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sketerpot comments on Coffee: When it helps, when it hurts - Less Wrong

44 Post author: JustinShovelain 10 March 2010 06:14AM

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Comment author: sketerpot 10 March 2010 09:53:18PM 2 points [-]

It's funny, but I've never noticed a caffeine effect from tea. No matter how much I drink. Coffee, on the other hand, can have me feeling bouncy and downright high after a single cup. What could explain this? Do I just suck at steeping my tea long enough, or something?

Anyway, I agree with your approach. Caffeine is physiologically addictive, and if you use it often enough, it stops being a fun bonus and becomes something you need just to feel normal, and that's a ridiculous state of affairs.

Comment author: Kevin 10 March 2010 11:04:55PM 3 points [-]

Tea has other alkaloids beyond caffeine. Probably the most notable is theanine, which is relaxing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theanine

Comment author: kurosawa 12 March 2010 09:15:50PM 1 point [-]

Kevin, You got it. Tea has L-Theanine in it, which keeps you from getting the coffee jitters. I just got myself some L-Theanine pills to test out how it works on my concentration.

Comment author: Jordan 12 March 2010 09:43:06PM 1 point [-]

I take some Theanine pills every now and then (Theanine Serene). I tried them originally to help with occasional bouts of insomnia. They didn't help with that at all, but they definitely do relax me in the rare moments I get a bit stressed from overworking.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2010 11:09:18PM 1 point [-]

Wonderful stuff, theanine. I converted to green tea extract as my preferred caffeine source once I learned green tea is a good source. (Then I bought bulk theanine powder and explicitly chose my dose!)

Comment author: MichaelHoward 10 March 2010 10:04:26PM 3 points [-]

May I propose an experiment (and report back) involving two big strong mugs of coffee, one decaff, one not, and both unfamiliar brands so you can't reliably taste the difference?

Comment author: sketerpot 12 March 2010 07:28:09PM 1 point [-]

I actually wasn't expecting any effect from the coffee. I hardly ever drink coffee, so I haven't formed a mental association between the taste and smell and increased alertness. It's hard to say without a blind test, of course, but it's still puzzling to me.

Comment author: wedrifid 10 March 2010 11:15:18PM 1 point [-]

I like the experiment but note that the findings would be confounded somewhat. Heavy coffee drinkers have been found to get an increased performance on tasks requiring alertness just from the smell! They get another boost once the caffeine actually gets digested and flows to the brain but it may be difficult to establish a negative finding if both the decaff and caffeinated seem to give an effect.

Comment author: Kevin 10 March 2010 11:05:37PM 1 point [-]

Probably both with lots of cream and sugar is a more reliable way of masking any taste difference.

Comment author: MichaelHoward 10 March 2010 11:22:00PM 1 point [-]

Agreed... but we want to test how much his reaction to his coffee is dependent on the experience of drinking coffee versus it's actual caffeine content, so I'd suggest he takes it reasonably close to how he normally takes it, to get the same trigger. We already know he doesn't react to a caffeinated drink (his tea) that doesn't taste like his usual coffee.

In other words, if he normally takes it black with no sugar, lots of cream and sugar might break the experiment.

Comment author: ChristianKl 12 March 2010 12:15:24AM 1 point [-]

For tea to be awakening it's important to remove the leaves from the cup after a few minutes. If you leave the leaves in the tea other substances go into the tea that counteract the caffeine effect.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 26 May 2010 01:40:13AM 1 point [-]

Do you have a citation for this claim?

Comment author: ChristianKl 31 May 2010 11:57:25AM 1 point [-]

At the moment I don't find a reputable english source however, I can however elaborate the argument a bit more:

Tea contains both caffeine and theanine. Theanine relaxes the body and reduces stress while coffeine does the opposite. If you brew the tea longer than the ratio of caffeine to theanine that gets released changes.

Comment author: gwern 23 February 2012 09:48:51PM 1 point [-]

My understanding was that caffeine was dissolved almost immediately, on the first steep or two, and this was a standard recommendation for those who wish to cut down their caffeine consumption - throw out the first steep and drink the others. So the ratio could only be changing in theanine's favor, which doesn't sound like a bad thing.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 11 March 2010 07:29:06PM 1 point [-]

I agree, with the exception that tea relieves extremely severe fatigue for a while.