and white tea even less due to the oxidation processes used in the different varieties) may have very little basis in fact.
Different varieties of teas have different recommended steeping instructions, and it seems that this plays a huge roll in the amount of caffeine actually released into the beverage. On average, most teas actually contain nearly the amount of caffeine per serving as coffee. Then why do so many people rely on coffee for their morning jolt while tea is the old standby when they want to wind down?
The physiological effects caffeine have on the body have more to do with the other chemical compounds contained in the beverage than the actual amount of caffeine. The 1000+ other compounds found in coffee enhance the effect of caffeine on the body, while compounds like theanine and high concentrations of theophylline and theobromine mute the reaction. Additionally, pholyphenols (those antioxidants you’ve probably heard about) make the caffeine in tea more difficult for your body to use.
As the article concludes,
“The big takeaway: The molecule defined as caffeine is the same in coffee and tea but the body absorbs the caffeine from coffee more readily, and the amount of the stimulant present in the brew is a function of how long the water stays in contact with the coffee. Also, the theanine in tea will smooth out the effect of the caffeine, facilitating calm alertness.”*
As it turns out, I’m getting a lot more caffeine each day than I thought, but I think sticking to tea is the way for me to go. Which do you prefer?