L-Theanine: The Reason Tea is Better Than Coffee

It’s early October so naturally I’m starting my yearly re-watch of Gilmore Girls, but in my hand you’ll find a cosy cup of tea instead of a cup of coffee. Sure, Lorelai might turn her nose up, but I stand by my opinion that tea is better than coffee.

And that’s not just because I like the flavour more. Tea is, arguably, better for your health and contains some very interesting compounds. One of those compounds is L-Theanine.

What is L-Theanine?

L-Theanine is an amino acid that’s produced naturally by the tea plant. It’s also only produced by the tea plant, so unless you added L-Theanine extract to your coffee, there’s no way you’ll find it in a latte for example.

What’s really interesting about L-Theanine is that it interacts with caffeine. We all know that there’s less caffeine in a cup of tea compared to a cup of coffee (comparing the dry material of leaf vs bean is a different story, however) but L-Theanine matters too.

So while you might have 96mg of caffeine in a brewed coffee, and only 47 in a brewed black tea, you also get L-Theanine.

How it Works

L-Theanine interacts with the caffeine in tea to slow down the onset of the energy. So, instead of getting that instant buzz, you get a smoother energy boost. This also means the energy boost lasts longer and drifts off gradually.

Coffee, on the other hand, hits you like a tonne of bricks then fades away just as quickly in the afternoons.

There are other benefits to L-Theanine, such as:

  • Reduce psychological and physiological stress responses e.g., keep you feeling calm and lowering your heart rate when you’re stressed (study),
  • Improve sleep quality and duration so you wake up feeling rested, particularly when combined with GABA (study),
  • Keeps you calm and prevents stress when you’re multitasking e.g., sorting your emails while working on that new project at work (study),
  • Helps to keep you awake and mentally alert by stimulating alpha wave activity in your brain (study),
  • L-Theanine could potentially be used to treat insomnia and generalised anxiety disorder, although more research is needed (study),
  • Compared to caffeine or L-Theanine alone, the combination resulted in “faster simple reaction time, faster numeric working memory reaction time and improved sentence verification accuracy” (study),
  • L-Theanine and caffeine can also prevent you from being easily distracted when working on an important task e.g., watching Gilmore Girls for the millionth time (study).

If you want to boost your L-Theanine intake, opt for green teas that are shade grown. This encourages the tea plant to accumulate more L-Theanine and caffeine in the leaves, rather than catechins (that’s a whole other blog article to come).

Some Teas to Try If You Love Coffee

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that tea is better than coffee by now. But if not, and you’re still craving a cup of coffee, why not give these tea blends a try?

English Tea Shop Coffee Cream – a mix of coffee, black tea, and cocoa to ease you in gently.

Tea Musketeers Badger Brew – super smooth black tea with ginger pieces to add a little kick.

Adagio Chocolate Chai – as rich and sweet as hot chocolate but with no calories and a dash of caffeine.

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