It is football season. Tea and football. Enough said. Usually I am very reserved when watching a game. However…
We are a divided house. One prefers tea (that is me)! Others prefer hot chocolate, or coffee. One is a quiet football watcher (that is me)! Others are involved and active football watchers. When it comes to which football teams to watch, we are better matched. We have some select teams that are on our line up to watch. We have enjoyed watching early morning games, mid afternoon games, and evening games of our favorite teams. I have found that I pair my caffeine intake with the type of football game. For example, depending on the time of the game, and how long the game has been played, I will alter my caffeine intake accordingly. If the game is going to be a close game full of action or a sleeper of a game with numerous points for a lead, I may select a caffeinated tea or herbal tea. I realize this is purely subjective and what works for me may not work for someone else. This article is not so much an article on caffeine as it is on blending tea and football. Get your mugs ready, turn on your favorite football team’s game, and it’s kick off time!
A Shutout Game
During football games where one team has a wide winning margin, I usually steep a tea that is caffeine free or decaffeinated. I am enjoying the game, the ambiance of watching football and relaxing. I prefer to be in the moment, and not necessarily focused strictly on the game. I enjoy all that encompasses the football season. The food, the cooler weather, the colorful foliage on the trees, the cheers, the bands, and the fans' excitement.
Decaffeinated teas, including most tisanes and herbal teas, have no caffeine; but come to that end through different means. Tisanes are teas that are comprised of dried fruits, berries, and flowers. Peels, petals, seeds, and parts of plant roots may be added to the tisane to make a crisp, refreshing and usually caffeine free tea. Herbal teas are not made with Camellia Sinensis leaves, can include caffeine but often, more times than not, herbal teas are caffeine free. Herbal teas include peppermint tea, ginger tea, chamomile tea and Rooibos tea. We call these forms of beverage “tea” because they are served in a similar manner as black, green or white tea from Camellia Sinensis leaves. However, the above mentioned herbal teas are caffeine free. There are a few exceptions to caffeine free herbal teas though. Yerba Mate is considered an herbal tea because it is not from the camellia sinensis plant. Yet, it has a high percentage of caffeine per teacup. It is a caffeinated herbal infusion that is consumed in Brazil, as well as other countries in South America.
Teas that are decaffeinated are teas that are made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Dark, Pu’erh, black, green, yellow and white teas naturally have caffeine in the leaves. Decaffeinated teas have trace amounts of caffeine, less than .04 percent. It is nearly impossible to completely eliminate caffeine from tea leaves. There are three ways to decaffeinate a tea; ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, and supercritical carbon dioxide. Only two forms of decaffeination are approved in the United States; ethyl acetate and supercritical carbon dioxide.
Ethyl Acetate is a solvent that is used to bathe the tea leaves in order to remove caffeine. Once the tea leaves are bathed in the solvent, the leaves are dried. It is a cost effective method of decaffeination. There are a few downsides with this process. Ethyl acetate can have a minute aftertaste for some people and this process tends to remove more polyphenols (antioxidants) than other methods. Supercritical carbon dioxide is simply the expulsion of caffeine using carbon dioxide gas as an attractant for caffeine to adhere to. This process has no residual aftertaste and keeps intact more polyphenols than ethyl acetate. Tea leaves are placed in a chamber, carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the chamber and absorbs the caffeine in the tea leaves. The carbon dioxide is removed from the chamber along with the absorbed caffeine. The caffeine absorbed by carbon dioxide is extracted from the gas via water or a charcoal filter. The process is repeated numerous times until the caffeine content is below the acceptable .04 percent. Lastly, methylene chloride decaffeination is the process primarily used overseas and in Canada. Tea leaves are bathed in the solvent, and then dried. This specific process can also decrease polyphenols found in the tea, similar to the ethyl acetate process.
A Close Game
A close football game requires, for me, a caffeinated tea. I may steep a blend of herbal and caffeinated teas. Or I may steep a cup of caffeinated tea that has less caffeine than other teas that are highly caffeinated. I need a mental and energy pick me up to help me stay focused for the duration of the game. Caffeinated tea works for me!
Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system. It increases the diameter of blood vessels in the brain, allowing an increase of blood flow to the brain. The caffeine molecules are carried by the blood to the brain, creating a stimulant effect in the brain. I find my attention span is increased, my focus intensifies, and I have more energy for football watching when I drink a cup of caffeinated tea.
They Are Tied!
Time for me to stay awake, pay attention, and be in the game, and be on the field mentally. Plays are called, seconds count, penalty flags are thrown and the excitement is palpable. Who is going to win? When commercials are aired, or time outs are called, I often will steep a tea with a higher count of caffeine.
The content in tea is affected by numerous variables. Some of which include how much dry tea was used for steeping, how long of an infusion time, the location of where the tea leaves were plucked on the bush, and processing can affect the caffeine content in the cup. I previously mentioned herbal Yerba Mate tea that has a naturally high content of caffeine in its leaves. Did you know that Matcha tea additionally has a high caffeine content in the tea? Matcha is finely ground up tea leaves that when finished, are in powder form. This Japanese frothy green tea may contain more caffeine per cup than a Japanese Bancha green tea or a Chinese Jasmine green tea because of ingesting the whole leaf in powder form. When I consume Matcha tea, I have the energy and focused attention that I need to watch a tied football game!
Whatever your mug may say, whatever your football team may be scoring, give a cheer for tea!
Americi, Hugo and Jasmin Desharnais, Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand.Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties.Firefly Books Ltd., 2011.
Richardson, Lisa Boalt.Modern Tea.Chronicle Books, 2014.
About The Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!