Monday, February 25, 2008

Tea and Caffeine

Aside from questions about bubble tea, I would say that people most frequently ask me about tea and caffeine. Everyone wants to know how much caffeine is in tea, which tea has more caffeine, and whether it's true that you can decaffeinate tea by giving it a quick rinse in hot water (unfortunately, it's not true). Rather than answering these questions myself, I'm giving credit to Nigel Melican, one of the world's most renowned and knowledgeable tea experts. He recently posted on another wonderful tea blog, chadao, about tea and caffeine. I invite you to learn from the master.

This is a brilliant post, and the commentary that follows is also pretty interesting. For those who want a quick summary, the bottom line is that you can't rinse the caffeine from tea, chemical decaffeination methods do remove some of the health benefits along with the caffeine, and it is almost impossible to estimate the caffeine content in a cup of tea just by knowing if it's black, green, oolong or white. There are too many variables that impact the caffeine content to provide an accurate assessment. Nigel shares that contrary to what many people believe, black tea does not necessarily have more caffeine than green tea, and white tea may have the most caffeine of all.

Nigel's post doesn't discuss what I find to be the most fascinating tea and caffeine topic; the way l-theanine mediates the affect of caffeine on the body. Here's the quick version - l-theanine is an amino acid that is found in tea (I don't think it's found in high concentrations in anything else). l-theanine offers health benefits as well as relaxation benefits in that it promotes alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are associated with meditative and relaxed states. The combination of l-theanine and caffeine in tea result in tea promoting a calm yet alert state of being - really an optimal state of being for health, well-being, and peak performance. The caffeine is released in a slower and steadier manner and the l-theanine mediates the caffeine jolt - so tea doesn't hit people the way coffee and other highly caffeinated energy drinks do. You never hear of people getting wired and then crashing after drinking tea! And although I don't necessarily recommend this, I know of people who believe they are caffeine sensitive (not for medical reasons) who report that they can drink a cup of tea in the evening with no caffeine related problems.

So next time you need to focus on a project, find yourself facing what might be an all-nighter, or have to give an anxiety provoking performance, grab a cup of tea and experience the benefits.

No comments: