Why L-Theanine Belongs in Your Coffee
- What is L-Theanine?
- 4 Benefits of L-Theanine and Caffeine
- What Happens When You Add Theanine to Coffee?
- Conclusion: We Made Coffee Smarter
High-quality coffee is more than a luxury beverage.
But have you ever thought maybe coffee might be missing something?
We’re bold enough to ask whether coffee can be made better, and it turns out the answer is yes.
Keep reading to learn the health benefits of theanine, what happens when you drink coffee with l-theanine, and a whole new way to use coffee to reach your full potential.
What is L-Theanine?
L-theanine (or theanine) is a rare amino acid found in only two places in nature.
It occurs in tea and in a rare edible mushroom species called Bay Bolete.
You’ve probably heard that amino acids are the basic building blocks of life. That’s true, but theanine is different from other amino acids.
When you consume l-theanine orally, it crosses your blood-brain barrier. And that’s when things get interesting, to say the least.
Scientists think that l-theanine acts through several different pathways in the brain:
- It decreases the action of excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain--the ones associated with problems like anxiety.
- At the same time, research suggests l-theanine increases the action of other neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.
- Last but not least, theanine appears to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the brain and nervous system.
Next, you’ll learn more about the benefits of theanine and caffeine, plus the smartest way to take them.
4 Benefits of L-Theanine and Caffeine
1. Calm focus without jitters
L-theanine smooths out the harsh effects of caffeine, making it work better for sustained focus.
Whereas a high dose of caffeine makes you feel more stressed out mentally and physically, theanine supports lower stress levels.
Here’s what the authors of a 2017 controlled trial have to say about the combination:
“Consumed together, caffeine and theanine exert similar cognitive effects to that of caffeine alone, but exert opposite effects on arousal, in that caffeine accentuates and theanine mitigates physiological and felt stress responses”.
Imagine a mellower version of Adderall. One that doesn’t cause dry mouth or heart palpitations (or require a prescription).
When you’re calm, focused, and relaxed, you perform better.
A 2008 trial found that the combination of 100 mg L-theanine and 50 mg caffeine improved speed and accuracy performance on an attention-switching task. The combo also made participants less susceptible to distractions compared to caffeine-only.
And a separate 2008 study showed that 250 mg of theanine with 150 mg caffeine led to greater improvements in reaction time, better working memory with numbers, increased alertness, and decreased reports of headaches and tiredness compared to caffeine by itself.
2. Brain alpha waves
Alpha waves are a special type of brain wave that can only be detected by an electroencephalogram (EEG).
These waves occur between 7-13 hertz (cycles per second) and relate to a state of “wakeful relaxation” or calm focus.
Research shows that by itself, caffeine can reduce alpha wave activity. Imagine having a case of ADHD caused by excess coffee.
That’s essentially what happens when you take too much caffeine by itself. Your mind goes nowhere...very, very fast.
On the other hand, theanine by itself increases alpha wave activity, which is a good thing.
A clinical trial with people who had either low or high anxiety levels found that taking 200 milligrams of l-theanine increased alpha wave activity within 30 minutes.
More importantly, the alpha wave activity led to a relaxed, non-anxious state in all participants.
And when you take theanine and caffeine together? There’s even more alpha wave activity than theanine alone, at least according to early evidence.
3. Dopamine goes through the roof
Evidence suggests that caffeine and coffee can stimulate dopamine release from cells.
Dopamine could be a major reason why most people reach for coffee when they’re fatigued or low on motivation.
Why would you want more dopamine?
Higher dopamine levels are associated with increased cognitive function, faster learning, better memory, and heightened motivation.
It’s too early to say for sure, but there’s a significant chance that adding theanine to your daily caffeine dose could result in a bigger dopamine boost than caffeine (or coffee) alone.
4. Balanced levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters
Theanine may increase levels of key neurotransmitters in your brain, such as serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
Serotonin is a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that’s associated with positive mood, happiness, and stress resilience.
Excessive NMDA activity correlates to high stress and anxiety levels.
In other words, theanine may support balanced levels of neurotransmitters in your brain, which could help you feel great.
According to a 2019 randomized controlled trial, “L-theanine has the potential to promote mental health in the general population with stress-related ailments and cognitive impairments”.
What Happens When You Add Theanine to Coffee?
The effects of theanine are very different when taken alone versus combined with caffeine.
Theanine alone is calming, but doesn’t boost focus. Add some caffeine and you’ve got the perfect formula for calm focus and productivity.
The problem? Getting your dose right.
Theanine occurs naturally in green tea, but the concentration is very low.
Green and black teas are around 0.5-0.6% theanine by weight, which provides a dose of about 15-18 mg of theanine per serving of tea
A typical cup of tea also contains around 45-60 milligrams of caffeine.
In contrast, high-quality coffee naturally contains an average of approximately 180 milligrams of caffeine per serving, but no l-theanine.
As we already discussed, studies of theanine examine the effects of theanine supplements combined with caffeine.
But oftentimes, researchers use doses of l-theanine and caffeine much higher than you can obtain from drinking tea or, of course, normal coffee.
A 2017 clinical trial gave participants 200 milligrams of l-theanine and 160 milligrams of caffeine and discovered:
- Faster visual reaction times
- Higher levels of attention that correspond to decision-making
- The effects of caffeine and theanine are synergistic in higher doses
Keep in mind that the researchers used, in their words, l-theanine and caffeine “doses equivalent to the amounts found in 6–10 cups of tea”.
Also in their words, they “did not find one cup of tea to have a significant effect on measures of attention”.
The bottom line?
A single cup of tea won’t cut it. Unless you have the time and patience to sit around and drink about ten cups of tea, you simply won’t get the combined benefits of l-theanine and caffeine.
But we add 150 mg of theanine to our coffee (which is also standardized to 180 mg caffeine), meaning you can get the best of both worlds, without a nasty caffeine crash.
Conclusion: We Made Coffee Smarter
It’s also delicious.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, and at Strong Coffee Company, we’ve cracked the code for superior coffee.
We add 150 milligrams of theanine per serving, a research-backed dosage that (unlike a cup of tea) is more than enough for all the benefits of this valuable amino acid.
Not only that, we also test to ensure our coffee contains precisely 180 mg of caffeine per serving. Caffeine content at commercial coffee shops varies day-to-day by up to 217%, which we found ridiculous and unacceptable.
We’ve also added hard-hitting ingredients like MCTs and collagen protein (with added l-tryptophan so you don’t rack up a serotonin imbalance--those are a bitch).
Want to discover what you’ve been missing out on by not drinking Strong Coffee? For a limited time only, receive 15% off your first order. Please use code STRONGSCIENCE at checkout.