Caffeine: Tea vs Coffee

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Caffeine is a big part of the lives of many adults. It’s the main reason coffee is so popular. Most people would find it very hard to believe that coffee gained its popularity because people actually enjoy drinking a cupful of bitter sludge. But hey, there’s no accounting for people’s taste.

 

More and more, we seem to be a civilization running on overdrive, trying to go faster, produce more and stay up longer. This is evident by the wide selection of energy drinks, energy pills and an ever increasing dosage of caffeine.

 

According to research published by the Mayo Clinic, an 8 oz. cup of Black tea contains 14-70 mg of caffeine. In comparison, an  8 oz. cup of brewed coffee contains 95-200 mg of caffeine. Quite a difference.

 

Now, before you start thinking you need to forgo your favored morning cup of tea for coffee, just so you can get that jolt you need to get the engine going again read on.

 

It’s true coffee does contain quite a bit more caffeine than tea, however, tea contains other natural stimulants that are similar to caffeine including theobromine, theophylline and xanthine.

 

With this being said, even though the overall stimulants in tea and coffee are technically identical, tea affects us in different ways.

 

An amino acid called L-theanine, found only in tea, reduces stress and promotes relaxation. It works with caffeine to calm the body without reducing the alertness caffeine produces. This allows tea drinkers to have the benefit of mental alertness and focus, without the jittery nervousness that caffeine is known for.

 

The next benefit tea holds over coffee is, the high levels of antioxidants found in tea slow down caffeine absorption. This provides a gentler increase of the chemical in the system and allows for a longer period of alertness with no crash at the end.

 

There is a myth that tea contains more caffeine than coffee. This is actually true if you measure coffee and tea in their dry forms. However, it is false when you are comparing the two after they have been brewed.

 

This is because we normally use 2 grams of tea to produce an 6 oz. cup because 8 oz. of water makes the tea too watered down. However, 10 grams of coffee is used to make the same size cup. This is the main reason there is such a difference in the amount of caffeine contained in each drink, you are using more coffee to produce the same size cup.

 

The amount of caffeine in either coffee or tea depends on several different factors, including the method and length of brewing and steeping. In regards to tea, studies also show that the location of the leaf on the plant affects the content of caffeine in that tea. The newest leaves, highest up on the plant, contain the greatest concentration of caffeine and antioxidants.

 

Water temperature and length of steeping time have the greatest impact on caffeine content in tea. With this being said, a tea that is steeped for five minutes in boiling water will transfer a lot more caffeine than tea that is steeped for two minutes.

 

Another myth, promoted by several tea retailers, is that oxidation increases the level of caffeine in tea. There is no scientific proof that this is true. This claim results from measuring the caffeine in the cup after typical brewing methods and incorrectly attributing that to the tea itself.

 

There is a lot of recent concern in the United States about the possible dangers of caffeine. Caffeine tolerance varies a lot among different individuals. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. It is a common misconception that people who are caffeine sensitive should only drink decaffeinated tea.

 

In fact, same as with coffee, decaffeinated tea is not caffeine free. It still contains 5-10 mg of caffeine per cup. A way to completely eliminate caffeine intake, is to drink herbal teas. All real tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, which contains caffeine naturally.

 

Herbal infusions, such as Chamomile, Rooibos and Peppermint, are made from botanicals which aren’t related to Camellia sinensis, and are naturally caffeine free.
There are a lot of different factors to consider if you are caffeine conscious in regards to coffee and tea. However, if you are looking for a pick me up, coffee isn’t your only option and that is what a lot of people are being lead to believe. You can get your daily pick me up, while still enjoying an amazingly flavorful drink.

Free Radicals How Antioxidants Protect Against Them

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In the descriptions of several of our premium tea blends we include the fact that they are an excellent source of free radical fighting antioxidants. We also go on to explain a few of these crucial benefits to your health.

 

We all know that antioxidants are good and help provide several health benefits to our bodies. However, what are free radicals and what do they do to our bodies?

 

We hope to answer some of your questions about antioxidants and free radicals in this article, while explaining just how much damage free radicals can cause on the human body, as well as how helpful and powerful antioxidants are.

 

Free radicals

 

Free radicals are atoms, or groups of atoms, with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. These highly reactive radicals, once formed, can start a chain reaction.

 

The main problem with free radicals occurs when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membranes. When this happens, cells begin to function poorly, or die altogether.

 

This leads to an overall decline in a person’s health and several health concerns like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, increased aging and cancer just to name a few. The human body has a defense system called antioxidants to prevent this damage from happening.

 

Antioxidants

 

Antioxidants are molecules that safely interact with free radicals and put an end to the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that combat free radicals, the main micronutrient (vitamin) antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C.

 

Antioxidants’ role in preventing cancer and heart disease

 

Research has shown lower rates of cancer in people whose diets are rich in foods that contain large amounts of antioxidants. Studies have also shown that, antioxidant packed, green tea can help improve your circulatory system by improving the function of certain types of cells that occur in this system. This helps to fight against heart disease and keep your heart healthy before serious issues develop.

 

Intense scientific research is being conducted into antioxidants and whether or not they are beneficial in the fight against cancer and heart disease.

 

Are antioxidants the fountain of youth?

 

Antioxidants are also thought to have a role in slowing the aging process as well as other significant health benefits. Research data is being updated regularly, so there will be much more information on the health benefits of antioxidants in the near future.

 

The effects of exercise on free radicals

 

Endurance exercise can increase oxygen use from 10 to 20 times compared to when the body is resting. This greatly increases the generation of free radicals, arousing concern about enhanced damage to muscles and other tissues. The question is, how can athletes effectively defend against the increased free radicals resulting from exercise and do they need an intake of extra antioxidants?

 

It isn’t yet clear what portion of antioxidants is required by the human body and how this differs from person to person. However, these questions and others are being researched extensively and are expected to be answered within the next couple of years.

 

There is a major push by scientists to answer these questions because they may be at the root of how we can prevent, or even eliminate several serious health concerns that claim the lives of large portions of the population every year.

 

Over time, free radicals are capable of doing an extreme amount of damage to the human body and without combatting this damage to cells, the health problems can become very serious and irreversible.
Antioxidants provide a powerful defense against the damage caused by free radicals and can prevent a lot of the damage caused by them before reaching the point of no return.

The Health Benefits of Different Teas

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Coveted for centuries in the East as the key to good health, happiness and wisdom, tea is gaining the attention of researchers in the West who are discovering the many health benefits of different types of teas.

Research studies have shown that tea can provide help with cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It can also assist in weight loss, lower cholesterol and provide mental alertness. Tea has been found to also contain antimicrobial qualities.

“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” said Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD, spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”

However, nutritionists agree that brewed premium, organic provides the maximum health benefits, with less calories, sweeteners and preservatives over bottled, instant or “name brand” tea.

Here are the basic tea blends and their respective health benefits:

Green, Black and White Tea

Most any beverage that is steeped is called tea, however, purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea to be actual tea. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids.

The most potent of these flavonoids are known as ECGC which help fight free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries. These teas also contain caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain by heighten mental alertness.

The more processing applied to tea leaves, the more they lose their overall content of antioxidants. Oolong and black teas are oxidized, or fermented, so they have lower concentration of antioxidants than green teas. However, their antioxidizing power is still very high.

Here is what some research studies have found to be the potential health benefits of tea:

Green Tea

Several studies have shown that green tea leaves, which are steamed, are high in concentrations of EGCG. The antioxidants in green tea have been shown to interfere with the growth of cancer in the bladder, breasts, lungs, stomach, pancreas and colon.

They also prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, reduce risk of stroke and improve cholesterol levels.

Black Tea

Made with fermented leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown black tea to protect the lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also reduces the risk of stroke.

White Tea

White tea is uncured and unfermented, studies have shown that it has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels. There are also some claims that Wuyi, a variety of oolong tea, shows weight loss properties.

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh is made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. Studies have shown that pu-erh provides weight loss benefits and reduces LDL cholesterol.

Herbal Tea

Made from herbs, fruits, seeds or roots, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black and oolong teas. However, their nutritional benefits are based on their own specific properties. This makes it difficult to list all of the health benefits available in herbal teas without listing each ingredient separately.

For more information on the health benefits provided by our numerous blends of premium herbal tea please refer to the Herbal Tea category on our site.

Does Decaffeinated Green Tea Retain its Health Benefits?

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We have received several questions asking if decaffeinated green tea loses its health benefits due to the decaffeination process. The answer is yes, if the wrong decaffeination process is used.

 

Several studies have shown that drinking green tea can decrease a person’s risk of cancer and heart disease. The tea’s naturally occurring chemical compounds called polyphenols provide these health benefits.

 

The main polyphenols in tea are catechins, which include EGCG, the compound epigallocatechin gallate. EGCGs inhibit unhealthy cell growth and play a role in programmed cell death, both of these actions are crucial to the prevention and control of cancer.

 

Other polyphenols, contained in the tea, are potent antioxidants which help prevent damage to healthy cells, as well as preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol caused by free radicals. These preventative functions are critical for inhibiting the formation of plaque in the arteries or atherosclerosis.

 

Decaffeination Process

The decaffeination process does affect the amounts of polyphenol in tea, including catechins. There are two decaffeination methods used on teas imported into the United States, ethyl acetate and CO₂ (effervescence).

 

Ethyl acetate is the most commonly used method, it consists of a chemical solvent that is applied to tea to extract the caffeine. The tea is then left with a residual amount of the solvent which is considered, at certain levels, to be safe for human consumption.

 

Green tea that has been decaffeinated using ethyl acetate retains minimal health benefits, at only about 30% of EGCG and other catechins.

 

CO₂ (effervescence)

CO₂ (effervescence) processing consists of carbon dioxide and water to remove caffeine from tea. This is the only type of decaffeinated teas that we sell at ESP Emporium because they keep an impressive 95% of the polyphenols and catechins in the tea.

 

Being able to keep the most amount of the tea’s good health promoting benefits makes the CO₂ method of decaffeination the only option in our opinion since we strive to provide the most beneficial and wholesome selection of teas available.

 

Don’t let the Wording Mislead You

Most decaffeinated teas don’t state which process is used. Several tea packages will contain the wording “naturally decaffeinated”. This is a term that can mean ethyl acetate decaffeination was the method used, since trace amounts of naturally occurring ethyl acetate exists in tea leaves.
Even though this isn’t a false statement, it isn’t informing the consumer of what was lost in tea. The statement makes the process sound like all of the health benefits were left intact in the tea.

The Amazing and Versatile Camellia Sinensis

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Most true tea comes from one plant, the Camellia sinensis which is part of the evergreen family. The leaves are glossy green with serrated edges. When allowed to flower, the plant produces small white flower with bright yellow stamens.

 

Flowering is prevented during cultivation by harvesting the leaves and forcing the plant to constantly make more buds. There are two primary varieties of Camellia sinensis used for tea and a third which isn’t.

 

Camellia sinensis

The Camellia sinensis plant strain is from China and is usually used to make green tea and white tea. This variety is also used to make some black teas and oolong teas.

 

This Chinese grown plant grows the best in cool temperatures on steep mountain slopes. Thriving at elevations up to 9,500 feet, the plant will typically grow to between 5 and 15 feet tall, if left unattended, and produces leaves up to two inches long. The short mountain growing seasons yield a smaller crop of more tender leaves that yield a sweeter, less astringent cup.

 

To allow easier plucking of the new growth, the Camellia sinensis is usually pruned to be waist high with a flat top. Because of the climate, the growing season is half of the year, at most. The plant will typically yield no more than five pluckings a year. The China plant will be dormant during the winters.

 

During the dormant winter the plant stores up its energy and nutrients which ensures the spring “flush” of new growth provides some of the finest teas on earth with the highest concentrations of desirable flavors and essential elements that provide the health benefits in tea.

 

Camellia sinensis assamica

The Camellia sinensis assamica strain is native to the Assam region in India. This strain is usually used to produce black tea, as well as pu erh tea in Yunnan province, China.

 

High humidity, generous rainfall, and warm temperatures allow this larger, more robust tea variety to thrive. The Assamica plant will grow to between 30 and 60 feet if left unattended and produce much larger leaves.

 

Under perfect conditions, the Assamica plant can be harvested every 8 to 12 days throughout the year. Because of the tremendous yields, it is the preferred crop in Northeast India, Sri Lanka and Africa. The unique climate in Sri Lanka allows the harvest from this hardy bush to continue year-round.

 

The Assamica leaf is ideal for producing strong, malty black teas, as well as other Chinese teas that require longer production, as in the case of oolong and pu-erh.

 

Camellia sinensis cambodiensis

The third variety is Camellia sinensis cambodiensis (Java Bush), which has been crossbred to achieve certain traits in other cultivars. The Java Bush isn’t typically used in commercial tea production.

What are Tisanes?

What are Tisanes

 

A confusing aspect of tea is that a lot of the beverages we commonly refer to as “tea” actually aren’t tea at all. Tisanes (meaning “herbal infusion” in French), which are commonly called herbal teas, usually consist of dried flowers, fruits or herbs steeped in boiling water, and don’t actually contain any tea leaves at all.

 

Actually, in some countries, the word “tea” is legally regulated to only be used in describing products from the Camellia Sinensis plant. However, we aren’t so strict in the United States, we call just about every beverage that it steeped “tea”.

 

Many Tisanes, historically used for medicinal purposes, are beginning to become popular again in tea circles. Just about any flower, fruit or herb that can be steeped in water and ingested can become a tisane.

 

Here are just a few of the more common tisanes you will readily find:

 

Herbal Tisanes

One of the most famous herbal teas comes from ancient Egypt. Chamomile was first mentioned in a document known as the Ebers Papyrus, dating all the way back to 1550 BC.

 

The sweet citrus and floral flavor of chamomile has a reputation of honoring the gods, embalming the dead and curing the sick and it is still very popular today for its calming properties.

 

Peppermint tea has been used for just about as long as a home remedy for upset stomach and to help with the overall digestive system. In ancient Greece, tables would be rubbed down with peppermint oil to make dining a more pleasant experience.

 

Fruit Tisanes

Fruit tisanes are caffeine free blends which can contain a wide variety of fruits, spices and herbs. Hibiscus, naturally high in Vitamin C. is the most common ingredient in fruit teas. A crimson flower that yields a deep red color after it is steeped, that has a strong tart, sweet flavor that is very appealing.

 

To achieve a perfect blend, with just the right visual and flavor appeal, tea blenders will use dried fruits, fruit peels, fruit oils, blossoms and spices to their herbal blends.

 

Rooibos

Rooibos is a relative newcomer in the United States and has recently become very popular. Also known as “Red Bush Tea” or just “Red Tea,” rooibos was introduced as a substitute for black tea during World War II, when all supplies of Japanese and Chinese teas became unavailable.

 

Only grown in South Africa, caffeine free rooibos has a rich, slightly sweet flavor that is excellent alone or blends very well with a variety of other flavors.

 

Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is a South American botanical from the holy family which is consumed throughout most of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and the Far East. Also known as simply “Mate”, this tisane has been praised as a cultural phenomenon, which both energizes and heals the body.

 

Yerba Mate, along with coffee, cocoa and tea, is one of the few plants known to contain caffeine which lends to its energizing effects. With a very earthy taste, Mate can seem a little different to newcomers, however, after a few sips most people find it very pleasant, which is quickly making it a suitable substitute for coffee in the U.S.
Herbal blends are quickly growing in popularity, with the wide variety of tisanes available, the possible combinations are virtually unlimited.