Tea is a popular drink known for its soothing and refreshing qualities. However, many people wonder if tea contains caffeine, and if so, how it differs from the caffeine found in coffee. In this article, we will dive into the world of tea and caffeine, exploring the effects of theine, the differences between caffeine and theine, and which teas contain the most or least theine.
Caffeine vs. Theine: Are They the Same Thing?
Firstly, it is important to understand that the words “theine” and “caffeine” refer to the same molecule. While the word “theine” isn’t necessarily incorrect, “caffeine” is actually the scientifically accurate term. To distinguish between the effects of caffeine in tea and coffee, we will refer to it as “theine” in this article.
What Makes Theine in Tea Different from Caffeine in Coffee?
The effects of theine and caffeine differ due to the other natural components present in tea leaves, which coffee lacks. Oxydized polyphenols (tannins) in tea bind the effect of theine, resulting in a gradual release into the bloodstream over a long period of time. In contrast, caffeine present in coffee is released quickly, producing a peak of intensity that falls after a period of 2 to 3 hours, resulting in the “crash” many people experience. This is why it is said that, unlike coffee, “tea stimulates without irritating.”
Another type of tannins, thearubigins, reduces the effect of theine on the body. When tea is brewed, theine is released first, before the thearubigins. Therefore, the first moments of the infusion are when the tea will be the strongest. The thearubigins released afterward counteract this effect and reduce the action of theine on the brain. To maximize the stimulating effects of tea, such as waking you up, steep your tea for less than two minutes.
Theanine, an amino acid present in tea, has a relaxing effect that counterbalances the effects of theine. Tea leaves also contain many vitamins (C, A, B1, B2, B6, B9, E, K), which have beneficial effects on the whole body.
Which Tea Contains the Most or Least Theine?
The concentration of theine/caffeine is three to four times lower in a cup of tea than in a cup of coffee. Japanese teas contain a significant amount of vitamin C, which makes them more stimulating in theory than Chinese or Indian teas. However, the theine concentration is affected by which part of the plant is used to make the tea, the harvesting period, the altitude of the plantation, and the manufacturing method. Buds and young shoots are the richest in theine, while the stems and lower leaves are almost devoid of it.
Teas that have undergone final roasting, such as some oolongs, have even lower levels of theine. Japanese plain green teas Hojicha and Kukicha are varieties that contain very little theine. Flavored teas, whatever their color, contain low leaves and are rather low in theine.
Does Tea Prevent Sleep?
The color of the tea is not correlated with its theine content. If you are not particularly sensitive to caffeine and choose your tea wisely, such as opting for teas with lower theine levels, you should be able to drink it in the late afternoon without any disturbance in your sleep. However, if you have trouble sleeping, we advise you switch to infusions at the end of the day.