Caffeine in Green Tea. What's the Buzz?
Caffeine in green tea.
Everything you need to know about the caffeine content in our green tea.
The three most frequent questions we’re asked by new Ocha & Co customers are: Do your teas contain caffeine? If they do, do I risk getting that ‘jittery’ caffeine overload? And, do you sell decaffeinated tea?
If you’re in a hurry, the answers are: Yes, quite the opposite, and no.
This being a blog about the joys and wonders of pure Japanese green tea, though, you may prefer to settle in for some more detailed and leisurely explanations.
It's all in the leaves
All of Ocha & Co’s green tea contains caffeine in some quantity; it’s a naturally-occurring constituent of the Camellia sinensis cultivars harvested for our teas.
But how much of the stimulant caffeine you’ll consume in your cup of green tea depends entirely on how that variety has been grown, harvested, and processed ready for you to brew.
For instance, shade-grown teas such as Gyokuro & Kabusecha contain relatively high (although still less than coffee) levels of caffeine.
That’s because the shading process causes a stress response in the tea plant, which increases the natural production of caffeine, L-theanine, and chlorophyll levels in order to compensate for the lack of sunlight.
Teas such as Hojicha go through brief ‘roasting’ processes (see our dedicated blogs on those for more details) with temperatures of up to 200 degrees C; caffeine’s boiling point is 178 degrees C so has already started to drastically sublime by the time the process stops. Fukushima, on the other hand, has had extra steaming and this seems to reduce the caffeine levels found in the leaf.
Genmaicha - sometimes known as pop-corn tea - is another of our teas that is lower in caffeine. There’s not much of a science to that, though; the addition of rice to the leaves means that while you’re getting a wonderfully novel taste, you’re consuming less leaf and therefore less of the stimulant.
Bespoke energy levels
Whether you want to simply relax without vegetating or focus hard without getting stressed, we’ve put together a handy list based on a recent lab analysis of the amount of caffeine in Ocha & Co’s green teas and matcha.
AMOUNT OF CAFFEINE g/100g
Black Tea 3.9
Single Cultivar Organic Matcha 3.2
Kyoto Uji Matcha 3.2
Organic Matcha 2.8
Caffeine levels in Matcha are naturally higher because, as it’s powdered, you’re drinking almost the entire leaf, rather than just the liquor from steeping. More about that in a moment.
How does Caffeine in green tea differ from coffee?
Technically, it doesn’t. Whatever the source - tea, coffee, colas, chocolate et al - it’s the same and it has one job to do - to stimulate.
How, and how long it takes, to ‘kick in’ is something of a horse for courses situation that depends on our individual sensitivities to it. You might notice a little buzz after five minutes, it might take half an hour. The process is the same, however...
When caffeine is introduced into our equation it binds itself to the neurotransmitter adenosine, a hormone that builds up over the day before being released to tell our bodies to slow down and prepare for sleep. Muffled by caffeine, adenosine’s message to ‘wind-down’ is lost - that, then, re-invigorates the nerve cells. In turn, the pituitary gland responds by releasing adrenaline to kick your body back into a wakeful state - what’s often referred to as the ‘fight or flight condition, albeit in a far less dramatic sense than it implies. Either way, caffeine’s mission is complete. But there’s more...
Caffeine also has the keys to your reservoirs of the stress hormone cortisol and the ‘feel-good’ chemical dopamine, so it unlocks those, too. Once everyone has joined the caffeine-arranged party your blood sugar levels rise, your heart rate quickens, and blood flow to the brain and your muscles speed up (but slow down to your skin). Like most things in small measures, there are benefits to all this - you’ve become more alert and, thanks to the dopamine, more cheerful, too.
But most caffeine consumption results in a relatively quick burst of alertness that, as it quickly weakens might have you reaching for even more coffee or other sources of energy - like sugary foods - that could leave you feeling ‘jittery’.
That’s not the case caffeine in green tea - especially Matcha.
Steady, Not shaky as you go!
Green teas are packed with L-theanine, an amino acid that’s known for its calming, stress-relieving effects. And with Matcha, you’re consuming pretty much all there is. Combined with the caffeine in the green tea the result is markedly different from the caffeine buzz of coffee - the two elements balance each other out. The L-theanine content causes the stimulant effect to ‘slow release’ and lasts longer to create a state sometimes known as, ‘Alert/Calm’.
This condition was noted as early as the 12th Century when Japanese monk Myoan Eisai returned from his pilgrimage to China with the twin souvenirs of Zen Buddhism and Matcha green tea. From that moment Monks joining Japan have sworn by the usefulness of Match to create a mental state of calm but highly focussed, enabling them to endure long hours of meditation. The legendary Samurai warrior class of Japan apparently took note, too; matcha was drunk in elaborate ceremonies ahead of battle in order that the knights could store up energy for the fight ahead but remain unperturbed by thoughts of injury.
We’re not suggesting you switch coffee for Matcha to make you a better sword-wielding warrior, of course, but in terms of combatting a busy day ahead, you could do worse than take a bot of liquid advice from this cool, calm, and collected legends of yore...