Death Before Decaf - What’s in Your Cup?
Trends in techniques vary by where the beans are from... ask a barista how they like theirs done!
Michael Tam at Café Sausalito Hong Kong
Many of us live very busy lives - from balancing school, work, a social life, and whatever else life decides to throw at us. So it is no surprise that staying awake during the day can be a difficult task. This is why we find so many caffeinated products readily available for us to purchase. Statistics Canada reported that, after water, coffee is the most consumed beverage by adults ages 31 to 50 (1). Besides coffee, tea is another popular drink to help with alertness. Out of the two drinks, research has shown that coffee contains more caffeine than tea (2), but why is the caffeine content higher and how does it affect our bodies? Let’s explore different reasonings as to why we reach for these drinks throughout the day!
Among the 103 species of coffee identified, Coffea arabica (arabica) and Coffea canephora (robusta) produce 99% of the coffee consumed (4). Arabica coffee, the most predominant in North America, is low in bitterness, low in caffeine content and makes up 60% of coffee produced worldwide (4). There are three different types of coffee roasts - light, medium and dark. Caffeine is found in over 60 plants including cola nuts and cocoa pods (4). The concentration of this potent stimulant varies depending on the type of product, processing, agricultural practices, and environmental factors such as time of year(4). Each 8 oz. cup of coffee contains between 95 - 330 mg of caffeine.
On the other hand, there are four varieties of tea: black, oolong, green and white tea. Each variety of tea contains a different amount of caffeine. Most tea products are extracted from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tree (5).
Although both coffee and tea contain caffeine, coffee has a much higher concentration of this compound. Tea contains 74 mg per 8 oz. cup at most (black tea contains 40 - 74 mg, oolong tea contains 21 - 64 mg, green tea contains 25 - 50 mg and white tea has 15 mg) (4).
The Good, The Bad and The Caffeine
Debate continues about whether coffee consumption is more beneficial or detrimental to our health (4). Those who drink coffee containing higher amounts of caffeine can experience palpitations, anxiety, shakiness, and trouble sleeping (3). When caffeine consumption exceeds >750 mg/day implications for bone health may occur due to an increase in urinary output and loss of urinary calcium and magnesium excretion (3). Another study found that excessive intake of caffeine has been linked to spontaneous abortion and impairment in fetal growth (6). If you are planning for a family in the near future or currently pregnant, it is recommended that the amount of caffeine consumed should not exceed 300 mg/day (around two 8-oz cups of tea or coffee) (6).
As someone who loves starting their morning with a cup or two of tea, and continuing to drink more throughout the day, it leaves me wondering if I am doing more harm than good to my body. Fear not coffee and tea lovers, there is some good news to all this caffeine consumption! Some studies have found that regular coffee consumption has several health benefits, including lowering risks of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, a possible role in weight loss through increased metabolic rate, and a decreased risk of developing endometrial, prostatic, colorectal and liver cancers (4). Besides caffeine, chlorogenic acid, another compound and antioxidant in coffee, has been recognized to improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity (3). So if you are deciding which type of coffee to drink, try medium-roasted coffee, as research has found it contains the most antioxidants (6).
Everything in Moderation
With all these studies, it’s hard to tell whether we should be consuming all these caffeinated products. According to multiple studies, there is something that can be agreed upon: moderation. Having around three to four 8-oz cups of coffee or tea (less than 400 mg/day of caffeine) is considered to be a moderate amount and appears to be associated with a neutral to potentially beneficial effect on health for most adults (4). So enjoy your cup of tea or coffee, but remember there are always consequences to overindulgence.
Emily Yuen & Isabelle Noble
Iris Lopez & Renée Chan, MS, RD, CDN
Statistics Canada Health Reports. (2015). Beverage consumption of Canadian adults [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2008004/article/10716/6500244-eng.htm
Mitchell, D.C., Knight, C.A., Hockenberry, J., Teplansky, R., & Hartman, T.J. (2014). Beverage caffeine intakes in the U.S. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 63, 136 –142.
O’Keefe, J.H., Bhatti, S.K., Patil, H.R., DiNicolantonio, J.J., Lucan, S.C., & Lavie, C.J. (2013). Effects of habitual coffee consumption on cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62, 1043 - 1051.
Gonzalez de Mejia, E., & Ramirez-Mares, M.V. (2014). Impact of caffeine and coffee on our health. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 25, 489 - 492.
Amaresh, N., Mullaicharam, A.R., & El-Khider, M.A. (2011). Chemistry and pharmacology of caffeine in different types of tea leaves. International Journal of Nutrition, Pharmacology, Neurological Diseases, 1, 110 - 115.
Bae, J.H., Park, J.H., Im, S.S., & Song, D.K. (2014). Coffee and health. Integrative Medicine Research, 3, 189 - 191.
About the Authors:
Emily Yuen is a second year Food, Nutrition and Health student at the University of British Columbia. She is a sports enthusiast who loves to play Ultimate Frisbee on her free time. She wishes to become a sport dietitian and help athletes with their fitness goals.
Isabelle is a student studying Nutrition at Langara College with hopes of becoming a future dietitian. Besides school, Isabelle can be found serving lunch on the Downtown Eastside and working at the Dirty Apron. She has a passion for making recipes her own and cooking up a storm for her friends. In her spare time, she loves to explore Vancouver – from trying new restaurants to hiking the Northshore trails. She is excited to be interning at True Nosh and making the most of the next six months. You can find her at a Wednesday night cooking class, or snacking on her favourite product – the Goji Berry Pumpkin Seed Granola. Come say hi!