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What are the Differences Between Caffeine and Theine?

Coffee contains caffeine, tea contains theine.

Many of our readers are convinced that these are two completely different substances that have different effects on the human body. Others consider these words synonymous. We decided to find out how accurate both were and did some research.

A little history and chemistry


It was first discovered by the German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge in 1819. By studying coffee and the elements it contains, Runge isolated a new substance previously unknown to humans, which he called "caffeine" (caffeine, from the French word for coffee - coffee). Later it turned out that this molecule is present in many plants, primarily a natural insecticide and only secondarily a natural stimulant of the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Eight years later, in 1827, Dutch organic chemist Gerrit Jan Mulder conducted a similar experiment (but not with coffee, but with tea) and discovered ... yes, a substance that is suspiciously similar to caffeine. However, because it was found in tea, it was called "thein" (theine), from the English word "tea" (tea).

Is it the same molecule?

What happened then? And then Mr. Mulder thought for a long time, and already in 1838 (that is, 11 years after its discovery), he shocked the scientific community with the news that caffeine and theine were essentially the same thing. In both tea and coffee, the substance has exactly the same structure and is a molecule with the formula C8H10N4O2. The same molecule is also found in mate tea (matein), guarana leaves (guaranine), cocoa, and cola nut.

Then why is the structure of tea and coffee different?

Suppose there is only one molecule, but then a reasonable question arises about the difference in effect produced. While coffee is considered an energy, tea is more of a stimulant. If both contain the same substance, why does it show itself so differently?

The answer to this question is based on three factors - the number of molecules, the rate of absorption and the individual tolerance of our body.

1. The concentration of caffeine molecules in coffee is three to four times higher than in tea.

Although initially the tea leaf contains more caffeine than the coffee bean, of the two instant drinks, coffee “wins” in terms of the concentration of the substance (caffeine is extracted from the ground beans rather than the leaves). By the way, the concentration also depends on the type of tea, but not so much: The final amount of caffeine in your cup consists of brewing time, leaf fraction, and its ability to release caffeine molecules. So, for example, tea steeped for 5 minutes will always have more of this substance than one brewed for 1 or 2 minutes. Black tea releases caffeine faster than white tea, and whole leaves release it more slowly than ground tea.

2. Although theine and caffeine molecules are exactly the same, they can be associated with other substances in the drink and their breakdown takes place at different rates in our body.

Coffee bean molecules are much more free than tea molecules and are not bound to other substances. They are well absorbed by the body and therefore enter our circulatory system much faster. That's why we feel the effect of coffee so strongly.

In the case of Tein, the opposite is true. Theine molecules tend to bind only to other substances found in tea, and the body must break these bonds in order for theine to be absorbed. Therefore, tea has a longer and softer effect on us.

3. We are all different, so our reaction to any of these two drinks can be unpredictably different.

Some people are more sensitive to coffee, while others are more sensitive to tea. The only way to know which of these drinks impresses you the most is to try and compare them.

To summarize;

Theine and caffeine are the same molecule. It is found in tea, coffee and other plant components (cocoa, coca leaf, mate, etc.).

"Caffeine" is the more common term, but you can use both when talking about tea. It won't be a mistake anyway.

Caffeine cannot be said to be "stronger" or "worse" than theine, as it is the same substance found in different foods.


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