Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mellow Monk Talks About Green Tea and Caffeine.


First of all, I’d like to thank Relznuk for the opportunity to post here. This is a great venue to talk about green tea—and put in a plug for my own tea, which of course is the finest in the land. (Who says monks have to be modest?)

One topic I’m asked about a lot is green tea and caffeine. Java junkies are worried it doesn’t have enough, and caffeine-sensitive folks are worried it has too much. But the fact is that green tea, magical drink that it is, is in the Goldilocks Zone when it comes to caffeine: not too much, and not too little, but just the right amount. Not only that, but you can adjust the amount of caffeine to suit your own personal tastes—to feed your need for speed, or to let you sleep soundly at night.

First of all, a cup of brewed green tea contains roughly one-third the caffeine as the same amount of brewed coffee. Some people say they’ve heard that green tea contains more caffeine than coffee does, but that’s true only if you’re talking about dried tea leaves versus coffee beans. By weight, dried green tea contains more caffeine than coffee, but tea goes a lot longer than coffee does: A pound of dried green tea leaves would brew enough liquid tea to fill a hot tub, whereas a pound of coffee wouldn’t come close. In other words, you use a lot less green tea by weight to brew a cup of tea, which is why an infusion of green tea ends up containing roughly a third of the caffeine.

If you really need a caffeine fix, you can always brew your tea on the strong side. Simply use more tea leaves—say, two teaspoons per 8-ounce mug instead of one. One of the many nice things about green tea is that it’s not acidic like coffee is, so a strong infusion won’t upset your stomach the way coffee can.

Green tea, mellow beverage that it is, is also a gentler way to get your caffeine fix. That’s because green tea’s oh-so-healthy polyphenols regulate the body’s uptake of caffeine. Consequently, the caffeine load is spread out more evenly and over a longer period. That means no jump-out-of-your-chair jolt, but it also means no crash-and-burn, either. Like a gentle lover, green tea lets you down easy.

But let’s say you’ve been restless lately and are worried about getting a good night’s sleep for a big interview tomorrow. What you can do is decaffeinate your green tea yourself. That’s right: There’s no need to buy industrially decaffeinated green tea, which can contain trace amounts of ethyl acetate, and who wants any of that in their body?

All you need to do is let your green tea steep for about 30 seconds, throw out that infusion, and then re-steep the tea as you normally would. Since caffeine seeps out into hot water much more quickly than the tea's "good stuff," the second infusion will contain 80 percent less caffeine than normal. Since green tea already contains about 66 percent less caffeine than coffee, that comes out to less than 7 percent the caffeine in a cup of coffee, if my math is correct.

(And if you let that first infusion steep for a full minute, you will have removed essentially all of the caffeine from the tea leaves.)

Also, instead of throwing away that caffeine-rich first infusion, you could save it to drink later, or water your houseplants with it, or even store up a pitcher full in the refrigerator and then give it to someone whose body runs on caffeine (we all know a couple of those).

If your tolerance for caffeine is very low, you could also try hojicha, which is simply green tea that has been roasted briefly. The roasting not only imparts a smoky aroma but also eliminates a lot of the caffeine. Oh, and Mellow Monk happens to sell some, too.

Well, I think I’ve written enough, so I’d like to wrap this up by thanking Relznuk again for time in his forum, and by inviting you all to try our authentic Japanese green tea. Mellow Monk buys directly from small, family-owned and -operated tea farms located in the foothills of Mt. Aso—an ideal tea-growing environment, with its volcanic soil, clean air, and natural spring water. Our growers are also certified environmentally responsible under the local “Eco Farmer” program, and they vacuum-seal their tea on site for freshness. For more info, please visit us online at MellowMonk.com.

Mellow Monk

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Thank you very much, Neil. I find this all quite fascinating, and will, in all likelihood, post some sort of a link to your website. Actually, I feel compelled that I may write a blog entry about your project.