When it comes to the drink of choice in the morning, it’s not uncommon for people to pick sides or preferences. Some start their day with a glass of milk, orange juice, or water, but the majority prefer to brew a cup of coffee or tea.
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Both of these pick-me-up beverages contain caffeine that will get their respective drinkers through the day. But how do tea and coffee differ in terms of caffeine content? And is one of them better or healthier than the other? Let’s check out how these two popular caffeinated brews compare.
What Is Caffeine
Caffeine is classified as a natural stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. It speeds up the messages traveling to-and-fro the brain and the body. This stimulant also helps a person stay alert and prevents the onset of tiredness. People often perceived this to be synonymous with coffee. However, caffeine can be found in the leaves, beans, and fruits of more than 60 plant species. Some of the world’s primary sources include coffee beans, tea leaves, and cacao beans.
The popularity of caffeine as a natural stimulant is unparalleled. It has been used for thousands of years and is one of the most widely consumed food ingredients worldwide. A report published by the Institute of Food Technologists revealed that an estimated 80 percent of the world’s population consumes caffeinated products every day.
How Does Caffeine Work
When a person consumes caffeine in any form – be it from coffee, tea, or chocolate bars – it gets absorbed in the small intestines within an hour. From there, this natural stimulant then travels through the blood vessels and becomes available in most parts of the body, including the brain. As caffeine starts to enter the brain, the stimulant begins to compete with adenosine.
Adenosine, a chemical present in all human cells, plays a vital role in slowing down the neurons’ activity. When a person is awake, this compound gradually builds up in the body. It binds to the brain’s A1 receptors and promotes muscle relaxation and sleepiness. Adenosine can also bind with A2A receptors and hinders the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
Since caffeine has a similar chemical structure to adenosine, it can mimic the compound and fit into the receptor sites. But unlike adenosine, caffeine does not actually bind with the A1 receptors, nor does it activate it. Instead, caffeine only gets in the way of adenosine and occupies the space, tricking the body into thinking that it’s not sleepy. Caffeine also blocks the A2A receptors, promoting dopamine and glutamate production to make a person feel good.
Pros and Cons of Caffeine Consumption
The appeal of drinking caffeinated beverages, including coffee and tea, is due to caffeine’s effects on the mind and body. Although there are many benefits of caffeine consumption, there are also a few disadvantages and health risks. Since coffee and tea are such an integral part of many consumers’ dietary lives, it’s worth considering the benefits and risks of caffeine consumption.
Here are some of the pros and cons to keep in mind that next time you’re brewing the best coffee beans or tea leaves:
Gives You Energy
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and tricks your brain into thinking that it’s energized. That is why drinking caffeinated-beverages such as mocha coffee will wake you up quickly in the morning. Caffeine has also been found to improve the physical performance of athletes. It breaks down body fat and makes it available as an energy source, thereby preserving muscle glycogen. Therefore, it makes sense to drink coffee cocktails to boost your energy before hitting the gym. But keep in mind that coffee makes you tired if you became caffeine tolerant.
Caffeine Contains Essential Nutrients
The intake of caffeinated drinks such as black coffee gives your body important nutrients. Coffee contains nutrients such as riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and niacin. Tea also contains several healthy compounds, including antioxidants and micronutrients such as flavonols, theaflavins, and catechins.
Caffeine Improves Alertness and Focus
Caffeine has been found to improve attention and focusing abilities, especially in sleep-deprived people. Studies suggest that this natural stimulant helps a person perform various cognitive tasks, such as recognizing patterns, more quickly.
Caffeine Boosts Metabolism
Caffeine can boost body metabolism through the process of thermogenesis. In this process, the body generates heat and energy from digesting food and helps a person burn more calories while resting. Caffeine intake also suppresses a person’s appetite for snacks. However, most caffeinated products are often sugary, so check the nutritional information label if you plan on losing weight.
Provides Long-Term Health Benefits
Studies have found that intake of caffeine protects a person from several diseases. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health reported that moderate coffee intake reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease in men and women. Another paper suggested that regular coffee drinkers had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and liver cancer. It also lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes since it decreases a person’s insulin sensitivity and impairs glucose tolerance. Meanwhile, one research revealed that tea could protect against arthritis, kidney stones, and cavities.
Some People Are Allergic to Caffeine
Some people are oversensitive to their molecules. Despite caffeine not being an allergen, many experience allergic-like reactions such as pain and hives after consuming even the smallest amount. For coffee and tea lovers, opt for drinking premium decaf coffee or tea.
Can Cause Insomnia or Restlessness
As a stimulant, caffeine can increase your energy and keep you awake. That is why consuming too much or too late in the day can cause restlessness and insomnia. Experts recommended that most healthy adults limit intake to a maximum of 400 mg per day. Caffeine-sensitive people should be careful and monitor their tolerance. Try different coffee measures to determine the right amount to give you just the right boost for the day. For convenience, use a machine with a scale for coffee with an auto shut-off option. One study also revealed that caffeine intake 3 to 6 hours before bedtime could disrupt sleep.
Caffeine May Trigger Heartburn and GERD Symptoms
According to several studies, caffeinated products can cause heartburn and aggravate acid reflux since it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter. Fortunately, several methods help coffee lovers manage acid reflux while still enjoying a fresh brew. People found that roasting the coffee at lower temperatures reduces acidity. Sugar also triggers acid reflux, so a sugar-free beverage is better. Nitro coffee is made without sugar and creamer, making it ideal for people with GERD.
Risk of Caffeine Dependence, Withdrawal and Overdose
Caffeine affects people differently, and some may have a lower tolerance than others. While overdose is rare, too much consumption of caffeine may lead to death. There is also the risk of caffeine dependence among those who take it regularly. And the withdrawal symptoms may include depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, and headaches. To avoid these risks, monitor your caffeine intake and slowly cut back if necessary.
Caffeine in Different Types of Coffee
The caffeine content of coffee depends on several factors, including types of beans, roasting styles, preparation, and serving size. However, the primary basis of caffeine content is the type of coffee that a person drinks.
Brewing is the most popular method of making coffee in Europe and the US. This type of coffee is prepared by pouring boiling or hot water over the ground coffee beans often contained in a filter. Eight ounces of brewed coffee, also known as regular coffee, has between 70 to 140 mg of caffeine.
Usually, making an espresso requires a machine or stovetop Moka pot since you need to use pressure. This coffee-brewing method, which originates in Italy, involves forcing a small amount of hot water or steam through finely-ground coffee beans. Because of the high caffeine content of espresso, serving sizes are much smaller compared to brewed coffee. An ounce of espresso shot already contains about 63 mg of caffeine.
Most of the drinks you see in cafes are made from espresso shots combined with different types and amounts of milk. Some of the popular espresso-based coffee drinks include Americanos, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and lattes. Ordering a small or a single has about 63 mg of caffeine, while a large or double contains 125 mg.
Coffee powder or instant coffee is derived from whole coffee beans, roasted, ground, brewed, and spray-dried or freeze-dried. To prepare the drink, all you need to do is mix one to two teaspoons of the powder with hot water. Although instant coffee is made from freezing or drying brewed coffee, they are not as tasty as a fresh brew. Fortunately, there are different flavors that you can add to the drink, making instant coffee taste better. A recipe for making delicious coffee creamer can also do wonders for this pick-me-up drink. Instant coffee contains less caffeine than brewed coffee, with only 30 to 90 mg a cup.
Even though the name suggests zero caffeine, decaf coffee is not entirely free from the natural stimulant. This drink may contain varying caffeine content ranging from 0 to 7 mg per cup. But some brands may have higher amounts of caffeine, depending on the cup size, method of decaffeination, and the type of coffee.
Caffeine in Different Types of Tea
The amount of caffeine in tea may vary depending on several factors, including the length of brewing or steeping, serving size, and species of tea leaves. But like coffee, the main determinant of caffeine content in tea also depends on the type of tea used.
Matcha tea is a Japanese green tea powder made from taking young tea leaves and grinding them into a fine bright green powder. When people drink this type of tea, they are ingesting the entire leaf and receiving its full nutrients. That is why matcha tea has a high caffeine content of 60 to 80 mg.
Pu-erh, also known as black tea in China, consists of various fermented leaves and stems of the Camellia sinensis plant. This tea first undergoes the same process as making green or black tea before undergoing the fermentation stage. The amount of caffeine in Pu-erh can range from 60 to 80 mg per 8-ounces serving.
The caffeine content in black tea usually ranges from 60 to 75 mg per 8 ounces of serving. This tea type is made from Camellia sinensis leaves and is more oxidized than white, green, and oolong teas. Black tea also has a stronger flavor compared to the others.
This traditional Chinese tea contains approximately 30 to 45 mg of caffeine content. Oolong tea offers drinkers a more diverse body, flavor, and complexity than the other popular tea variants in the US. This caffeinated beverage may boost metabolism, help with weight loss, and lower cholesterol.
Yerba Mate Tea
Yerba Mate is said to have the health benefits of tea, the strength of coffee, and the joy of chocolate. This South American traditional tea is made from the dried leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. It contains approximately 70 to 80 mg of caffeine content.
Green tea only contains an estimated 15 to 30 mg of caffeine. This drink is a gentler source of the natural CNS stimulant. Green tea is an ideal drink for people who want to reduce their caffeine consumption but don’t want to eliminate it.
With only 10 to 15 mg of caffeine per serving, green tea has the least amount of caffeine out of all the listed tea types. This variety is known to be one of the most delicate tea types since it underwent the least process steps.
How to Choose Tea With More Caffeine
Tea lovers who prefer a higher caffeine content on their morning drink should not only base their choices on the types of teas. Other factors play a role in providing high caffeine content, including the leaf’s age, shape, how it’s grown, and it’s brewing method. Here are some things to consider if you want to get the most out of your favorite caffeinated beverage.
Broken leaves produce a tea infusion that is stronger than intact or broad leaves. Since they have an increased surface area, broken leaves release more caffeine compared to their counterparts. But for this same reason, they also lose their flavor rather quickly.
Younger or Smaller Leaves
Some studies revealed that the location of the leaf also affects caffeine content. The youngest leaves, which are located at the top and generally the smallest, contain the most caffeine and antioxidants concentration.
Japanese Shaded Green Tea
Japan is known for producing premium green teas, often grown under the shade, such as gyokuro, kabusecha, and matcha. This process creates tea leaves with high L-theanine and low catechins, resulting in a rich flavor profile that tastes sweet or umami without any bitterness. Increasing the duration of shading also increases the levels of caffeine in the leaves. That is why gyokuro has more caffeine since it’s grown the longest under the shade compared to the other two.
Brew for 3-5 Minutes
Brewing or steeping tea leaves for 3 to 5 minutes releases more caffeine than letting your tea brew for only one minute. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology found that a regular Lipton black tea steeped for 1 minute contained 17 mg of caffeine per 6-ounces of water. After 3 minutes, the caffeine content increased to 38 mg. When it reached the 5-minute mark, the infusion contained 38 mg of caffeine, close to the 55 mg caffeine content listed in the product’s nutritional information.
Caffeine in Tea vs Caffeine in Coffee Comparison
Some studies suggest that tea leaves have more caffeine content compared to coffee beans. This claim is correct when measuring tea and coffee in their dry form. However, tea has less caffeine than coffee when comparing brewed coffee and tea. After all, people use approximately 10 grams of coffee per 6-ounce cup and only 2 grams of tea for the same amount of water.
Green Tea Caffeine vs Coffee Caffeine
Coffee contains a significantly higher caffeine amount per cup compared to green tea. An 8-ounces cup of brewed coffee has an average caffeine content of 95 mg, while caffeine in green tea only ranges from 15 to 30 mg. Despite that, green tea still has more caffeine than decaffeinated coffee.
Black Tea Caffeine vs Coffee Caffeine
When comparing cup for cup, black tea has less caffeine than coffee. But many people might be surprised to find that drinking two 8-ounces servings of black tea will provide more or less the same caffeine content as a 1-ounce shot of espresso. However, the exact caffeine amount will still vary depending on how the tea is brewed and how long it’s steeped.
FAQ About Caffeine in Tea vs Caffeine in Coffee
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the caffeine in tea and coffee:
Is tea caffeine different from coffee caffeine?
Caffeine’s molecule only has one form, so there is no chemical difference between tea caffeine and coffee caffeine. The only difference that the two beverages have is the amount of caffeine found per serving, in which coffee has more than tea.
Can I decaffeinate my tea?
For many years, there has been a misconception that you can decaffeinate tea at home by rinsing it with hot water before brewing. However, studies have refuted this preparation method and even revealed that it removes many antioxidants in tea. In the tea industry, manufacturers use several different procedures to extract the caffeine in tea. It involves complex processes that include ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide, or methylene chloride, which is then thoroughly after each step. By the time it’s finished, the tea is only 99.6 percent caffeine-free. With that, it’s implausible that a simple DIY step at home would work. Purchasing a caffeine-free herbal tea or a commercially decaffeinated tea would be a better option.
Which is healthier, coffee or tea?
Coffee and tea both offer many health benefits. Coffee has been found to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and protect against Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, tea protects against kidney stones and arthritis. While the antioxidant compositions vary in the two drinks, black tea and coffee are excellent sources of these compounds. However, experts say that it’s hard to determine whether one is healthier than the other. That is because it’s difficult to separate the various ingredients of each drink, their role in your diet, and the effects that it produces in each person’s body system. But if you’re sensitive to caffeine, then tea may be a better choice for you.
What is better in the morning, tea or coffee?
As an early morning pick-me-up and an excellent energy booster, coffee is better than tea since it has higher caffeine content.
Is there a tea as strong as coffee?
In its natural state and dry form, tea is actually stronger than coffee. So if you want to consume as much caffeine as what a brewed coffee contains, seep the black tea for 5 minutes and double the serving amount. For specific tea products, Zest Tea’s black tea blends can rival a coffee’s caffeine content. It boasts a high amount of caffeine ranging from 155 to 160 mg per cup.
Is drinking caffeine-free tea good for you?
While a caffeine-free or decaffeinated tea is good for tea lovers who are sensitive to caffeine molecules, it might not provide its counterpart’s full health benefits. The chemical process for decaffeination can remove close to 70 percent of the antioxidants present in tea. This doesn’t mean that it’s a total waste of time – there are still a few health benefits in caffeine-free tea.
The caffeine content in tea and coffee varies depending on how you prepare it, the kind of bean or leaf you use, the brewing time, and the process. Both caffeinated beverages also provide a long list of health benefits for their respective drinkers. But if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have health conditions that could be aggravated by it, you should limit your caffeine intake. In this case, decaffeinated beverages or teas or those with low caffeine content are an ideal option.
Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, it can be hard to go through the day without the caffeine. No matter if you have a cup of green tea or a cup of good old Joe when you start feeling stressed or tired, you will still get your daily dosage of the energy boost.
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