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Tea, coffee? What should we drink? Why? |EN|

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

First things first, is the caffeine molecule in tea different from the one in coffee?

One molecule, two molecules, the same molecule, but with different effects actions depending on their environment.

Extracted from coffee beans, caffeine was discovered in 1819 by the German chemist Runge. Another researcher, Oudry, declared a few years later to have isolated a different molecule from tea leaves, which he called theine. Although it has been shown since 1838 that it is actually the same molecule, the idea of ​​two different substances still seems to persist in everyday life until this day.

In both cases, it is simply caffeine, its chemical name being 1,3,7 trimethylxanthine, a molecule also present in other plants such as, for example, cocoa, cola, mate or even guarana. It stimulates and accelerates the functions of the nervous system. For plants, this molecule represents a form of natural protection against insect’s pesticide. The plant thus produces caffeine to protect itself from predators.

But what is the real difference between tea and coffee and how do they affect our body?

In coffee, the caffeine molecule is immediately "biologically-available". It stimulates directly the production of adrenaline (being directly free to metabolize). The stimulation arousal effect of coffee is almost immediate, but shorter than tea (2 to 3 hours on average).

The caffeine level in tea is much lower than in coffee and its effect is very different. Caffeine in tea is not free, but being linked to L-theanine. It therefor delays, prolongs and accentuates the effect on the central nervous system. Tannins also seem to help slowing down the effects of caffeine in tea. The stimulating effect of caffeine in tea is therefore smoother and longer lasting (6 to 8 hours)

For its part, L-theanine seems to play a soothing role with opposite effects to that of caffeine. Its effects on the brain are manifold. By increasing the concentration of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid, naturally present in tea leaves),as well as concentrations of serotonin and dopamine, the L-theanine molecule produces relaxation and helps reducing in physical and mental stress. Serotonin and dopamine are also involved, in our feelings of happiness and pleasure. GABA plays a very important role modulating the activity of the central nervous system and controlling anxiety (fear and pain). L-theanine also increases alpha brain wave activity, thus further helping to reduce stress and anxiety while increasing attention and alertness. It is the synergy of all the molecules present in tea (caffeine, L-theanine, GABA and various polyphenols) which stimulate the body, allowing a significant improvement in our physical and mental performance, while avoiding nervousness and irritation. One without the other, without this synergy, these molecules do not produce the same effects. Certain green teas, and particularly Matcha tea, nevertheless have a higher concentration of caffeine than other teas, hence their constant comparison to coffee.

So, tea or coffee?

But why choose, when you can take advantage of both?

Simultaneously savor coffee for its immediate effect as well as tea to stay awake and focused longer. Besides, why should we abandon any of the two drinks that we enjoy? (without overdoing it of course!)

The expression of caffeine in tea depends also on the temperature and the brewing time. The higher the temperature, the more caffeine will be released into the cup. The same is true for the duration of steeping the infusion. After 2 to 3 minutes of steeping infusion, more caffeine will be released. It should be added that these two factors also increase the presence of tannins in the cup and modify not only the level of caffeine, but also the taste, increasing bitterness and astringency.

The taste issues related to steeping the infusion times as well as the dosages are discussed in more detail in the paragraphs "How to taste it” for of each one of our teas. In addition, the benefits of tea, such as possible weight loss stimulation slimming, are also explained in another section of our blogs "The virtues of tea".

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