Is theine the same as caffeine?

Sometimes tea and coffee drinkers are not necessarily different people. We all have our own preferences, and there are very coffee-drinkers (who don’t try tea) as well as very tea-drinkers (who don’t drink coffee). But there is also a large percentage of users who consume both beverages or switch from one to the other for different reasons.

One of these reasons or differences, apart from the taste of each drink, is the amount of caffeine vs theine they contain. And this is where questions arise:

Is theine really the same as caffeine, is it true that tea is milder than coffee, are there differences between theine and caffeine, and does it make sense for me to stop drinking coffee and start drinking tea if my doctor has forbidden caffeine?

Well, we are going to try to clear up all these doubts in today’s article.

What exactly is theine?

To find out if theine and caffeine are the same things, we first need to know what theine (or caffeine, in any of its names) is.

This substance in plants is nothing more or less than a defence mechanism, a kind of poison or protection that allows plants to defend themselves against insects and other plants that might harm them.

However, in mammals, as we already know, caffeine has a positive and stimulating effect, which we love.

Why are we telling you this? So that you understand that, as a natural defensive substance, the caffeine molecule (or theine) is not present in all plants in the same way. It depends on its location, the region where it grows, its cultivation, climate, altitude and so on.

And even their variety: just as robusta coffees have more caffeine than arabica coffees, Camellia Sinensis tea plants (from China) have less theine than Camellia Assamica (Assam is a region in India).

What is the difference between theine and caffeine?

The difference between caffeine and theine is basically the type of plant in which the molecule in question is found. If it is in the coffee plant, it will be called caffeine. If it’s in a tea tree, it’s called theine.

This same stimulant molecule is found in many other plants, such as mate (and is then called mateine), guarana (guaranine), cocoa, and so on. They all belong to the alkaloid family.

But if theine and caffeine are the same… why is tea milder?

As we have already seen in our guide to types of tea, there are many varieties on the market, which undergo different processes of elaboration and oxidation. Among them, you can find really different levels of theine, as we reviewed here.

As a result of this variety, there are teas with a high theine content, such as black tea, but there are others that contain very little theine because they hardly go through any processing technique beyond drying the leaves. White tea is an example of this.

We can state that, on average, the concentration of the caffeine molecule in coffee is much higher than that of theine in tea. This is why its effects are usually more visible. But we insist: the molecule is exactly the same.

Another factor, which has nothing to do with the molecule itself, that influences the effects of caffeine vs theine is the presence of other substances (such as polyphenols) in the tea plant, which slows down the absorption of theine.

In other words, the caffeine in coffee is absorbed by the body much more quickly than the theine in tea. The energy boost we feel when we drink coffee is more intense but lasts for a shorter period of time than when we drink a cup of tea.

Finally, we should not forget that the theine is extracted by infusing the leaves in water so that the same tea leaves can produce an infusion with much more theine if they are left to infuse for several minutes than if they are infused for a very short time.