“A bad day with coffee and tea is better than a good day without it”, this is where coffee and tea stand in one’s life. A day never starts without them for many, they are like a wakeup call. A cup of coffee or high caffeine tea keeps us alive and energetic even after a long and hectic day schedule. They rejuvenate our minds and revive our bodies. They make us feel happy. And, that is because they contain a natural stimulant called caffeine.
An average cup of drip coffee contains a minimum of 100gms of caffeine while an English styled black tea contains 40gms. However, the amounts vary according to the method and length of brewing or steeping.Researchers from Japan found out that caffeine increases memory and also improves reaction time and logical reasoning.
Does tea contain caffeine?
In the early 1820s, scientists had discovered a substance called "theine”. Later after research, they concluded that theine in tea is identical to caffeine in coffee. So, they dropped the term theine and decided to name the stimulant caffeine. However, the experience of caffeine in both beverages is quite different.
The first difference is of course in the amount of caffeine in tea and coffee.
It is a known fact that tea contains more caffeine than coffee. Well, it is true to some extent. Tea contains more caffeine than coffee when they aren’t brewed. But, when brewed, coffee will have high amounts of caffeine than tea. This is because one uses 2gms of tea for an eight-ounce cup and 10gms of coffee for the same quantity of water. A British study in 2004 states that an average cup of tea (Black English style) contained 40gms of caffeine while coffee contained more than 105gms.
However, the quantity of caffeine in coffee and tea varies depending on various factors including the leaf location on the tea plant, soil chemistry, whether the leaves are wet or dry, etc.
The most important factors are the temperature of the water and the length of brewing or steeping. A tea steeped for 5 minutes will contain greater levels of caffeine when compared to a tea steeped for 2 minutes at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, tea bags containing small broken leaves contain more caffeine than loose tea because of infusion.
Results from studies show that Black, Oolong, Green and White tea leaves contain similar amounts of caffeine. They contain about one third the amount of caffeine that is present in an average cup of coffee. While black tea contains about half the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. Herbal teas are generally free of caffeine as they steep herbs such as ginger or chamomile but not tea leaves.
The second difference lies in how the body experiences caffeine in tea.
An amino acid called L-theanine which is found only in tea helps in reducing stress and gives relaxation to the body. It works along with the caffeine to calm the body while the caffeine helps the body in staying alert. Both the compounds work together to give you just the right amount of kick.
Tea is also rich in antioxidants which slow down the absorption of caffeine in the body. This helps in gently releasing the caffeine in the system. Hence, you get a longer period of sustained alertness as compared to the quick and rather short boost of energy that coffee provides followed by a crash at the end. Not only this, the scientists say that the tea boosts the immune system five times more than coffee. It keeps you hydrated while satisfying your taste buds.
People with poor digestion and acid reflux are not recommended coffee as it has greater acid content than tea. Since tea is rich in antioxidants and contains less caffeine, it helps in reducing the inflammation in guts and is the best aid for digestion after a meal.
The best teas for energy
In the above section, we talked about teas having a lesser amount of caffeine as compared to coffee. Now the question is - Can you count on tea to give you the same energy as coffee gives you?
Yes, high caffeine tea gives you more steady energy than coffee. You can stay alert for a long time without the downside of a crash afterwards. When you drink coffee, you will feel perky and energized instantly after consuming it. This is because, in coffee, the caffeine is released immediately.
But, in tea, the caffeine releases slowly and steadily due to its chemical composition. This results in a longer-lasting energy boost which doesn’t come with the spikes and dips associated with coffee. Tea’s sharp and fresh aftertaste is because of the chemical composition of tannins and astringent polyphenols. These chemicals bind to amino acids which result in a more even energy boost.
Tea also contains a non-dietary amino acid called L-theanine which is found in only tea and certain fungi. L-theanine helps in boosting mental acuity. It also reduces stress and improves mood by triggering chemical responses in the nervous system without any sedative effects.
L-theanine helps in making people energized without jittery by taking the edge off caffeine whereas coffee increases the concentration of stress hormone called cortisol. Therefore, the above-discussed points make high caffeine tea a better alternative to boost energy than coffee.
The following are the seven best teas for energy:
1. Green Tea
Green tea has many health benefits ranging from weight loss to lower blood pressure. It doesn't contain much caffeine but has many benefits when it comes to energy and alertness. This beverage contains L-theanine which allows the body to process the caffeine slowly and more effectively without having the jitters.
Our recommendation: Mythical Green is a green tea that tastes herbaceous and woody.
2. Black Tea
Black tea lowers the risk of heart diseases, blood sugar regulation and improves immune system health. It contains the highest caffeine content with 47 milligrams of caffeine for every eight-ounce serving according to FDA and USDA. Some tea blends can contain up to 60 to 70 milligrams of caffeine.
- Colonial Mornings, a black tea which is sweet, spicy, aromatic, fruity and strong
- Rainforest Indulgence, a strong, woody and full-bodied Broken Pekoe black tea from the Ruhuna (Matara) region
- Zen Mint, a fresh and tangy mint flavoured black tea from the Kandy region
- Organic Gold, a strong and woody USDA Organic certified black tea from Sri Lanka's Dimbulla region
- Royal Midlands, a malty, fresh and robust Broken Orange Pekoe from the Udu Pussallawa region
3. Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate is a herbal tea from South America and is consumed by indigenous tribes for centuries. They consume Yerba Mate early mornings while sharing tales and hunting techniques with other community members. It is well known as an ingredient in energy drinks, it has a smoky flavour with earthy notes. When compared to coffee, it has a bold flavour and strong aroma.
This South American tea contains more caffeine than green tea but still less than a cup of coffee. Yerba Mate contains theobromine, a compound similar to L-theanine in that it increases energy levels without jitters. Studies show that it can increase endurance and exercise performance.
4. Peppermint tea
Peppermint tea helps us in treating upset stomach and common colds. It is made by steeping peppermint leaves in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. It has a sharp, tingling flavour and is caffeine-free. Studies from Northumbria University say the participants who drink peppermint tea have better mood and cognition skills and also had long term memory.
5. Licorice Root Tea
Licorice Root tea is often blended with other teas to mellow out the flavour. You can brew it with lemon and honey to reduce stress levels and regulate hormones. Liquorice Root contains a compound called adaptogens that modulate the production of hormones. It boosts energy by stimulating the adrenal glands and increased blood flow.
6. Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is a spicy tea when extensively studied shown to exhibit health benefits to the human body. It helps in decreases tension, inflammation and improves blood flow. Studies in Herbal Medicine show that ginger tea increases the secretion of adrenal catecholamines. Ginger tea helps us in boosting exercise performance and energy levels in chemical levels.
7. Chamomile tea
This tea is made by boiling Chamomile flowers in water. It tastes like crisp green apples and has a gentle floral aroma. It not only increases energy but also helps in increasing focus by reducing stress. Chamomile tea helps in preventing the stress hormone called serotonin. It boosts the happy hormones such as dopamine.
Choosing the best tea for energy for you is very important. You need to decide how much quantity of caffeine you want every day. If you intake an average of four or more coffee beverages a day, then you should opt for a strong black tea because an oolong tea will not give you the energy you need. A strong black tea contains high concentrations of caffeine and L-theanine which keeps you focused for longer times.
The second important factor for choosing the best tea for energy is taste. High caffeinated tea will have a strong and bold flavour which is great for coffee drinkers as they enjoy bold flavours. Teas like black, Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon Tea are highly caffeinated as discussed above. In terms of the strong flavour, oolong tea is the best after black tea as it is semi-oxidized that allows the leaves to develop sharp and deep flavours.
Also read: What is so special about Ceylon Tea?
Oolong tea is a Chinese favourite. It comes in fruity and floral flavours which makes a happy medium between white and black teas. Ceylon Oolong tea by teakruhti is a premium oolong tea that tastes fresh and mild.
If you are a fan of milder flavours, then you will definitely like green teas better. For the people who are sensitive towards caffeine, White tea is a better option as it is the most delicate and least caffeinated type of tea. Ceylon Ivory by teakruhti is a loose-leaf white tea that tastes light, fresh and mildly nutty.
Herbal teas are generally caffeine-free as they do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant which basically produces black, green, white teas. Fruit teas which are not considered as a tea by most of the people also do not contain caffeine and are free from added sugars.
Does loose leaf tea have higher caffeine content?
In the above sections, we have discussed which tea contains high caffeine and which is less caffeinated. We have also discussed the factors that increase the concentrations of caffeine in tea. Now, let us discuss which type of tea brew is more highly caffeinated?
We can brew tea in two different ways. Either you can use tea bags or loose-leaf tea. Teabags contain more tea dust and fannings as compared to whole leaves. Fannings and dust are the lowest graded tea which contains broken pieces of tea leaves and contains higher amounts of caffeine. They are actually the remainings after the higher quality tea is gathered.
Also, when you brew tea using tea bags, its infusion rate is limited which results in releasing more of its caffeine when compared to whole leaves. It also releases caffeine more quickly than whole leaf tea. This is because tea bags do not give the leaves the required space for their expansion.
Since the leaves in the teabag are broken, most of the essential oils and aroma will be lost. When steeped, they release more tannins when compared to whole leaves which result in bitter astringent brews that don’t yield a very colourful cup.
On the other hand, loose leaf tea consists of whole leaves which offer you more health benefits and deliver the preferred energy boost most effectively. Loose leaf tea generally contains high graded whole tea leaves which are packed with correct amounts of antioxidants, polyphenols, theanine, etc. This makes your high caffeine tea great for a jump-starting day.
Since loose leaf tea contains whole tea leaves, they release fewer amounts of caffeine when compared to tea bags. However, the amounts of caffeine vary based on different factors as discussed above. So, it is better to buy your favorite tea after checking the caffeine levels and tea grades given on the labels. Tea grades are the grades given by the professional tea producers after evaluating the tea leaves based on quality and condition. They graded "orange pekoe" with the highest ranks and “Fannings” with the lowest ranks.
If you are looking to taste the most authentic teas with just the right amount of caffeine, we recommend you to go for loose leaf teas. If you want to have tea on a go, then opt for mugs that are featured with built-in strainers or infusers. In these mugs, you just need to add the leaves and boiling water to the infuser.
If it is impossible to use loose leaf tea, then opt for bigger tea bags as they tend to have full leaves and the extra space will help them in expanding. When there's enough space there is a greater infusion of caffeine and of healthy compounds when they steep.
- A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood — www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4480845
- Study: Tea Boosts Immune System — www.cbsnews.com/news/study-tea-boosts-immune-system
- FoodData Central Search Results — ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/14355
- Yerba Maté (Illex Paraguariensis) ingestion augments fat oxidation and energy expenditure during exercise at various submaximal intensities — nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-11-42
- Peppermint and chamomile tea impact on mood and memory — www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/24135/peppermint-chamomile-tea-memory/
- The amazing and mighty ginger — www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
- Short-term open-label Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) therapy of moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder — www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5589135/
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