Matcha and Caffeine
Matcha has been used for centuries as a source of energy. It was the drink of choice for monks who needed increased energy during long meditation periods. As more benefits of matcha were recognized, more groups of people started using it. In the 13th century, even Samurai warriors utilized matcha to sharpen their focus in battle. Today more and people are turning to matcha for its health benefits.
Does matcha have caffeine?
Yes, Matcha has caffeine. It has moderate amounts of caffeine for tea with 30mg per gram or half teaspoon serve. Depending on how much matcha powder you use, most matcha prepared at home will have caffeine levels of 30-60mg per 6oz serve. For comparison, black tea has about 50mg per 6oz cup. Brewed black coffee can have 100-160mg caffeine, or an energy drink like Red Bull has 114mg per serve.
Compared to most Japanese teas, matcha tea is considered a high caffeine tea. Matcha can be found in different grades so the amount of caffeine can vary. Caffeine content can range anywhere from 25 to 75 milligrams (mg) of caffeine for a 6 ounce (oz) glass of matcha or matcha latte. Compare that to other typical caffeine sources such as a 2 oz espresso, which has 150 mg caffeine or a 12 oz monster energy drink, which has 180 mg caffeine. Even an 8 oz cup of brewed coffee has a hefty 90 mg of caffeine in it.2
Compared to an espresso or energy drink, matcha has much less caffeine in it. But that doesn’t mean it has less of an uplift. In fact, matcha powder contains other amino acids, like L-theanine, which work with caffeine to elicit a more gradual release of caffeine, providing a calm alertness. We’ll discuss this super nutrient more in depth later on.
What is Matcha?
Matcha comes from green tea leaves from the camellia sinensis that are covered in the shade for weeks before harvesting. These tea leaves are then carefully graded and precisely picked based on qualities like age and color. The greenest, most tender leaves from the tea plant are generally preferred.
After harvesting only the leaves from the tea plant are steamed to prevent oxidative damage. This helps preserve tea nutrients and keep leaves in top shape. Next, after removing the stems and veins, the resulting leaves called “tencha” are gently stone ground to produce a silky smooth powder. The result? Matcha.
Preparation Makes a Difference
As we mentioned, the true amount of caffeine in matcha ultimately depends on its preparation. After all, matcha comes in a powder form. This being the case, you can potentially have as much caffeine as your heart desires. It’s partly in how you blend it that can make the difference.
Usucha vs Koicha
Matcha can be prepared as usucha (thin matcha) or koicha (thick matcha). The usucha form is more commonly prepared using more water and less powder. It is then whisked to create that signature green froth and vibrant crema that many people know and love. With less powder, usucha contains less caffeine than Koicha.
Koicha is a thicker form of matcha that has more of a bold flavor profile. Small amounts of water are added in intervals during the preparation process to enhance its vegetal flavor. Preparing Koicha like this often results in less water and a thicker consistency. If you can imagine this process, you’ll find that the matcha-to-water ratio is higher; thus, it has more caffeine.
Of course, the best preparations of matcha are made using traditional matcha tools. These tools include the bamboo whisk (Chasen) and ceramic bowl (Chawan). The Kenko Matcha set is an ideal kit if you’re wanting an authentic matcha concoction!
How Much Caffeine is in Matcha?
One teaspoon, or two servings of Kenko Matcha Tea will yield about 68 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, a cup of coffee can have up to 100 mg of caffeine in it. However, in the case of matcha, more doesn’t mean better. It can actually mean the difference between a mood crash and a gentle tapering off a caffeine boost. Therefore, the main benefit of matcha caffeine lies in quality, not quantity.
The daily recommended intake of caffeine is between 300 and 400 mg per day. For healthy adults, this is the appropriate amount deemed to be safe. If you calculate it out, that’s about 8 cups of ceremonial grade Kenko matcha teas, two 5 hour energy shots, or one Starbucks venti coffee. Of course, everyone may have different reactions to caffeine. Some people may be more sensitive to caffeine while others may be more tolerant, especially if they consume caffeinated drinks more often.
Is There Less Caffeine in Different Types of Matcha?
Matcha is exceptionally versatile in its usage and caffeine content. For different uses, different grades of matcha are used. Organic culinary matcha, for example, can be used as a flavoring for cakes or as an ingredient for smoothies. This type of matcha contains less caffeine (28 milligrams/gram) than ceremonial matcha. However, culinary matcha embodies bolder flavor tones compared to ceremonial grade matcha.
Ceremonial grade matcha can contain around 34 milligrams of caffeine per gram. This type of matcha is often chosen for everyday use. If you’re just whipping up a quick batch of matcha, the ceremonial grade powder is much finer for easier dissolving in water. While it may be a less vibrant green than other matcha, it still has a sweet, pleasant taste for a morning smoothie or afternoon latte.
Caffeine in Matcha vs Coffee
Caffeine in coffee and espresso often produces a quick jolt of energy followed by a harsh crash. Caffeine from coffee will often make you feel jittery and anxious due with side effects like spikes in cortisol, insulin, and glucose. In contrast, a caffeine boost from a cup of matcha is often much smoother and more zen.
Get Rid of the Coffee Slump
The problem with caffeine is found when it is consumed in excess. Many brands these days are adding more and more caffeine which can lead to unforgiving drops in energy and steep declines in mood. Add to that the added cream and sugar and many people find themselves more exhausted than before when they drink coffee. Not to mention the bad breath and stained teeth experienced from excess coffee.
While caffeine is considered a drug, studies show it has benefits when taken in moderation. As a stimulant, caffeine can help enhance focus and boost energy. It can also promote cognitive function, detox the liver, and support longer periods of exercise.5 Metabolism stimulating effects plus improved stamina from caffeine can help drive weight management goals.
Fortunately, the amount of caffeine in matcha is right in the sweet spot between too much and too little. It’s also a cleaner alternative blended with catechins and amino acids to promote a more relaxed state of focus. Because great matcha is slowly absorbed over 4 to 6 hours, there is a lower chance of crashing.
Make Matcha in Seconds
Not only does matcha produce a milder, longer acting boost in energy, it is also easier to prepare. Because matcha green tea is in powder form, the essential step is to just add water! There is no need to deal with clunky machinery and laborious filtering. Using water and a couple tools, matcha can easily be whisked into a creamy froth within seconds.
Naturally Sourced Vitamins and Minerals
Matcha delivers an optimal blend of trace minerals and vitamins. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, and vitamin C, which can help support a healthier lifestyle and protect against oxidative stress. Compared to other superfoods like acai and goji berries, matcha provides just as much, if not more value in nutrients.
Catechins and the Antioxidant Advantage
Matcha green tea powder is typically composed of catechins, caffeine, and amino acids. Catechins are potent antioxidants that can help prevent chronic conditions and promote a healthy lifestyle. EGCG is the most abundant catechin followed by epicatechin (ECG). Since matcha tea is formed from the entire green tea leaf, it has many times more antioxidants than regular green tea. The caffeine molecules found in matcha bind to matcha’s phytonutrients such as L theanine. This causes the caffeine in matcha to be released into the bloodstream over time, producing a much gentler increase in energy levels than what coffee drinkers experience.
As one of the main beneficial ingredients of matcha, EGCG makes up about 80% of total catechins. One study shows that habitual intake of EGCG can help enhance fat oxidation for weight loss and protect against chronic inflammation.6 It also plays a major role in balancing out the anxiety causing effects of caffeine. Instead of feeling skittish after a cup of coffee, matcha can promote a feeling of calm focus.
Caffeine in Matcha vs Regular Green Tea
Unlike matcha tea, regular green tea is generally made by steeping a small bag full of tea leaves in hot water. Steeping green tea leaves in hot water is meant to draw out the nutrients for consumption. Unfortunately, though, you’re just not getting all the nutrients that green tea has to offer. You’re actually only getting a tiny fraction of the potential plant nutrients compared to matcha drinkers.
Compared to matcha, regular green tea steeped in an 8 oz cup of water only gives about 25 mg of caffeine (or two-thirds less than the amount in matcha).
What is L-theanine?
Matcha contains potent amounts of L-theanine due to the shading preparation used to create matcha powder. L-theanine, also known as theanine, is a naturally produced amino acid that is found almost exclusively in tea. Its chemical structure is similar to that of glutamic acid, an important neurotransmitter in the brain. This amino acid has been found to have several beneficial functions, such as improving dopamine release and even protecting nerve cells in the brain.7
According to a Nutrients study:
“Theanine, when incorporated into the brain, reportedly acts on the glutamine (Gln) transporter and inhibits the incorporation of extracellular Gln into neurons. The level of Glu was significantly reduced while the level of GABA increased, indicating that theanine modulates GABA production from Glu. In the brain, Glu is the main excitatory neurotransmitter while GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter. Whereas suitable synaptic excitation is important, excessive excitation damages nerve cells and triggers neurodegenerative diseases.”8
Kenko Tea ceremonial grade matcha contains an ample 16.84 milligrams of L-theanine per gram.
Alpha Waves > Beta Waves
L-theanine also increases the production of alpha waves in the brain. In fact, evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies found that L-theanine has a direct effect on the brain. More specifically, L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band.9
But what do alpha waves have to do with energy and focus? Alpha waves have been linked to combined feelings of relaxation and heightened awareness.
In other words, matcha can basically relax the mind without causing increased drowsiness or tiredness. The data from said studies indicate that L-theanine can play a significant role in enhancing the general state of mental alertness. Furthermore, alpha activity is known to play an important role in certain aspects of attention.
L-theanine And Caffeine Work Together
In combination with arginine, caffeine, and other catechins such as EGCG, L-theanine has an even greater effect on stress levels. Balanced ratios between L-theanine and EGCG has been associated with lower feelings of anxiousness after drinking matcha. Compared to the placebo group in one study, L-theanine combined with caffeine and EGCG was the major key in producing a stable caffeine boost.10
With subtle improvements in focus, caffeine plus L-theanine in matcha produces feelings of alertness without sudden drops in mood. If you look more closely, the ratio of theanine to caffeine can play a vital role in influencing the stimulant effects of matcha. On its own, L-theanine is a powerful amino acid. But combined with caffeine, L-theanine can have an even greater effect on attention and mood.
Matcha For All Lifestyles
If you are searching for a great source of energy without the crash, this type of green tea is for you. Matcha is full of powerful antioxidants that can support a healthy mind and focused drive. Naturally sourced vitamins and minerals found in matcha offer protection against chronic diseases while also slowing the aging process providing better skin. In addition, the antioxidants found in matcha can help reduce harmful cholesterol in the blood, regulate blood sugar levels and enhance immune system functions to fight against illness and toxins.
Matcha provides just the right amount of caffeine to promote alertness and energy without overdoing it. Whether you are a busy professional, active athlete, or an all-around caffeine connoisseur, matcha can support all energy requirements without delayed grogginess. Plus, it has near zero calories. With added antioxidants and L-theanine for a smooth energy boost, it is not that difficult to realize how matcha outcompetes coffee and other energy drinks.
Babu PV, Liu D. Green tea catechins and cardiovascular health: an update. Curr Med Chem. 2008;15(18):1840-50.
- Caffeine Content of Drinks. Caffeine Informer. https://www.caffeineinformer.com/the-caffeine-database. Accessed January 2019.
Temple JL, Bernard C, Lipshultz SE, Czachor JD, Westphal JA, Mestre MA. The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review. Front Psychiatry. 2017;8:80. Published 2017 May 26. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00080
Lovallo WR, Whitsett TL, al'Absi M, Sung BH, Vincent AS, Wilson MF. Caffeine stimulation of cortisol secretion across the waking hours in relation to caffeine intake levels. Psychosom Med. 2005;67(5):734-9.
Borota D, Murray E, Keceli G, et al. Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature Neuroscience. 2014;17(9):1287-1287. doi:10.1038/nn0914-1287a.
Oz HS. Chronic Inflammatory Diseases and Green Tea Polyphenols. Nutrients. 2017;9(6):561. Published 2017 Jun 1. doi:10.3390/nu9060561
Dodd FL, Kennedy DO, Riby LM, Haskell-Ramsay CF. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015;232(14):2563-76.
Unno K, Noda S, Kawasaki Y, et al. Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):777. Published 2017 Jul 19. doi:10.3390/nu9070777
Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008:167-168. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328.
Chacko SM, Thambi PT, Kuttan R, Nishigaki I. Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review. Chin Med. 2010;5:13. Published 2010 Apr 6. doi:10.1186/1749-8546-5-13