I’ve been hooked on tea and coffee ever since I could stomach them as a teenager.
I wasn’t interested so much in the flavour back then. Most of what I drank was pretty cheap, unpleasant stuff. It was all I could afford. But it did the job.
That “job” was a caffeine boost.
The stimulant effects of the coffee (for I mostly drank coffee when I was younger) helped get me through many long hours of study at school and university. When I qualified as a lawyer, it was often the only thing that got me through the long days (and often nights) in the office.
I needed it everyday just to keep me going. Without it, I felt tired and sluggish, unable to concentrate.
The same is true for many people. While lots of people drink tea or coffee for their flavour, a large proportion drink them for a caffeine fix.
It’s no wonder then that caffeine is now the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world.
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a bitter-tasting substance that occurs naturally in plants – particularly coffee berries, tea leaves and cacao beans – and is generally thought to act as an insecticide.
While lethal to insects, humans have long appreciated caffeine for its stimulant effects on the body.
Before tea and coffee were introduced to Europe in the 17th century, people had to get by on water (which was often dirty) and alcohol. Alcohol is of course a depressant and leaves people feeling inebriated. It’s difficult to get much done if you constantly feel a little tipsy and ready for bed!
The introduction of tea and coffee therefore had a revelatory effect on Europeans. Suddenly they could drink something which made them feel more awake and energised. They could stay up late into the night in coffee houses debating, theorising and generally being more productive. Some people argue it’s no coincidence that the Enlightenment occurred around the same time.
How Caffeine Affects The Body
Caffeine dissolves in water and stimulates the nervous system when it’s consumed.
In simple terms, caffeine inhibits the effects of adenosine, a compound produced in the brain during the day which causes us to feel drowsy and ready for sleep. This is why we feel more awake when we drink tea or coffee.
Caffeine is initially absorbed in the stomach and reaches its highest levels in the bloodstream within an hour or so. It usually takes 4 to 6 hours for your body to metabolise half of what you consumed.
However, each person metabolises caffeine differently. Some people are so sensitive to caffeine that if they drink any tea or coffee after lunchtime, they can be left feeling restless and awake all night. Others metabolise it so quickly, they can drink it all day long. My parents, for example, still have a cup of coffee every night before they go to bed!
Other factors can also influence how quickly you metabolise caffeine. Women taking birth control tablets typically take twice as long to process caffeine whereas smokers process it in half the time. Eating certain foods (such as fatty or and oily foods) around the same time as drinking a cup of coffee or tea can also speed up or slow down the metabolisation of caffeine.
Does Matcha Tea Have Caffeine?
Matcha is made from green tea leaves which have been ground into a fine powder. Like all green teas, matcha contains caffeine because the tea plant produces it naturally as a defence against insects that may try to eat it.
With ordinary green tea, you steep the leaves in hot water for a few minutes and then throw away the leaves. With matcha you consume the whole leaf – you mix the matcha powder with the hot water and then drink it.
As such, matcha contains more caffeine than a regular cup of green tea.
Does Matcha Contain More Caffeine Than Coffee?
This is a tricky question to answer.
Tea leaves typically have more caffeine in them per leaf than coffee beans. But we usually have to use more coffee beans for a cup of coffee which is why a cup of coffee has more caffeine than a cup of tea.
There are various other factors that affect the amount of caffeine from one cup to the next, such as:
- the temperature of the water (higher temperatures cause the caffeine to dissolve in the water faster)
- the quantity of tea or coffee used (a larger quantity will have more caffeine)
- how long the tea or coffee is brewed for (a longer brew will allow more caffeine to dissolve in the water)
- the type of tea leaves or coffee beans used (certain varieties contain more caffeine and the amount of caffeine can also vary from leaf to leaf or bean to bean)
As a rough guide though, a regular cup of matcha contains around 70mg of caffeine whereas a regular cup of coffee contains anywhere from 100-200mg of caffeine.
Even if you aren’t particularly sensitive to caffeine, it’s best to limit yourself to three or four cups of matcha a day. The NHS in the United Kingdom recommends consuming no more than 400mg of caffeine a day (or 200mg in the case of pregnant women).
At the end of the day though, you should listen to your body if you’re ever unsure how much caffeine you’ve had. You’ll know whether you feel the need for more or less and can adjust your intake accordingly.
Why Does Caffeine Sometimes Leave You Feeling Jittery?
It’s no secret that caffeine can leave you feeling jittery and on edge.
Coffee is famous for it.
And yet for years, I would start my day by drinking coffee to get me going. I would soon feel on edge, but I didn’t pay too much attention to that feeling because I was so used to it.
Work was stressful and so any anxiousness I felt at the start of the day I attributed to thinking about my workload and the day ahead.
What I didn’t know at the time was that coffee can compound these feelings of anxiety because of the way the caffeine in coffee is released in the body.
With coffee, the caffeine is released all at once. It rushes through you, leaving you feeling blissfully alert one minute, and then slightly crazed or jittery the next.
This is why a lot of people experience a high from the coffee followed swiftly by a slump or a crash into lethargy.
Is The Caffeine Release From Matcha Green Tea Better Than Coffee?
The beauty with matcha is that the caffeine is released slowly in the body due to an amino acid in the tea called l’theanine.
L’theanine slows the release of the caffeine – it gently buffers the caffeine which helps to take the edge off.
Instead of being hit with the caffeine all at once, you experience a more even, more modulated release. As a result, matcha induces a wonderful feeling of calm alertness. You feel alert from the caffeine and calm at the same time due to the l’theanine. No jitteriness and no crash.
As I’ve now discovered, this is a much more pleasant way to start my day! I’ve since replaced coffee with matcha in the mornings and feel so much better for it.
I no longer feel on edge before my day has even begun. Instead, I feel calm and positive about the day ahead, even more so if I can get a workout in as well – the calm alertness from the matcha and the hit of endorphins from the exercise is a wonderful feeling.
Should You Swap Coffee For Matcha Tea?
This really depends on you and what you like to drink.
The effects of the caffeine from matcha are certainly much more pleasant due to the l’theanine. It also has the benefit of being rich in antioxidants, amino acids and other healthy nutrients so it’s definitely a great addition to your daily routine.
So if you, like me, often feel a little on edge after drinking coffee in the morning, try swapping coffee for matcha for 7 days and see how you feel.
Please do get in touch and let me know how you get on!