Ah, caffeine. Like a rite of passage into adulthood, nothing spells "growing up" like the sudden inability to wake yourself up every morning without a hot cup of methylxanthine stimulant.
By now we know that matcha contains caffeine, but how much? And will matcha keep you up all night? How much matcha is too much matcha?
In this post, we'll take a look at the nitty gritty of caffeine in matcha.
Um, so...what is caffeine, exactly?
Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world, a stimulant that targets the central nervous system, preventing us from feeling drowsy by blocking andenosine, a neuromodulator known to promote drowsiness and suppress stimulation in the body.
Caffeine maintains the honour of being one of the few stimulants to remain completely unregulated in most parts of the world--even for children. It is found in plants from South America to South East Asia and back again, in leaves, bark, and nuts. It has been the subject of wars, of economic revolutions...and plenty of all-nighters.
But as we know, there's also a dark side to caffeine: for healthy adults, more than 400mg a day (or in shorthand, anywhere between 2 and 4 cups of coffee) can have toxic effects on the body, with side effects that include:
- upset stomach
...and many more. Sound familiar?
How much caffeine is in matcha?
Depending on the type of matcha you're drinking and how strong you like it (remember, you control the dosage), the average cup of matcha tea with about 1 teaspoon of matcha contains 40-60mg of caffeine.
In our personal experience here at Maru Matcha, we have found that culinary matcha tends to feel stronger in terms of caffeine content than ceremonial matcha: the higher the quality, the smoother the caffeine buzz, the more matcha your body will feel comfortable drinking.
This correlation could be for a number of reasons: one obvious one, which will lead us to our next big point, is that lesser quality matcha may well contain fewer amino acids than higher quality matcha.
L-theanine and matcha: dream team
...Well, part of the reason matcha is shaded before harvesting is to promote the production of amino acids, which help to give matcha its distinctive umami flavour, but also (pretty amazingly) help to smooooooth the flow of caffeine into your body. The amino acid l-theanine that is found abundantly in matcha is known to slooooowwww the release of caffeine into your body while actually promoting "alpha brain waves" (which promote a state of calm alertness--focus without drowsiness).
The result of this perfect melding between l-theanine and caffeine is a longer, more serene caffeine buzz.
The coolest part? L-theanine is unique to tea, and not found in coffee or other caffeinated drinks like sodas or yerba mate. Matcha contains particularly high levels of l-theanine.
So, will matcha keep me up all night?
The short answer: that depends entirely on you.
Like all things in life, moderation is key. If you're new to matcha (or just trying out a new brand), pace yourself and see how you feel after every cup. Every matcha drinker is different and will come with their own caffeine tolerance.
Japanese students have long drank matcha to stay alert while cramming for their notoriously difficult exams. Zen Buddhist monks have drank matcha for centuries as an aid to meditation, allowing them to stay alert and focused over long periods of time.
In essence: the combination of caffeine and l-theanine should make you feel awake, alert, and focused. If you start to feel jittery, nauseous, or dehydrated, your body is telling you to slow down and drink some water. It's had enough caffeine.
Photo: Julia Burlingham
Styling: Diana Quach
Location: Thirsty Moon Teegarten, Berlin