~ Tea Leaf Buzz ~
One of the first things new tea drinkers notice when they switch to tea is that the buzz is quite different from coffee. Furthermore, each tea has it’s own unique signature, this diversity is something tea drinkers love and celebrate. So what is so special about tea and why does it have such a unique buzz profile? Read on and let’s dive into a bit of the science of tea.
The two primary components of tea that factor into the type of buzz it creates are caffeine and theanine. Caffeine is responsible for the get up and go quality of tea, while L-theanine tempers the stimulant qualities of tea helping to make the drink a smoother source of energy than other sources of caffeine.
The structure on the left is caffeine and the structure on the right is L-theanine (hereby referred to simply as theanine).
Caffeine is an alkaloid stimulant from the xanthine chemical class. Most of us are quite familiar with caffeine’s effects so this article will focus primarily on theanine and the theanine-caffeine interactions that gives tea it's signature buzz.
Theanine is a non standard amino acid that is primarily found in the Camellia sinensis plant. It is structurally similar to glutamate, the brain’s predominant excitatory neurotransmitter, and it can cross the Blood Brain Barrier. Once in the brain, theanine competes with glutamate receptors in an antagonistic fashion which helps to induce a sense of calm.
This paper published in 2007 concluded that theanine reduces both psychological and physiological stress responses. Likewise a 2013 paper showed the protective effects of theanine under chronic stress situations.
So how does all this factor into the unique buzz we get from our morning cup of tea? Different strains and growing conditions gives rise to different concentrations of caffeine and theanine in the tea leaves. The relative effects of the two compounds help to shape the buzz one feels from a particular tea. The infographic to the left should be used as a guideline as opposed to gospel. It should also be noted that the caffeine/theanine percentages are not scientific in the sense of actual compound concentrations. Instead they should be thought of more as the amount of effect excerted by the given compound. So using white teas as our example we can see that theanine exerts a greater influence on the overal effects than caffeine does. This leads to the calming tranquil feeling one gets from a nice cup of Silver Needle.
However, it’s worth repeating that the infographic should be treated as a guideline. For instance most green teas will be more stimulating than white teas, but there are some prized green teas that have a higher theanine : caffeine ratio such as Gyokuro or even Matcha.
That's the gist of it folks... enjoy your BUZZ! 🐝 and this text is here to force some space on this line so it will wrap down
Author: John R. Furr Ph.D.