No Crash, No Jitters: Tea Delivers an Abundance of Clean Caffeine

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Feeling tired or lacking energy is a pervasive and common complaint in our modern era between the usual grind at work and school, sitting at computer screens typing all day, caring for children, poor diet and sedentary behaviour among other contributing factors. As a society, many of us are looking for that jolt of energy in the morning or that pick-me-up during the mid-day slump. A steaming cup of delicious energy-infusing tea can help reduce fatigue in a healthful and easy manner.

Not only do certain teas provide a mass of pure energy, they also provide extended bouts of energy without the feeling of a sudden "crash" or sudden exhaustion, a common side effect of traditional coffees.

 

Assam

Assam is a black tea made from the leaves of the tea producing plant, Camellia sinensis var. Assamica. It is a regional variety of the species C. sinensis that grows in India in a region along the lush valley of the Brahmaputra River that borders Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is described as having a rich malty flavor, and its leaves are harvested, dried and fermented or oxidized where it creates the signature flavor profiles indicative of assam tea, while turning a dark hue in the process by virtue of the high tannin concentration. This black tea may be served like any other traditional tea, placing loose leaves in an infuser with boiling water poured over top or emerged and steeped in boiling water using preformed, leaf-filled tea bags (worth noting only plant based, non gmo, biodegradable tea bags is the correct choice).

Like all teas made from the C.sinensis plant, assam tea contains caffeine with approximately 50-90mg (more so if it is steeped for longer) per cup, as compared to the 100-150mg found in an equivalent volume of coffee.

This tea contains many different phytochemicals such as antioxidants which help to scavenge free radicals or reactive oxygen species generated by metabolic processes. These antioxidants include catechins, flavonoids, tannins and polyphenols, and may be helpful for general health, alleviating inflammation, cardiovascular health, and combating mutagenesis and oncogenesis (cancer development).

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Ginseng

Panax ginseng is a plant that grows in various Asian countries including China, Korea and far east Siberia. Ginseng consumption utilizes the pale colored stalk of the plant, which is processed to be pulverized and turned into a powder to be used and sold to consumers in pill or capsule form, or to be brewed as a tea. You can purchase fresh ginseng at Asian markets and slice the root and steep in boiling water or purchase dried or preformed ginseng tea. It may be sweetened with honey or diluted with green tea or ginger tea.

Ginseng has compounds called ginsenosides, which have shown efficacy in improving memory, concentration and cognitive stamina. It is also known to suppress oxidative stress in skeletal muscle, improve energy metabolism and mitochondrial activity during a bout of arduous exercise to help reduce fatigue and increase energy.

Ginseng contains anti-inflammatory antioxidative compounds which in, in vitro and in vivo animal models with purified concentrations of whole ginseng or extracts of specific ginsenosides, exhibited antimicrobial, cardioprotective and anti-cardiovascular disease effects. In vivo, in vitro and clinical trials have also shown that ginseng has anti-obesogenic effects or weight loss potential and may increase insulin secretion, and therefore, have potential utility in diabetes management.

 

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Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is a popular tea grown in southern Latin American countries brewed from dried leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. The leaves are first harvested, then blanched (heated and oxidized), dried using fire smoke, aged, and then ready for consumption. Mate tea contains xanthines including caffeine and theobromine, the latter of which is also found in chocolate. These compounds are central nervous system stimulants to provide that energizing property by increasing cerebral energy metabolism, increasing dopaminergic activity in the brain to boost alertness, attention and cognition. In fact, a typical cup of mate tea contains only marginally less caffeine than a cup of coffee.

Yerba mate tea also has powerful antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, which is anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and reduces lipid peroxidation that leads to cardiovascular disease and cellular damage.

 

Guayusa

Guayusa tea is made from another South American plant, Ilex guayusa, which is native to the lush Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador and Argentina. It is traditionally consumed by local peoples and tribesmen for its stimulating properties to maintain and promote wakefulness and alertness. It also contains comparable levels of caffeine as coffee and mate tea, which accounts for its centralized effects.

Like the other aforementioned teas, guayusa also contains powerful, health promoting properties such as those already mentioned above, in addition to its adjunctive role in weight loss, reducing hyperglycemia and blood cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia.

 

Green tea

Green tea originates from the same plant species that comprises what we colloquially refer to as black tea (English breakfast, earl grey etc.), oolong and white tea, namely, the Camellia sinensis plant. Green tea is harvested and heated (pan-frying, steaming or sun-drying) quickly to deactivate certain plant enzymes and to prevent the leaves from being heavily oxidized like in black tea varieties. Green tea leaves are then rolled and ready to be steeped and drunk.

These comparatively fresher and less oxidized tea leaves yield even higher antioxidant retention and concentration characteristic of this broad classification of tea such as catechins, which have various health benefits. The reduction in oxidation also preserves the green hue and reduces the concentration of tannins that give black tea its signature dark coloring.

Green tea contains caffeine, though substantially less than coffee, as well as L-theanine and ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate), incurring a mild invigorating result which has been shown to improve mood and cognitive performance. Green tea has an astringent, earthy flavor, and comes in two varieties: matcha and sencha.

  • Matcha
    Matcha is the product of pure, minimally oxidized, pulverized leaf that originates from tea leaves grown and harvested from partially shaded plants, to yield a bright green coloured powder that has a pungent, grassy flavor profile.
  • Sencha
    Sencha is green tea of a lesser quality, as it contains not only leaves, but also the shoot and stem, and doesn’t have the same stringent light shading and production constraints as matcha. Sencha leaves, after harvesting, are then heated or steamed, rolled, pressed and dried. As such, it tends to be more affordable than matcha varieties.

 Tea consumption is popular worldwide and has been enjoyed as an expensive traded good since antiquity. It is not only a delicious beverage that one can consume neat, or additives to sweeten it with, it also has numerous health benefits and can provide energy, improve mood and cognitive abilities and performance in regular tea drinkers.

 

References

Berkheiser, K. (2021, May 10). What is Guayusa? Healthline. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/guayusa#benefits.

Frey, M. (2021, October 4). Assam tea benefits and side effects. Very well Fit. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.verywellfit.com/assam-tea-benefits-and-side-effects-4163613.

Heck, C. I., & Mejia, E. G. D. (2007, October 17). Yerba mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and technological considerations. Institute of Food Technologists. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://ift.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00535.x.

Hill, A. (2020, August 13). Assam tea: Nutrition, benefits, and precautions. Healthline. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/assam-tea#preparation.

Johnson, J. (2021). Matcha vs. Green Tea: Differences and benefits. Medical News Today. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/matcha-vs-green-tea#differences.

  1. D. C. D. (2017). Effect of green tea phytochemicals on mood and cognition. Current pharmaceutical design. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28056735/.

Muller, J., & Jon Muller. (2021, September 18). Workplace Fatigue Statistics and its staggering costs. Ergonomic Trends. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://ergonomictrends.com/workplace-fatigue-statistics/.

Ratan, Z. A., Haidere, M. F., Hong, Y. H., Park, S. H., Lee, J.-O., Lee, J., & Cho, J. Y. (2020, March 25). Pharmacological potential of ginseng and its major component ginsenosides. Journal of Ginseng Research. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1226845320300592#bib59.

Wong, C. (2021, February 22). What is Guayusa tea? Verywell Health. Retrieved December 4, 2021, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/guayusa-benefits-of-caffeine-rich-tea-4103191.