Are there different types of caffeine in tea and coffee?

Andres Nava Owner Of Tao Te Tea

Andres Nava 
Tea enthusiast and owner of Tao Te Tea

The simple answer is no; caffeine (C8H10N4O2), a xanthine alkaloid compound that acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, is molecularly the same in both tea and coffee.

If tea and coffee have the same caffeine, then why does tea make me feel different than coffee?

Hot water pouring in chinese gonfu tea cup

One of the most popular explanations given is that tea and coffee have differing concentrations of caffeine. This answer is valid, but it is not complete.

There are many substances in both tea and coffee that interact with caffeine differently in the body. Among these substances are other xanthine alkaloids, including the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine, amino acids, and polyphenols, which can form insoluble complexes with caffeine.

Tea, in comparison to coffee, contains small amounts of theobromine and slightly higher levels of theophylline.


Fun fact: Caffeine changes names depending on its source. In tea caffeine is sometimes called theine.

Why does green tea make me feel different than black tea?

For the same reason that tea and coffee make you feel different, green tea and black tea make you feel different. Yes, the amount of caffeine being ingested does have some weight in why each one influences a different effect but is it the other substances and how they interact with caffeine in the body that makes the greatest difference.

Green tea contains fewer polyphenols than black tea. Polyphenols are known to interact with caffeine, attributing to sympathetically released noradrenaline. 

tea variety in china cups

The actions of norepinephrine are vital to the fight-or-flight response, whereby the body prepares to react to or retreat from an acute threat by increasing the force and rate at which the heart contracts.

Green tea also contains more L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation.

There's more to it than just caffeine

Caffeine plays a strong role in how one feels after drinking tea or coffee, but there is more at work inside the body than just caffeine. To understand why each beverage influences a different feeling, one must take into account all of the compounds within the beverage and how they interact with each other.

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