Caffeine was coveted long before we came up with different flavor combinations and trendy names (looking at you, pumpkin spice lattes). But not all caffeine is created equal, and not all of it comes from the same place, either. The two most popular forms of caffeine come from roasted beans (coffee) and ground-up leaves (matcha). Is one source of caffeine better than another? That’s what we’re diving into today.
Let’s see how these two sources of caffeine stack up against each other in terms of nutrients, side effects, and pros/cons.
Both have a similar amount of caffeine per serving
Coffee and matcha have similar caloric breakdowns, with coffee coming in at 2 calories per serving, and matcha at 5 calories per serving. It is important to note that coffee and matcha have different serving sizes: a coffee serving is 8oz, while a matcha serving is 2oz. But while that 8oz of coffee yields 96mg of caffeine, the 2oz of matcha yields 38-88mg of caffeine when prepared the standard way. Matcha caffeine content varies so greatly based on the type of leaves used, how much powder added to the water, and brewing time.
While coffee and matcha both contain caffeine (and similar amounts of it), caffeine from coffee is absorbed faster than matcha, which will reduce fatigue quicker. Matcha has a slower absorption process, providing less of a jolt of energy and a longer lasting effect.
Coffee or matcha? Sometimes it doesn’t matter
Coffee and matcha share some similarities in their benefits for health and wellness.
Caffeine (from both coffee and matcha) has been shown to help with weight loss by increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation. There are even studies that suggest caffeine may increase metabolic rate; in some cases up to 13% for up to 3 hours.
Both coffee and matcha are high in polyphenols, antioxidants which are important for reducing oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress can build up in the body due to environmental toxins and poor mental health, and can ultimately lead to cancer and other diseases if left to accumulate.
Antioxidants like polyphenols can also protect the heart against disease by reducing blood pressure, platelet aggregation, and LDL/triglyceride levels.
Improved brain function and mood
Likely due to the caffeine in both coffee and matcha, both options may improve brain function (thought, memory, and attention) and mood. Matcha also contains L-theanine, which researchers believe may play a role in mood and memory improvement.
TL;DR: Pros & Cons
- Less expensive than matcha: generally speaking coffee is cheaper than matcha
- More accessible for most people: coffee is still more popular, and it available in more places (restaurants, cafes, stores)
- May help reduce metabolic disease: some studies may show that caffeine has a benefit to reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- May create dependence and withdraws: caffeinated coffee is still a drug, and this can create a dependence on the drug for energy; coffee can cause jitters, digestive distress, anxiety, and headaches without it
- Can affect sleep: consumed too close to bedtime, or too much throughout the day, coffee can cause insomnia
- Risk of contaminants: coffee processing can potentially cause the risk of contamination, especially mold
- Promotes relaxation: L-theanine from matcha can relax the mind without promoting sleepiness
- Promotes oral health: there are some studies like this one that show matcha can improve oral health
- Easy to make: you just need matcha powder, hot water, and a cup to mix it into
- More expensive than coffee: depending on quality (which matters for these second two points), matcha will typically be more expensive
- Risk of liver toxicity: high levels of some nutrients in matcha (ECGC and polyphenols) can cause a build up of toxins in the system that put additional pressure on the liver
- Risk of contaminants: there is a risk of contamination of green tea leaves during the grinding process