After I had scheduled this post for publication, Marshaln published a post on Caffeine Detox. This is worth reading over. The comments section also includes some personal experiences about overconsumption / overdosing on caffeine.
I suspect the vast majority of the people crazy enough to read this blog and buy tea from the internet started out drinking tea prolifically. Getting home from work or school to a big package of 30+ samples at 6:30PM and starting a five tea marathon session until midnight. Good luck sleeping off that! After a while most of us settle into certain rhythms of when we do or don’t drink tea and end up with fairly different habits than when we first got started into the tea world.
Everyone can agree that good tasting tea is a nice thing to have. The health benefits and tea’s effect on the body are an aspect played up in both the west and the east but in fairly different ways. In the west this is most commonly seen in the form of weight loss, antioxidants, detox, whatever. Drinking too much or overdosing is usually an afterthought. After all drinking more tea means more health benefits. Right?
Tea can certainly be a safe and healthy practice. However, this all assumes moderation. An inconvenient and oft-overlooked idea for most tea companies. Tea is definitely possible to over consume. It can negatively impact your sleep, make you agitated, mess up your stomach or even give you heart palpitations. These are not to be taken lightly and a reduction in the quality of sleep can be your body giving you a warning sign to slow down. It’s better to listen to your body and adjust your habits before things get worst.
- I once heard an exchange involving a few teaheads where one casually remarked “tea is medicine“. The response was an apt and appropriate “not in the quantities we consume“.
Caffeine Calculations. What’s a Healthy Amount of Tea Consumption?
Caffeine is perfectly fine with the right dose. It also is an important component in how much we can healthily consume without self combusting.
The healthy or right amount of caffeine will vary, often significantly. People have different constitutions and some people have an iron gut. I’ve seen TwoDog consume what looks like 200g of tea a day. This is way too much for most people. I am a 5’6, 130 pound male with pretty regular and consistent caffeine consumption. My body is probably vastly different from someone that weighs twice as me, or someone that is smaller. My tolerance towards caffeine will also vary from someone who normally doesn’t drink any caffeine at all. I’ve found a good amount to either be a single session at around 6.5-7g or a pair of 5g sessions earlyish in the day. I tend to steep teas I like to death, so I’m probably consuming most all of the caffeine in the dry leaf.
Most caffeine calculations for tea involve the amount per cup. Because most of us are consuming gong-fu that’s irrelevant. While it can vary, tea contains ~3% caffeine in its dry weight. Using basic math, 6.5-10g results in 195-300mg of caffeine consumption/daily. That’s not an insignificant amount and amounts to 2-3 cups of coffee (~100mg/8oz mug). For a person of my size it is probably at the upper-end of normal and safe consumption.
- There’s really no such thing as decaffeinated tea by steeping it for 30 seconds. This is more or less a total myth. By rinsing for 30 seconds or even longer, you’ll remove 5-20% of the caffeine in the dry leaf. That really isn’t much.
- Bigger leaves tend to have a bit less caffeine. This makes huangpian or a broader leaf tea more appealing in the afternoon. Still, these aren’t exactly truly decaffeinated brews. There’s still plenty of caffeine in even a big ugly huangpian.
- Older teas might be more mellow, but I haven’t seen much convincing evidence that caffeine significantly reduces over time.
- Beyond the caffeine, drinking too many green teas (young raw, green oolongs) may also be tough on your stomach.
My exact rules: Two sessions/day unless drinking with other people. I mainly drink 5 gram sessions with the occasional 6.5-7grams. I almost never drink past 6PM, and don’t start a session past 2 or 3PM. If I’m working out later that day, I may play a bit looser with these, but try not to stray too far from them. If I need more rest, I may frontload the day more, or just do one tea.
A Couple Ways to Cut Down the Excess Energy
So you overdid it? Here’s a couple ways to cut the energy.
- Eating – Strong tea clears us out and makes us hungry (and angry). When I know I’m consuming a lot of tea on a certain day, I’ll plan my meals and snacks around that. Eat something and get your body back to normal. Eating before tea is also important, especially when drinking strong or greenish teas (young raw, green tea, green oolong).
- Exercise – Scott Wilson (Yunnan Sourcing) who consumes copious amounts of tea is also an avid and frequent runner. He also runs daily and is a very active person.
- Drink Early & Before Meals – A lot better to do those marathon sessions early in the day than at 7PM at night.
Final Point on Buying
In the end, we really should be consuming only so much tea or caffeine. No matter how much we love tea, our bodies are human.. No amount of passion can improve the caffeine restraints of our bodies. Where this amount lies probably differs person to person, but many of us probably are buying and accumulating too much (looking at you puheads). If we only have the caffeine for one tea a day, better make it a good one. If you’re going to spend $1k or more on tea this year, spend it well and sip slow. Moderation is important in drinking and buying.