Fighting Caffeine Addiction – Is Tea Any Better?
If you’re like me, you might find it a bit difficult to switch on in the morning without the help of a cup of coffee. Many Melburnians find themselves in this position, and it’s certainly no secret that the residents of the so-called coffee capital of Australia love a good flat white. But is this reliance on a daily caffeine dose harmful?
If you’re concerned about drinking too much coffee, making the switch to tea might be what you need to reduce your caffeine intake. Image adapted by the author from “Matcha Latte for Breakfast” by Kirinohana via Flickr (used under CC BY-NC 2.0, cropped from original).
Caffeine purportedly has a number of beneficial effects, not the least of which is increased alertness soon after drinking it. Caffeine has also been shown to improve memory, mood, and reaction time. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it gets even better. Some research has suggested that caffeine can also help fight the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and liver disease, as well as reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. A recent Spanish study found a correlation between coffee consumption and longer lifespans.
So, despite these supposed benefits of drinking coffee, why is it that more and more people are concerned about their caffeine intake?
Is Caffeine All That Bad?
Consuming more than 400 milligrams (about four 250 mL cups’ worth) of caffeine can lead to irritability, an increased heartrate, an upset stomach, and headaches. Long-term consumption of over 300 milligrams of caffeine a day during pregnancy may even increase the risk of miscarriage.
But few people are aware of these negative side-effects and, above all else, people are most worried about becoming addicted to their morning cup of joe.
“I’m addicted to coffee” is something I’m sure we’ve all heard at least once (we might’ve even said it ourselves!) and becoming dependent on caffeine is a real risk; I’m sure many of us feel like we wouldn’t function as well in the mornings without our coffee.
Out of this fear of having too much coffee, swapping out sipping espresso for drinking tea might seem like an attractive option.
The Power of Tea
Whether you’re brewing a pot of Daintree tea or waiting ‘til your billy boils, everyone knows Aussies love a good cuppa. It’s estimated that about half of all Australians aged 14 or older drink at least one cup of tea a week on average.
Like coffee, tea also contains caffeine. Tea has been hailed as a preferable alternative to coffee due to a cup of tea supposedly containing less caffeine than a cup of coffee. This is actually true; drinking tea will give you a lower dose of caffeine than drinking coffee will. American researchers in 2008 found that a variety of teas had between 14 and 61 milligrams of caffeine per cup, with the type of tea (black, green, or white) having no effect on the caffeine content of the beverage. Brewed coffee generally has about 100 milligrams of caffeine in a cup. That’s about three times as much as the average tea.
Matcha tea, where entire tea leaves are ground up in the beverage, tends to contain more caffeine than standard brewed tea. But even then, the average matcha still has less caffeine than a coffee of the same size.
Alternatively, herbal teas—not made from the leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis—contain no caffeine whatsoever.
So, substituting coffee for tea might be what you need if you’re looking to reduce your caffeine intake. Tea has reliably less caffeine than coffee, and still has similar levels of beneficial antioxidants. Both the potential positive and negative effects of caffeine are still being studied, but if you think that cutting back on coffee is a good idea for you, replacing it with tea would be a great choice.