Coffee vs. Green Tea: Why Coffee Gives Me Road Rage And Tea Does Not

Tuesday Jul 1 | BY |
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Coffee and Green Tea in Paper Cups

I like to start the day with a cup or two (or three) of green tea, along with fruit or a smoothie. I enjoy the taste of good green tea, freshly harvested and brewed at the right temperature.

While I enjoy drinking green tea, I really prefer the stronger taste of coffee, and the stronger it is, the better I like it. Espresso, Turkish coffee, or French “allongé” (a sort of Americano) could well be my favorite drinks ever.

But while I see some people deeply enjoying their morning coffee, I have to  stick with green tea, or water. Coffee just doesn’t agree with me.

We know that both tea and coffee contain caffeine, and I find both drinks to be stimulating. But coffee is pure crack to me.

The last time I had a coffee, I was happy and flying high for about 2-3 hours until I started getting quite irritable. While driving my car back from the country to the city where I live, I was starting to get seriously irritated with little annoyances. So much that I asked myself… “is this road rage?”

Is this what some people experience, a milder level of the impulse that makes some maniacs get out of their cars to shout or beat up the driver in front of them, after they’ve done something they judge improper?

Whatever it was, my body was irritated, but it wasn’t from the drive: it was the coffee.

With coffee, I not only get a stronger buzz, but I also experience the following side effects, that don’t occur when I drink green tea:

– A “crash” 4-5 hours later when I want to crawl in my bedroom and forget about the outside world
– Physical irritability
– Acidity: coffee just produces a great deal of acidity in my body, that I can feel it sometimes in my entire digestive track.
– Attention-Deficit Disorder. I feel ADD when I drink coffee. I want to do everything at once, but can’t concentrate on one thing at all.

Also: if I drink coffee regularly for a few weeks, I will experience massive withdrawal symptoms when I give it up, including monstrous headaches. Whenever I quit drinking green tea, I don’t experience much in the way of withdrawal symptoms at all.

A lot of people that I know have also quit drinking coffee in favor of green tea (or nothing) and have reported similar findings.

So what makes coffee so much stronger than tea? After all, I do experience a nice stimulation from tea, without the other nasty side-effects of coffee?

Is in the caffeine? Or is there something else going on in coffee.

Let’s take a look:

Caffeine

First of all, my findings reveal that the caffeine content of the type of coffee most people enjoy nowadays is much higher than you’d expect.

Yes, a shot of espresso supposedly only contains 80 mg. of caffeine, but no self-respecting coffee shop will make a latte or cappuccino with only one shot. It will normally contain two, or 160 mg of caffeine. Americano is also made with two shots of espresso.

Cafetiere coffee: Coffee made with a “plunger” essentially boils the grains in water and contains a lot of caffeine, at least 100 mg per tiny 8 ounce cup.

Filter coffee: It’s healthier because it removes the fatty components of coffee, that raise cholesterol levels. But it contains a lot of caffeine: 100-150 mg. per cup.

Espresso is typically at least 80 mg. per shot.

Turkish Coffee: Up to 160 mg. per cup.

Instant coffee: 65 mg. per cup.

Coffee made with an Italian coffee maker (Bialetti or Moka Pot): Who knows. A lot.

Caffeine in Green Tea

There is no set amount of caffeine in tea. It really depends on the batch of tea received. However, we can draw some general conclusions.

The Tea House and specialty tea distributor Camellia Sinensis, in Canada, did some independent research on the caffeine content of different teas.

They tested dozens of teas and brewed them at the optimal temperature for each teas. The highest in caffeine was Matcha Sendo, from Japan, with 126 mg. of caffeine in a scant 100 ml. of water. Other teas were infused in 2 cups of water. Some of the teas lowest in caffeine included:

• Mucha Tie Guan Yin (12 mg. per 500 ml.)
• Dragon Pearls Jasmine (12 mg. per 500 ml.)
• Yerba Maté (18 mg. per 500 ml.)

My favorite green tea, Kamairicha, contained 23 mg. of caffeine per 500 ml.

So as we can see, overall green tea contains MUCH less caffeine than coffee. A coffee made with two shots of espresso might contain 160 mg of caffeine, while two cups of a nice Turkish coffee might bring your total to over 300 mg.

Two cups of green tea will contain between 24 and 100 mg. of caffeine, on average.

Surprisingly, if you’re in the habit of throwing away the first infusion of your green tea to “get rid of the caffeine,” you’re in for a surprise.

The team of Camellia Sinensis also tested how caffeine was released in multiple infusions. They found that teas still release about the same amount of caffeine after a first infusion of 4 ½ minutes, where the water is thrown away and replaced by new water. They write “Enthusiasts who try to ‘decaffeinate’ their teas by throwing away the first infusion will be disappointed to see that, as shown by the table above, this practice may be futile. If they wish to avoid the stimulating effect of tea, they would be wiser to choose a less caffeine-rich tea rather than wasting their first infusion.”

Caffeine in Black Tea

According to the tests done by Camelia, black teas do not necessarily contain more caffeine. It really depends on the variety. But generally, they will contain more caffeine.

Other Factors

Coffee and tea are fundamentally two different products. Coffee beans are roasted and ground, while green tea is essentially just tea leaves that are steeped in hot (but not boiling water). Other types of tea may be fermented or aged to change their flavor.

Are there other factors besides caffeine that change the way we react to tea or coffee?

Tea contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that may help generate a state of “alert relaxation” But you’d probably have to consume a whole lot of tea to feel this effect. According to a study:

L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. However, this effect has only been established at higher doses than that typically found in a cup of black tea (approximately 20mg).

Final Conclusions

There may be other reasons why some people react more negatively to caffeine, but on the whole, the big difference in the caffeine concentration.

A single normal-size cup of coffee (not the 8-ounce amount that nobody drinks) or a typically coffee drink (cappuccino or latte) contains as much caffeine as 7 (8-ounce) cups of your average green tea.

Green tea is also not acid-forming the way coffee is, so that may be another plus.

If you’re going to drink tea, however, I recommend only buying loose-leaf teas from reputable vendors who source their products well. I recommend the two following online stores for the best teas:

www.camelia-sinensis.com
www.samovarlife.com

Tea bags contain tea that has been pulverized and will extract even more caffeine. That’s why some people say that they can’t drink the green tea from Starbucks: it’s too “strong!”

What about you? Coffee, Green Tea, or Something Else?

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

35 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Glen says:

    Interestingly enough my husband has just come to the same conclusion, with the added benefit that green tea doesn’t irritate his gums – he couldn’t work out why his gums were inflamed and bled a little when everything else with his dental hygiene is perfect. When he went off drinking all coffee and switched to green tea, they settled down to complete normality again – I guess it’s the acidity that did it. Cheers for the article.

  2. Nikki G says:

    It’s kombucha for me! I am brewing my own and loving it!

  3. Jacek says:

    As I read this, I feel almost like I’m reading about myself. I too love coffee, but I know that if I drink it I’ll have to pay with all of the same symptoms that you have described here. The suffering outweighs the pleasure. No fun!

    So I drink green and black tea. First tea of the day is a strong black tea with 1/2 tsp of raw honey. Might have 2-3 cups like you say. If I have an urge for tea after morning I switch to green ….often with no honey.

    Those coffee caffeine headaches are really tough for me to handle. Hey, but I did find a nice mini-treat. If you have a cabinet where you keep things like rice, flour, and beans, you may be wise to put a couple of 1/2 cups of roasted coffee beans at various corners in the cabinets. Summer bugs don’t like the smell ….but I do. I can enjoy the aroma every time I open the cabinet.

    Good health to you!

  4. stevieod says:

    I like Sencha or genmai tea, but got to have the most brutal coffee I can get in the morning. Caffeine does not affect me the way it does for most people. I do become more awake and alert, but unless I drink five gallons of coffee I don’t have the crash later in the day.

    O cha is the best tasting drink to go with lunch or dinner.

  5. Laura says:

    I get exactly the same reactions you describe, when I drink Mate. I drink it “Argentinian style”, which is pretty different than just a tea. Probably the amount of caffeine has a lot to do with it. Not sure if it is the amount of caffeine or if it something else in the Mate itself. I have not done my research yet, but I have the feeling that it is not just the caffeine but also the effect it has on my digestive system. When I drink just one or two I’m fine but if I drink more than that I get in trouble. It really takes me out of my center!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Jill says:

    I quit drinking coffee a few weeks ago and started drinking herbal teas, buckthorn tea, lemon verbena, yerva mate, and green teas. Then I came across a lot of material warning against the flouride in teas. Such as this article: http://poisonfluoride.com/pfpc/html/green_tea___.html
    Have you heard about this?

    • Brianzim says:

      We have the ubiquitous Fluoride in UK and the only answer I have found is Filtration, changing the Filter media as frequent as needed. Only a (scuse-me) fool would take water from the tap without filtration before boiling. The quality of filtration is so varied that at best you can end up with pure H2O! I drink propriety Green Tea with Lemon for most of the day and feel quite fine with it, but I also have 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day and don’t think I suffer from it.
      The bottom line must be the quality of Tap Water, before we must start to remove the irritants.

      • Jill says:

        Actually it’s not the water that they are mentioning has the fluoride I was asking about. It’s the actual tea itself.

        “Tea leaves accumulate more fluoride (from pollution of soil and air) than any other edible plant (1,2,3). Fluoride content in tea has risen dramatically over the last 20 years, as has tea consumption (4).”

        http://poisonfluoride.com/pfpc/html/green_tea___.html

  7. Susan Hirst says:

    I do like a cup of coffee in the morning but to make it strong without too much caffeine I add a naturally decaffeinated coffee about half and half. Then I will mostly have tea. If I have another coffee it will
    be just half a cup. I also like to make my own Chai Tea or Yogi Tea as we call it, sometimes I add black
    tea sometimes green tea and it’s still really tasty without the tea added.

  8. Donna says:

    I get the same reactions to coffee. Dr. Tom O’Bryan said in the Gluten summit that most people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to coffee. He says it has something to do with the coffee and gluten molecules being similar. Anyone with an autoimmune illness he says is especially sensitive to coffee and gluten. So I stay away from coffee and also from any caffeine. I like to drink chai rooibos tea. Or I make a strong cinnamon tea from Kevin’s Ceylon cinnamon. Really good stuff.

  9. Tina Murphy says:

    What do you think about Bulletproof Coffee. He adds MCT to it along with Mucuna to stop the caffeine side effects.

    • Bob says:

      The benefit of bulletproof coffee is not just from the added oils, it’s also choosing beans and processing the coffee in a way that avoids the mycotoxins. My experience with coffee HAD been exactly what Frederic mentioned UNTIL I tried Bulletproof coffee and I have none of these negative effects with BP coffee. Quite amazing. It’s not just “to drink coffee, or not”, but also what coffee to drink if you are to drink coffee. David Wolfe also has his Longevity Coffee which indicates the same (with no acidity!) benefits, but I haven’t tried it yet.

  10. Snez says:

    When I used to drink green tea it lowered my blood sugar levels too much so I stopped drinking it however I preferred it over coffee.
    Any advice about what types of green tea won’t lower my blood sugar levels?

    • Rhonda says:

      I have never heard of green tea lowering blood sugar. May I ask, do you check your blood sugar with a diabetic meter after drinking the tea? I am very curious.

  11. Zyxomma says:

    Thanks, Kevin. I’d also like to recommend another loose tea online vendor: Rishi, whose organic teas are often prize winners. A long, long time ago (although not in a galaxy far, far away), I drank coffee. When the naturopath with whom I studied informed us that, after tobacco, coffee is the most carcinogenic thing humans ingest, I could no longer bring myself to drink it. I still like the aroma, but it has lost all the appeal it once had.

    If you ARE going to drink coffee, make sure it’s organic, and fair-trade sourced. Coffee is one of the crops on which the most pesticides are used (along with cotton and corn). Buying fair trade will make sure the grower isn’t ripped off.

    By the way, Frederic, I greatly prefer articles to podcasts, which I rarely have the time or patience to listen to. Health and peace.

    • Zyxomma says:

      Ack! I addressed the above message to Kevin. I meant Frederic, and apologize for the error. Many people who think they don’t like green tea have only had it at cafes, where boiling water is used for all the tea. Boiling is way too hot for green or white tea, which is optimally brewed at 180 degrees F. Boiling water makes green tea taste harsh and/or bitter. Health and peace.

    • Rhonda says:

      Thank you for sharing how toxic coffee is. I know I have read the positives and negatives to coffee, and I love it, but I am very sensitive to it, like Frederic.

  12. Betsy says:

    Frederic, I am wondering about something on this topic.
    I lived in France for a while and my French friends do NOT consider tea to have Caffeine – they call the chemical in tea Théine (sp?). I have several French friends who are chemists and they just insist that it is not the same
    molecule. They think it’s a riot that the chemists in the USA call it caffeine.
    So I would like to know if you know anything about this difference? Maybe it’s subtle but maybe it makes
    a difference as to how the chemical reacts in the body?

    I do not experience any of the symptoms that you describe with coffee. I feel nothing if I drink it – except ALERT.
    If I don’t drink it, tho, I feel like I never wake up fully, even tho i wake up without any alarm or anything.
    One cup of dripped coffee makes me feel wonderful and alert and sometimes – like in France – I drink a very little coffee in the early afternoon and it keeps me feeling alert and energetic, but never frenetic.

    Whenever I do any “cleanse” – giving up coffee is THE hardest part. I could do it if I were at a retreat where I do not need to drive or have any commitments but when living my normal life, it scares me that i feel so unalert
    without it.

    • Hi Betsy: Theine is caffeine. The molecule is essentially the same! It has the same effect on the body — the big difference is concentration, and also perhaps the other elements found in in tea.

  13. Craig says:

    Hi Kev
    I have found Yerba mate to be a nice tea stimulation and it is very mineral dense and will help cleanse the kidneys.

  14. What do you think of a coffee that has a PH 7.2? Your friend David Avocado Wolfe has one. Also Bulletproof has an article about the mold in most coffee’s, causing a lot of problems to our health. Just something to think about and talk about!

    • What do they say are the biggest health challenges from mold in coffee?

      • Ron Szymoniak says:

        Causing inflammation and mo-toxins and tow other toxins which lead to other health problems. Lost of bone density which happen to me. I don,t go to doctors because the just want your money so if I kill myself its my choice my way.

    • Hi Ron! To answer your comment, it’s not so much that coffee itself is acidic, but that it leads to acid production in the stomach. This fact is well known! So no matter what kind of coffee you drink, the body may still react to it with increased acid production.

  15. Dana says:

    I won’t be giving up my culpa joe very soon. That being said, I brew my coffee w/two scoops organic decaf, w/one scoop organic caffeinated and a shot of half & half, Boston style. Works for me; no road rage, only a happy little lift to get my day going. I have one large cup in the AM and no more joe for the rest of the day.

    For tea, I absolutely love Kombucha, Rishi Organic Blueberry Rooibos, and a detox tea by Triple Leaf Tea, which is heavenly. I use an organic raw honey for sweets in my teas, but not always. They are good even without it.

    I got my 90 y.o. mother off caffeine by giving her decaf instant coffee, (it’s what she wanted because she doesn’t like brewed) thinking she would sleep more at night…didn’t work. But I give her only Bromley “Naturally Decaffeinated” Green Tea now, she still doesn’t sleep through the night. But it doesn’t seem to have any ill effects for her either, and she actually likes drinking it…sometimes other teas also…peppermint being one of her favorites.

  16. Dee says:

    Never been attracted to coffee, my parents are British, so I was raised on tea. Used to drink green tea, but recently realized and confirmed by my healer that I have a problem with green tea. It makes me nauseous.

    I like Yerba Mate and also like a tea by Ron Teeguarden, not sure of name.

  17. Carmen says:

    Oh dear…I would have road rage if I did NOT have a cup of coffee in the morning!

  18. Joshua says:

    I think the effects of L-Theanine are more significant than people often realize.

    Matcha, gyokuro, sencha, and matcha blends are all loaded with L-Theanine due to their unique growing process. For 2-3 weeks before they’re harvested, these green teas are grown under shade. With only 10% of the normal sunlight, the plants’ bio-chemistry changes, changing the balance of caffeine, sugars, and flavanols; and especially more chlorophyll and more L-Theanine. This process also amplifies the delicious umami flavor of green tea.

    With matcha the tea is powdered so it becomes the brew — you ingest the the leaf itself. The result is a drink balancing caffeine and L-Theanine in a powerful combination.

    We’ve written more about gyokuro here: http://www.samovartea.com/how-to-brew-gyokuro-high-end-japanese-green-tea/

    You can find out more about Samovar’s green teas here: http://shop.samovartea.com/Green-Tea-Organic-Fair-Trade-Tea-Shop-and-Buy-Green-Tea-s/43.htm

    Thanks for the great writeup, explanation, and for mentioning Samovar Tea!

  19. IH says:

    Hi Fred,

    Good post!!! I have a love-hate relationship with coffee. I grew up in Europe and I have wonderful memories of coffee houses. Here in North America we have wonderful cafes that serve delicious and fair-trade kavas. But all the touting of the benefits and anti oxidants aside (who is sponsoring those anyways?) something that gives you withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it can’t be that good for you. On the other hand I don’t believe that it is evil as well. The whole world has been enjoying and drinking coffee for centuries. I think it all comes down to handle our Nemesis intelligently. I found a solution: In an espresso maker I put a mixture of Teeccino and an organic decaf espresso, add some spices like cayenne and in the winter an Indian spice mix and voila….I warm up a non dairy milk and I’m as happy as sunshine?. When I go out with a friend I enjoy “the real deal”. How is that???

  20. The Guayaki brand Yerba Mate (Unsweetened Terere) has 140 mg of caffeine in this 16 oz bottle. That’s much different than the amount quoted in the article. I wonder if this has to do with the processing or some other factor.

  21. Steve says:

    Gee, thanks for this very informative post. Now, I know why after I drink coffee, sometimes I feel headache and get irritated with little annoyances. Although both tea and coffee contain caffeine, tea does not give side effects, other than the pleasure of enjoying the goodness of the tea. But, once in a while, I just could not resist the aroma and rich taste in a cup of coffee.

  22. Linda dc says:

    I was addicted to coffee, and feel free that I no longer have to stress about getting a good coffee especially when out and about. I cannot have any caffeine now so no green tea either. I love a lemon myrtle. I feel so much calmer without caffeine it changed my life giving it up. I gave it up for health reasons and digestive issues. I have no desire to put caffeine in my body again, it is so unnecessary, there are healhier ways to get a perk up in the mornings to get your heart started, try yoga, exercise, meditation and fresh organic fruit.

  23. Gary Lawson says:

    I would like to put a plug in for Osadean teas. I live in Japan and this company’s teas are found in all the top departments stores in and around Tokyo. I met the company at the Biofach Organic Trade show in Japan a few years ago and persuaded them to let me sell overseas through Ebay. The Organic Isagawa’s Sencha’s link is below. It is named after the river flowing through the plantations. Organic is better for sure as farmer”s tend to use a lot of chemicals here. If you don’t have organic you can flush out some of the chemicals by quickly adding and pouring away hot water before adding more hot water that you use to brew. My wife who is Japanese always does this. I also sell a Fukamushi (deep steamed) Sencha. This tea is steamed for twice as long which has the effect of breaking down the leaf’s cell structure and releasing more bioactives into the brew.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/100-ORGANIC-JAPANESE-GREEN-TEA-SENCHA-JAS-Certified-ISAGAWA-PLANTATION-/201121425049

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