It's no big surprise to those who know me, that I am a self-proclaimed coffee addict. I know enough about coffee to know what origins I like verses those that tend to give me a stomach ache as well as how I like my coffee roasted and brewed. Medium roast, espresso or americano and from Costa Rica please and thank you. I also love to find a great roast with chocolate, nut, and/or vanilla notes as well. I don't drink too much dairy so I tend to opt for an almond milk or another dairy-free alternative like Veggemo (brand new and delicious).
So we've established that I love coffee. I've even taken a liking to certain types of tea that have coffee flavors. While, I understand the pros and cons of living off of a coffee diet (to be clear - not literally just coffee!) I usually will only drink particular teas for the digestive and health benefits only. I just don't love tea as much as coffee.
Liquorish tea for stomach upset, chamomile tea for sleepy time, and dandelion tea for some liver TLC are some of my go to tea treatments.
These are all fun preferences but let's get to the point. Between coffee and tea, which helps my brain function better for a high performance lifestyle?
Powerhouse Coffee Vs. Ultimate Tea
If you haven't already heard of buttered coffee then stop here and check out Bulletproof Coffee. This is the executive's coffee, for the person who needs just one powerful coffee to do the trick.
One cup of Bulletproof Coffee easily keeps me feeling alive and productive for 4-5 hours verses 2-3 cups of regular coffee throughout the morning and afternoon.
Matcha tea, the Japanese green tea is different than your average green tea because of the way matcha tea leafs are nurtured, harvested and processed. Matcha is generally sold as a green powdered substance and isn't brewed the same way you would a "tea bag" or similar steeped teas. Most notably, Matcha tea has the consistency of a foamy green deliciousness.
Coffee on the brain
From the moment we wake up in the morning tiny neurons in our brain are firing away. When these neurons fire, they send messages to other functions in our bodies such as our nervous system. One of the byproducts of our neurons firing is the production of the chemical Adenosine (the neuromodulator believed to play a role in promoting sleep and suppressing arousal). When we drink coffee, caffeine binds to our brain's adenosine receptors blocking the "sleepy" chemical and replacing it with the "happy go lucky" chemical.
This coffee happiness is in part due to our pals Adrenaline and Dopamine. Caffeine actually prevents Dopamine from being re-absorbed back into our systems as quickly, keeping it around longer to hangout and play. On the downside, dopamine is also what makes coffee so addictive. Damn you, chemical peer pressure!
Although coffee may be addictive, it would actually take up to 70+ cups of coffee for you to overdose on this drug (yup, it's a drug just like cocaine and very similar in many ways). Your body wouldn't be able to absorb that much liquid in the time it would take to actually harm you though and you'd throw it all up before getting half-way there. Nasty thought... Don't do drugs, kids.
As for productivity, according to this article on LifeHacker, "The general consensus on caffeine studies shows that it can enhance work output, but mainly in certain types of work. For tired people who are doing work that's relatively straightforward, that doesn't require lots of subtle or abstract thinking, coffee has been shown to help increase output and quality. Caffeine has also been seen to improve memory creation and retention when it comes to "declarative memory," the kind students use to remember lists or answers to exam questions."
There is a big difference in drinking nutrient dense coffee rather than regular coffee (possibly contaminated by mycotoxins) for high performance brain function. As most of us know, it's a daily struggle to eat or drink all of the recommended minerals and supplements for a healthy, well oiled mind-body balance. Oils or omega-3 fatty acids are really one of the most important factors here and adding Grass-fed butter to your coffee packs a powerful punch in this battle.
A few buttery benefits include:
Grass-fed butter is high in butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid. Studies show that butyrate can both prevent and decrease inflammation in humans. In rodents, studies have shown butyrate to protect against mental illness, improve body composition, increase metabolism, and improve gut health.
Butter is nutrient-dense. A single tablespoon of butter contains:
500 IU vitamin A
More carotenes than carrots
High amounts of vitamin K2, vitamin D, and vitamin E
So now you have your nutrients, how about the buzz and dreaded crash?
Add in some coconut oil! Even butter... I mean, better, get some Brain Octane Oil. It takes just 3 steps to convert Brain Octane to Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This adenosine-derived nucleotide supplies large amounts of energy to cells for various biochemical processes, including muscle contraction and sugar metabolism. For context, it takes sugar 25 steps.
No, this sugar metabolism doesn't give you the excuse to eat those extra chocolate almond danishes. Step away from the barista.
Here you have a nutrient-dense, longer lasting, coffee fix for high productivity and focus.
Bulletproof Coffee is the good stuff. I got what you need. Seriously though, you can use this link to shop around and support both of our coffee habits.
Matcha on the Brain
Matcha tea is the perfect combination of energetic boost and soothing calm. Sounds a bit contradictory, I know. Japanese Zen Buddhist monks are known to have used matcha to enhance their meditations because it provided both calmness and better focus along with a gentle lift in energy.
We generally understand that green tea is good for us. However did you know that the suggested serving is 7-15 cups of green tea per day, just to receive all that natural goodness? I mean, who drinks that much green tea?!
Now what if I were to point out that one (1) cup of matcha tea equals the health benefits of 7-10 cups of regular green tea?
Originally called “whipped tea,” Matcha was often used for medicinal purposes. To reap the benefits of this wonder tea, Matcha powder contains the entire tea leaf. As previously mentioned, the determining difference lays mainly in how the tea leaves are nurtured, harvested and processed.
The top three nutrients found in a single cup of Matcha include:
... L-theanine sounds funny. Let's explore that one.
L-theanine is an amino acid shown to induce a sense of calm, to increase feelings of well-being and to improve cognitive performance. For the most part L-theanine is unique to tea and uniquely abundant in matcha tea.
There's been an resurgence of research done on the anxiety-relieving effects of this powerful amino acid. Similar to how caffeine blocks our adenosine receptors, L-theanine binds to receptors blocking glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter). In addition to this little blocking action, L-theanine also promotes inhibitory, relaxing GABA to show up on the scene, which further produces anti-anxiety and calming vibes.
Unlike many prescription medications that mimic GABA, when working together with L-theanine our brain scores the calm without the sleepiness or impaired motor behaviors.
Cooking with Matcha
If drinking a foamy green tea pre-meditation doesn't float your boat, you can always eat it!
My Matcha Life gives some great recipes for adding Matcha to breakfast, lunch or dinner. Their Foodies Matcha is a healthy addition to all kinds of deliciousness.
FYI "The taste of matcha tea has been described as “umami” — also known as the “fifth flavor” — somewhere between savory and sweet. In Foodie’s Matcha Tea this culinary flavor stands out, lending itself well to sauces, seasonings, pastries and baking: from tiramisu to seasoning to green tea ginger halibut and everywhere in between."
Both. It's a tie game.
If you're going to drink coffee to be more productive and improve cognitive function, drink some Bulletproof Coffee with butter and Brain Octane Oil.
If you're sitting down to meditate and your want calmness without falling asleep sitting up, drink some Matcha. Even better add it to your pancakes and stay stress-free at the office.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and preferences between these two brain beverages. Join the conversation and leave me a comment below.
Founder of Be Inspired. Coffee addict. Brain enthusiast.