You know the feeling when you are working or studying and are so tired you can barely keep your eyes open to focus on what needs to be done. When I’m really tired, I am past the point of a coffee, as it just makes me jittery and puts me in a weird state of tired alertness. Matcha green tea, on the other hand, wakes me up without the haze and without the jitters. Caffeine is found in both beverages, but matcha and coffee deliver caffeine in different ways, leading to different results!
Have you ever wondered how caffeine actually works in your body? Caffeine is classified as a psychoactive drug, which works to block a particular molecule that suppresses your central nervous system. This means that the transmissions between cells in your body increase so you are more alert and hormones such as dopamine and serotonin are released.
A cup of matcha contains approximately 75% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. However, there is a vital difference in the way matcha delivers this caffeine in comparison to coffee. With matcha, the caffeine is absorbed and released slowly by the body over a period of 6-8 hours. This means that matcha provides a sustainable energy boost without the rapid 30-minute spike, slump, and jitters associated with coffee.
In addition, tea is the only plant that makes the amino acid theanine. And because matcha plantations are shaded before harvest, matcha contains the highest concentration of theanine. Theanine is known for its ability to increase alpha waves in the brain and promote calmness and alert concentration, giving matcha users a great “zen” state. Controlled experiments have shown that theanine has a positive effect on the mind and improves memory by increasing dopamine levels. Additionally, the alpha brain waves increase 40 minutes after a person consumes theanine, making this a great drink for students.
Although both matcha and coffee stimulate alertness, matcha releases caffeine over time and its high concentration of theanine means that the caffeine is better harnessed to promote focus and concentration. I’ve included links to scientific studies for those who want to know more:
- Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses
- The effects of l-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood
- Antigens in tea-beverage prime human Vγ2Vδ2 T cells in vitro and in vivo for memory and nonmemory antibacterial cytokine responses
I’m a huge fan of matcha. I very much appreciate the link to research. I’m told that in Japan, matcha is provided in primary schools for children to consume each morning. I wonder what would happen here in the states if our elementary school children were given a trial of matcha. How would it impact ADD and ADHD which has become epidemic among our youth? Perhaps someone will propose research on this one day. It’s only been recently that soda machines have been removed from many schools yet I can already hear parents voicing concerns about caffeine with tea yet happily giving their child pharmaceuticals for their attentional disorder.
Thank you, Erin, for the thoughtful post. Including the links to the actual science gives the interested reader further incentive! Of late, I’ve noticed several recipes which include matcha as an ingredient. Does the theanine survive 30 minutes in the oven?