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Does Green Tea Contain Caffeine?

Nowadays green tea has become very popular across the globe for its health benefits, but what about its caffeine content? Let us find out...
Green tea has been used widely in many Asian countries like India, Thailand, Japan, China, etc., throughout the centuries. The ancient people were aware of the health benefits of this tea, which is said to have been used in the treatment of a variety of diseases like high blood sugar, digestion problems, flatulence, heart diseases and for healing wounds. It was also used as a diuretic (any substance that tends to increase the flow of urine), stimulant, to regulate body temperature and to promote mental health.

Many researches have been conducted on the health benefits of green tea and the results suggest that regular use of green tea can lower the risk of high cholesterol, heart diseases, some types of cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, liver diseases, etc. Above all, it is also claimed to be beneficial in weight loss programs. It is believed that green tea contains high levels of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are responsible for its health benefits. It was these health benefits which made this tea popular in other parts of the world. But nowadays people are skeptical regarding the use of green tea, mainly due to claims that this tea contains caffeine, which is detrimental for health. What is the truth behind this contention? Does green tea really contain caffeine? If yes, then how can we reduce the caffeine content in it?

Caffeine Content

Unless marked as 'decaffeinated', green tea normally contains caffeine, which may sometimes negatively affect the health of some people, if consumed in large quantities. Apart from caffeine, green tea contains two caffeine-like substances (caffeine metabolites) called theophylline and theobromine, which are present in trace amounts. The advantage of green tea is that its caffeine content is much less than that of other types of tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks like coke. The caffeine content of green tea depends on the type of tea and the way of preparation. However, a cup of this tea may contain 3 to 30 mg of caffeine, whereas in case of regular tea, it is between 30 to 60 mg. The caffeine content of instant coffee ranges between 65 and 100 mg per cup and it may go up to 200 mg in drip filtered coffee. Caffeine in a can of coke is 34 mg.

Effects of Caffeine in Green Tea

The effects of caffeine in tea are different from that of coffee. It is believed that the caffeine in green tea can improve the metabolism and blood circulation in the human body, through the central nervous system. The increase in oxygen supply to the brain helps in enhancing mental health and muscle functions. It is also said that the tannin in green tea has a very soothing and stabilizing effect, thereby slowing down the absorption of caffeine, which in turn prevents the 'caffeine shock'. Unlike other caffeinated drinks, green tea does not elevate the blood pressure levels.

How to Cut Down Caffeine in Green Tea?

The amount of caffeine in green tea depends on the type of tea being used and to some extent, the time duration of brewing the tea leaves. You can reduce the caffeine content of green tea by the following methods.:
  • You cannot determine the caffeine content of green tea by its color, but it is observed that high grade ones, which are made from the terminal bud and the adjacent leaves contain the maximum amount of caffeine. This type of green tea is very expensive and is said to be the sweetest.
  • Green tea bags have a higher caffeine content than the leaves. Another reason for avoiding tea bags is the poor flavor, as compared to the leaves.
  • Boil the green tea with water for five minutes and throw away the first infusion. This can reduce the caffeine content by 80 percent. You can use the second and the third infusions.
  • If you are sensitive to caffeine, then start with very small quantities of green tea. Increase intake gradually, till you find your level of tolerance. If you find a level intolerable, stick to the lower level.
  • Another method is to cut down the amount of tea leaves needed for a single serving. If you are regularly using one teaspoon for one cup, reduce it to half teaspoon.
  • It is also said that the effects of caffeine in green tea can be reduced by drinking it hot. Some components of green tea, like catechins and theanine reduce the activities of caffeine. While brewing, these components combine with caffeine, making the latter less effective. On cooling, these components break down and caffeine becomes more active.
In short, the caffeine content of green tea is very less to cause any side-effects, but it may negatively affect people who are intolerant to caffeine. Otherwise, there is no benefit in avoiding green tea because of its caffeine content. You can enjoy its health benefits and reduce the caffeine content simultaneously, by following the above said methods.
By Sonia Nair
Published: 6/20/2009
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