5 Caffeine Misconceptions Debunked for National Caffeine Awareness Month

2/22/2018

by Eliot Jordan, Mighty Leaf Tea Master

“caffeine

When it comes to caffeine, there are quite a number of misconceptions. And, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them all! The most important thing to understand about caffeine is that the details can be confusing but once broken down, they’re actually quite simple. For caffeine awareness month, I’m debunking five caffeine misconceptions I’ve heard more times than I can count.

Misconception 1: Tea has more caffeine than coffee

There’s a reason this rumor is still in circulation. But I like to counter this question with a few questions of my own: Have you ever had a cup of coffee? Have you ever had a cup of tea? Which one makes you feel more jacked up? Tea has a moderate amount of naturally occurring caffeine. Coffee is actually almost twice as strong in caffeine but this misconception is still around because of misconception two.

Misconception 2: A pound of tea has more caffeine than a pound of coffee

This is actually true. But, here’s where you have to look at the details. From a pound of coffee beans, you can brew around 40 cups. From a pound of tea leaves, you can brew around 160 cups. The coffee beans are heavier than the tea leaves, so looking at brewing by the cup helps un-complicate the caffeine distribution. Let’s look at another example: a single serving Green Tea Tropical tea bag has 2.5 grams portioned into it for brewing a 12 ounce cup. You’d need 10 grams of coffee for a 12 ounce cup. Tea isn’t coffee and coffee isn’t tea.

Misconception 3: Green tea has less caffeine than black tea

This is true, but also with asterisks around it. How you brew your tea also impacts the caffeine variance. The average difference between a cup of black tea and green tea is less than you might think—around 20%. If there’s 60 milligrams of caffeine in a cup of black tea, then a cup of green tea has 50 milligrams. When you brew a cup of black tea, you use hotter water and steep it for a minute or two longer which extracts more caffeine from the tea. With green tea, you use water that’s not quite as hot and steep the tea for a minute or two less than black tea. The hotter the water and the longer the steep, the more caffeine you’re extracting and the inverse is true too. Also, if you over-steep your cup of tea, you’re getting more caffeine from the leaves. Drinking tea for caffeine level is like buying wine for alcohol level. So, buy the tea by the flavor you best prefer. If you’re watching your caffeine levels, then drink what you love and get less caffeine by: drinking a little less of the tea, adding more water, steeping the tea for a shorter time, or, using a smaller mug. We also offer naturally caffeine-free herbal teas like Chamomile Citrus and Organic African Nectar.

Misconception 4: You can make your own decaf tea by brewing regular tea for 30 seconds, pouring it down the drain, and re-steeping the leaves to remove 90% of the caffeine

A few years ago, I was asked this question often, but thankfully it’s died down. You can do these exact steps, but it will only reduce the caffeine by about 15% because the caffeine comes out during the entire steeping time. Plus, at the beginning of steeping is when the delicate aromatics in teas like Darjeeling come out. So, you’d be getting rid of 1/6th of the caffeine and making a cup of tea that won’t taste as good. Instead, you can achieve the same result of this misconception by just using fewer leaves for a smaller cup of tea, or with a tea pouch brewing a bigger cup and not drinking all of the tea.

Misconception 5: Decaf tea and caffeine-free tea are the same thing

No. They’re not. Decaf teas had caffeine to begin with. Our Earl Grey Decaf and Breakfast Decaf go through an elaborate CO2  process to extract the caffeine from the tea leaves. It reduces the caffeine by 85-90%. There’s no way to get all the caffeine out of tea leaves—the decaffeination process is expensive and harder than with decaffeinating coffee. If you’re looking for a caffeine-free option, there’s a wonderful world of herbal teas made out of naturally caffeine-free botanicals awaiting you. All of our herbal teas at Mighty Leaf Tea are naturally caffeine-free. But make sure to read the ingredient labels when shopping for other herbal teas: some herbs like yerba mate, guayusa, and yaupon are caffeinated. You might also find cacao beans or coffee in some herbal tea blends, which can also add caffeine.

So, as more people turn toward tea from coffee to caffeinate, two ideas come to mind:

    • Why the Switch From Coffee to Matcha Makes Sense: Matcha is green tea in super-pure concentrated form. All the stems have been removed and you just have the flesh of the leaf ground to a fine powder. You don’t need as much matcha as other green teas to brew a single cup. A single tea pouch of Green Tea Tropical has 2.5 grams in it for a 12 ounce cup of tea, but that same 2.5 grams would be too much matcha because you’re actually consuming the entire leaf, not just steeping it. I liken matcha as being the espresso of tea. There’s this idea that espresso has more caffeine than a cup of coffee, but really it’s all about how you enjoy it—it might take 15 minutes to drink a cup of coffee where a shot of espresso is downed in one gulp. A cup of Green Tea Tropical needs 3 minutes to steep, so you don’t get the caffeine and effects right away, whereas matcha is water soluble ready—you hit the matcha with water and the caffeine is ready to go. Think about how you drink a cup of green tea versus matcha—you might not be lingering over matcha like you do with the green tea. If you are making the switch from a dark roasted coffee drink to the greenest of green teas, matcha, it makes sense. The matcha enters your system faster than a cup of steeped green tea. You can also make a latte out of matcha, which makes it a great substitute for café lattes.

    • Coffee and Tea: Same Caffeine / Different Effect: I’ve been drinking coffee and tea for years. When I drink coffee, I want to go out and do things. If I drink a lot of tea, it makes me want to write a book.  Caffeine has a chemical element called l-theanine, which is more present in some teas, like steamed green teas than others. L-theanine is a natural brain focuser and helps with attention span. The theory is this is why the monks in Japan and China got so much into tea because the caffeine helped them stay awake but the l-theanine helped them meditate. When my kids went off to college and were getting ready to study for midterms, I would tell my kids to drink green tea (it will help you focus) rather than reach for coffee (you’ll get antsy, then crash). When thinking about caffeine in coffee and tea, these are two different keys to open the same door.

So, tell us on Facebook, how does the caffeine in a cup of tea affect you differently than a cup of coffee? Have you made a switch from coffee to matcha or tea?