Tea Claims. Are You Being Misled?

Just read a brief article listing the “four international tea trends” and found this somewhat misleading assertion:

Matcha tea, which is popular in China and Japan, is a green tea packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber and vitamins A and C. It also contains L-theanine, an amino acid said to produce a calming effect while still providing caffeine, Packaged Facts said. [emphasis added] (Food Business News 8/1/18)

Problem 1:

Yes, matcha contains L-theanine—because ALL tea contains L-theanine! 

(That is, any tea made from C. sinensis, thus excluding “teas,” meaning tisanes, such as herbals. And by the way, the amino acid L-theanine is found only in C. sinensis and the Boletus radius mushroom.)

But the way this is worded, it sounds like matcha is unique in containing L-theanine.

Problem 2:

When this same article lists sencha as another of these four trends, it says nothing about sencha containing theanine. . . . which leads to the understandable assumption that of the two teas, only matcha contains theanine.

But sencha and matcha both contain theanine. As do all green teas. And black teas. And oolongs and white.

Problem 3:

And about theanine producing “a calming effect while still providing caffeine”?

Yes, theanine increases alpha brain wave activity, which has a relaxing effect. But it works synergistically with caffeine to improve brain function and attention. It does not provide caffeine; it works with caffeine!

We also experience the effects of caffeine in tea differently than in coffee because the polyphenols found in tea bind with caffeine, slowing its absorption. So this, along with the influence of theanine on caffeine, provides that calm alertness we gain from drinking tea.

Upshot?

Obviously these are minor quibbles with a brief article. There are no earthshaking false claims here, and probably these misleading sentences were just happenstance and not intentional.

However, you may be absorbing information that is not really correct, and that information may influence your judgment and actions, such as believing that only matcha contains theanine, and perhaps even buying matcha for the effects of theanine. Again, a minor thing here. However:

Be careful with what you read. Being true does not make it correct. And some claims are neither fully true nor quite correct. We should all remember that.

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Source: “Four international tea trends brewing in the beverage segment,” by R. Schouten, Food Business News, 8/1/18.

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