For centuries now, a number of debates have divided tea and coffee drinkers. Even though coffee was much more predominant in the western world, tea also had a large influence when it was introduced to England in the 17th century.

Nowadays, the same questions remain. Which is better: theine vs caffeine? Why does tea stimulate us? Why does coffee excite us? All of these questions are but a portion of the debate. It is important to note that theine and caffeine are molecules; that is to say a group of atoms bonded together.

In this article, we will explore the difference between theine and caffeine. Are they the same molecule? What are their different effects on our body? Discover the answers to these questions below.

The History of Theine and Caffeine

In order to properly understand the differences between the two, we have to know their history. Certain research has gone back up to 200 years. The veracity of these findings is still being analyzed today.


This molecule was discovered in 1819 by the German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge. While studying coffee and the elements in contains, Runge decided to call his discovery: Kaffein. This molecule is present in a number of plants and foods. It acts mainly as a natural insecticide to ward off potential predators.


Keeping Runge’s findings in mind, chemists conducted the same tests on tea in 1827. They wanted to discover if it contained caffeine. Alphonse Ourdy, Geradus Mulder and Jobat all contributed to the research.

However, one discovery really surprised the scientific community. What was it? What are the similarities between these two chemical compounds?


Is there a Difference between the Two Molecules?

The answer to this question is part yes and part no. Jobat and Geradus Mulder’s discovery was the same: theine and caffeine are in fact the same molecule.

It is important not to confuse theine and theanine, as they are two completely different molecules. Theanine is an amino acid that reduces stress and relaxes the body. Theine is a methylxanthine and acts as a stimulant.

So, why do we say that theine and caffeine are different elements that affect the body in distinctive ways? The answer to this question includes three factors: the quantity of stimulants, the absorption rate, and our body’s tolerance. This begs the question: theine vs caffeine?

The Quantity of Theine or Caffeine

It is true that coffee is much stronger and more stimulating than tea. This is why we say coffee excites us and tea stimulates us. The concentration of molecules in coffee is three to four times higher than in tea.

The type of tea doesn’t affect the initial level of theine. If green, black, or white tea leaves are harvested from the same Camelia Sinensis tree, the levels of theine found in them will be the same. What make levels vary are the steep time and the process used in the production of the tea.

If we compare steep times, there will be more theine in a cup that has steeped for five minutes than a cup that has steeped for two. However, black tea will release its theine more quickly than white tea. There are therefore several elements that determine the quantity of theine in a cup.


The Absorption Rate of Theine vs Caffeine

Even though theine and caffeine molecules are exactly the same, it is important to note that they do not affect the body in the same way. Our body must also break the bonds that link certain molecules together before absorbing them.

In the case of caffeine, the molecules are much freer in the coffee grains, meaning they are not bonded to other substances. As they are absorbed by the body, they are released much more quickly into our system. This is why we feel stimulated for two to three hours after drinking a cup.

In the case of theine, the opposite is true. The theine molecule is often bonded to other substances found only in tea. As mentioned above, the body needs to break these bonds before absorbing the theine. This is why tea takes longer to affect us and is less stimulating.

Tolerance to Tea or Coffee

As each body is unique, our reactions to either one of these drinks can be very different. Some people are more sensitive to coffee and others to tea, even though theine takes longer to be released into the body. The best way to know which one of these drinks affects you more is simply to try them out.

Finally, it is impossible to clearly distinguish the different effects of these molecules on the human body. Just keep in mind that theine and caffeine are exactly the same molecule, even though caffeine is the more common term. So, next time you hear the word theine you will know that it is the same chemical compound as caffeine.