There is no denying that coffee is, for countless people, a useful and perhaps even necessary tool to get through the working day. Unfortunately, coffee is also quite addictive, and it can have other adverse effects such as making it hard to get to sleep or dysregulating blood pressure. If you would like to reduce or eliminate your coffee consumption without losing out on the focus and alertness boost that caffeine provides, here are some alternatives you can try.
There have been many studies into the benefits of drinking green tea, both for boosting mental performance and alertness and for improving other areas of health and wellbeing. Among them, one 2017 study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design found that consuming L-theanine and caffeine together—both of which are present in all types of tea—improved alertness and performance in attention-switching tasks while also leading to relaxation. By contrast, caffeine on its own is more effective in increasing alertness and other types of mental performance, but it can also lead to a ‘caffeine crash’, which reverses these effects and makes you sleepy. With its high L-theanine and relatively low caffeine content, drinking green tea is found by many to be a better way of achieving long-term alertness.
Matcha is a type of green tea grown and prepared in a particular way which gives it a distinctive flavor and texture, as well as higher levels of L-theanine and antioxidants. Although matcha was first grown in China in the 12th century, the procedure for growing and preparing it was then exported to Japan, where it became very popular, particularly among Buddhist monks. Today, matcha has become common enough in the United States and other countries outside of East Asia that you can buy it in a dedicated matcha store.
The way that matcha is grown and prepared—shading the plants from direct sunlight for the last 20 to 30 days before harvesting, and using the whole leaf to make up the tea powder—means that matcha is essentially a ‘supercharged’ green tea. Therefore, it can have even more of an effect on your alertness, calmness and general mood than brewed green tea. While matcha is traditionally consumed as a hot drink served in a ceremonial ritual, today you can also find it in lattes, smoothies and even baked goods.
Yerba mate is a brewed drink which is made much like tea, but from a different plant: the yerba mate plant or Ilex paraguariensis. It is a drink typical of many South American countries and it is traditionally made in a gourd and drunk through a metal straw which has a filter at the bottom to keep out the leaves.
The caffeine content in a cup of yerba mate is higher than that of tea but lower than that of coffee. Yerba mate drinkers have reported improved alertness without the jittery feeling created by coffee. You should drink it in moderation, however, as some studies have found that drinking excess amounts of yerba mate may increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.