We live in a world of coffee fiends. While the English have their tea (and other major nations prefer it as well, like Russia and countries throughout Asia), we exist inside the realm of a “coffee first” mentality. We think it’s stronger, more robust, more flavorful … the essential mascot for the hustle. But does it live up to the hype?
Well, yes and no. There is a reason that the dark, opaque color of a rich coffee brew has us intuiting that it’s stronger than its translucent counterpart, tea. Not only does coffee have more caffeine per cup, but the way that caffeine affects us is different as well. Part of that is essential compounds, and another—the way we brew.
For a quick rundown, a single cup of coffee can have anywhere from 95mg of caffeine, to 200mg, on the stronger side. Of course, we can choose to brew it a little less strong, and we can count on at least 30-175mg. It’s highly variable; however, the typical 8-ounce cup at home or a coffee shop is likely to be closer to 175mg.
Matcha, on the other hand, with a full teaspoon-sized serving, will be around 80mg of caffeine. Black tea is only around 65mg of caffeine, while oolong, green, and white tea are all under 50mg per serving.
This may be shocking, but matcha, oolong, black, green, and white tea actually all come from the same tea leaves. The difference with matcha is that it uses the whole leaf, while the other kinds of tea are strained and steeped. Their difference in flavor and strength is due to the fermentation process. Black teas are fermented the longest, then oolong, then green. White tea leaves are typically not fermented at all, or only for a very short time. The fermentation process contributes to the robustness in flavor, as well as bringing out bioavailable caffeine in the leaves.
The numbers don’t mean everything, however. The caffeine from coffee will make us feel very different from the caffeine in tea. And for that, we can thank L-theanine. This is a compound found in tea leaves, and it affects the way we absorb and feel caffeine. It actually helps to slow the absorption of caffeine in the bloodstream, making us feel cool, calm, and collected.
Meanwhile, caffeine from coffee hits the bloodstream like an IV, and the result is often jitters and anxiety. While some people prefer the buzz from coffee because they can perceive the pronounced effects of caffeine much more than tea, it can become addictive. That’s why many coffee fiends have several cups a day, and quite literally can’t function before their first morning cup. Caffeine is a powerful drug.
L-theanine doesn’t just moderate our caffeine hits—it has some other major benefits. Animal neurochemistry studies show us that that L-theanine increases serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels, which has the power to not only chill us out, but boost our mood in a significant, long-term way with regular consumption.
It’s long-term because lowered stress and a better mood have an effect on our energy levels, performance, sleep habits, and more. Essentially, the caffeine from tea, especially that in matcha, makes us feel more calm, alert, and focused, rather than hopped up. The antioxidants and flavonoids also have neuroprotective capabilities, which are great for preventing cognitive decline.
While coffee also has antioxidants, it does not have as much as matcha, and it does not contain catechins, a unique antioxidant that can help prevent and even treat cancer. We aren’t forcing you to ditch your morning cuppa. We’re simply suggesting adding some tea in rotation, for the good of your health, body, and mind.