Health,  Tea Culture

Transitioning From Coffee To Tea: How Matcha and Houjicha Can Help You With the Switch

From time to time, people will visit the office to purchase tea in person or pick up the tea that they had ordered online. When they come, sometimes our customers say that they were/are coffee drinkers and that they find that coffee seems to be having a negative affect on their health. Now, even as people who work in and sell Japanese tea, we at the office enjoy a good cup of coffee every now and again. It can provide a refreshing difference from the tea that we might drink on the daily.

A proper espresso. Talk about an “energy boost”. (Source)

Still, for some people they find that the caffeine is a bit too much for them. For this reason, they ask about what a good tea would be to function as an alternative to coffee. There are different tea types that come to mind but, for us, ones that stick out the most are matcha and houjicha.

Houjicha

See about trying these three green teas in the Houjicha family; Houjicha Gold, Houji Kukicha and Houji Genmaicha. In general, Houjicha is similar to coffee in terms of robust flavor, hearty aroma, and dark color. Houjicha is different from in than coffee in that it has the least caffeine of all the Japanese green tea types so you will be reducing the daily intake of caffeine.

A cup of houji on the left, a cup of coffee on the right.

If you were looking to ween yourself off of coffee, this might be a nice substitute to try. It is made from the “coarser” part of the tea plant which roasted after the usual green tea steaming process. This is the same material that is often used to make bancha. The roasting produces a full-bodied flavor and darker color than other green teas. Any of the Houjicha teas would be a good morning cup of tea. The aroma of this tea is unlike other Japanese greens as well. While roasted coffee might have slight cocoa note to it, the roasted aroma of houjicha has more a serene-campfire vibe to it.

Matcha

If you were wanted to sustain your caffeine intake, you can try making matcha. This might be a better recommendation than houjicha if you drink coffee more for the affect that it has on your mind and not so much of the flavor or aroma of it. Matcha contains a higher amount of caffeine then houjicha. In fact, depending on how much you use per cup the matcha might contain a higher amount of caffeine than a cup off coffee. The secret sauce of matcha, though, (and why people might seek to transition to matcha from coffee) is what is know as L-theanine.

L-Theanine is a unique amino acid found especially in high quality green tea and very few other sources. While L-Theanine is known for increasing a tea’s umami notes (a lightly sweet, full-bodied flavor), L-Theanine is also known for its benefits as a relaxant. It generates alpha-waves in the brain. Alpha waves are emitted when the brain is in a relaxed state. Scientists are also examining L-theanine’s ability to improve the brain’s memory capability. In general, shaded Japanese green teas will have higher amounts of this so matcha, gyokuro, and kabusecha will have higher amounts of L-theanine.

So, this is probably the main reason why someone would switch from coffee to matcha. Coffee does not in its nature contain L-theanine but tea does, so there is no naturally occurring L-theanine to modulate the caffeine when you drink a cup of coffee. This might explain the rushy feeling one my get when consuming it when compared to drinking matcha. In high quality tea, L-theanine will be more or less present to work in tandem with the caffeine that is present which can deliver a smoother body feel. Different teas will have different amounts of L-theanine and some roasted teas may not have that much at all. Still, even unshaded green teas like sencha and guricha will have different amounts L-theanine in them. There is the option to add an isolated chemical form of L-theanine to your coffee but it perhaps would be more bioavailable to get it from consuming tea instead.

Gyokuro, a shaded green tea, being produced in Shizuoka.

The presence of L-theanine makes matcha and other teas an attractive option to people who do not like the perhaps anxiety-inducing affects of drinking coffee. A member of our staff thinks that too much caffeine, regardless of the source, causes him to feel mentally uneasy at times so it really depends on the person. Still, there is no denying the hard science of what L-theanine does to the brain and how coffee does not contain L-theanine. We recommend you consume whatever works for your mental and physical well-being and if that happens to be more tea and less coffee then so be it.

Do you have any opinions on this matter? It seems to be that even if a particular food or drink benefits us, if taken immoderately can have a negative impact on our health and our life. Feel free to let us know your thoughts by DMing us on instagram or tiktok. Also, you can subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email address in the designated box at the bottom of any page of our website.