Feeling tired? Need your daily dose of caffeine? Caffeine is a naturally plant driven compound1, found in many popular drinks like coffee and tea. Caffeine is a psychoactive substance that blocks adenosine, a sleep promoting substance in your nervous system, causing you to feel more awake, alert and concentrated2. Caffeine also increases dopamine levels, a substance that helps your body move, which is why you may feel jittery2. Some may be avid coffee drinkers, and others might prefer the seemingly more stable effect of tea. But if both drinks have caffeine, why does coffee have you instantly bouncing off the walls, while tea is a slower, steady energy boost? While coffee contains more caffeine than tea in a regular cup, this isn’t the main reason that creates the vastly different effect from the two caffeinated drinks. Tea contains another compound, an amino acid called L-theanine. While caffeine is a stimulating agent on the central nervous system, L-theanine has the opposite effect, resulting in a relaxed yet alert mental state 3.
Moderate daily caffeine intake can be up to 400mg/day without adverse effects 4. In an 8 oz cup, coffee contains on average 135 mg and tea has 43 mg4. Common misconceptions associated with caffeine include an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer5, however recent research has suggested in fact the opposite. Benefits from caffeine can decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, improve mood and self-confidence, increase cogntitive function, boost antioxidant levels, and decrease the risk of neurodegenerative diseases1.
So what’s it going to be, tea or coffee? Both drinks can remain below the recommended caffeine intake, and many benefits can stem from drinking either one. If you’re trying to decrease your caffeine content, tea might be the way to go. Your preference might even come down to taste. But once again, it all comes down to moderation. The reality is, although both drinks contain caffeine, the debate among which drink is healthier can be highly circumstantial. While coffee and tea are both caffeinated, they are very different and hard to compare due to their many other interacting components. And that’s just if you’re drinking it black. We all know each are equally delicious with milk and sweeteners like sugar, honey or syrups. So, even if you are reaping the benefits of your daily dose of caffeine, between your morning mocha and afternoon sweetened tea latte, your sugar intake may severely outweigh the health benefits at that point.
- Caffeine Consumption through Coffee: Content in the Beverage, Metabolism, Health Benefits and Risks – https://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/5/2/37
- An update on the mechanisms of the psychostimulant effects of caffeine – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.05196.x
- Thiamine and Caffeine Content of Infusions Prepared from Commercial Tea Samples – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4787341/
- Caffeine in Food – https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/food-additives/caffeine-foods/foods.html
- Caffeine Myths and Facts – https://www.webmd.com/diet/caffeine-myths-and-facts#2