...because this inconspicuous amino acid turns a simple beverage into a delight, that caresses not only the tongue, but also body mind and soul.
Theanine occurs naturally in the tea plant Camellia Sinensis. As fermentation leads to a depletion of theanine, black tea contains only small amounts of this amino acid, while it remains intact in unfermented green tea. Theanine is not vital to nor canit be produced by the human body itself. However, scientists are discussing a range of positive effects of L-theanine on body and mind.
In green tea, the early spring pickings show the highest concentration of L-theanine (natural theanine) and other amino acids. Over the course of the year it decreases and is converted into catechines.
Analyses of several of the KEIKO teas, confirm the exceptionally high content of the early 1st pickings. But also the Kukicha showed a surprisingly high concentration. (see graphic, analysis by Intitute Kurz in 2015.
Along with the type of processing and time of picking, the cultivar is one of the determining factors for the concentration of theanine in tea. According to the analyses by Institute Kurz, Benifuuki No.1 shows a high content of theanine – despite the slight fermentation that is unique to its production process.
The amino acid theanine occurs in two shapes, as D-theanine and L-theanine. The latter is commonly used synonymously with theanine, as it represents the natural theanine. D-theanine is a result of the chemical fabrication of the amino acid and has been less researched due to its much rarer occurrence.
The taste of theanine
A soft, sweet aroma with little to no bitterness is characteristic to teas with a high theanine content. In combination with the other amino acids contained in green tea L-theanine is also said to be an important contributor to the Umami-taste. The 5th flavor next to sweet, salty, sour and bitter, used to describe a tasty savoriness.
Consumed as tea it is also said to be able to change the way flavors are experienced, reducing the perceived bitterness of products such as chocolate and grapefruit.
L-theanine can be easily resorbed by the body. Via the blood circulation it is transported to the central nervous system, where it regulates the disposability of neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin and dopamine, which regulate emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, sleep as well as appetite, energy and other cognitive abilities.
Serotonin (mostly found in the intestines) and dopamine create similar effects in the body, though they work in different ways. Both are well-known for improving the mood and give energy, but can also help with relaxation and give relief for anxiety.
Studies also showed positive effects on the cardiovascular system as well as antihypertensive properties, which in part are actually exponentiated by the combination with other components of green tea.
GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter affecting all brain-functions that navigate emotions. Chinese medicine has made use of GABA as a tranquilizer for centuries. In combination with L-theanine it can lead to a decreased sleep latency and improved NREM sleep.
These synergies and interplays of the different properties and components making up green tea make the consumption of the tea all the more attractive when compared to the consumtion of theanine extracts or supplements.
Theanine not only creates the delicate, sweet aroma, which we love so much about green tea, but also lightens the mood, is relaxing and improves sleep while at the same time raising alertness and concentration and even might alleviate anxiety or cardiovascular diseases and lower high blood pressure.
As if just one of these properties wasn’t enough to convince us to join #teamtheanin!