As we spend more time with our customers, we find that certain questions around kombucha benefits frequently pop up. We recently looked at the amount of alcohol in kombucha, but we’re just as commonly asked about the amount of caffeine that kombucha contains. So we turned to REAL Kombucha founder, David Begg, to get a better understanding.
Is there caffeine in kombucha?
OK, let’s try and get to the bottom of this. There are lots of differing views out there, but the simple answer is, “Yes… but not that much.”
Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
One of the biggest issues is the enormously wide variance in the caffeine content of different coffees, teas and other caffeine-containing foodstuffs. You also have to take into account the big impact that different processing methods have on the resultant brews. With coffee, the caffeine content varies based on the source of the coffee beans, roasting, storage and preparation (brewing and filtering). The same also applies to tea; the sourcing of the leaf, the cutting, drying, processing and steeping of it all have an impact on the caffeine content.
And all of that is generally before it has even reached the shop. For a good example of the continued confusion surrounding this issue, take a look at the amount of caffeine in a high street coffee shop espresso. From chain to chain, this can vary anywhere between 48-317mg per serving! To say that caffeine in many consumer drinks is an unregulated issue would be an understatement. (For more on this issue, check out this paper.)
For these reasons, it’s clearly very difficult to give a definitive, scientific answer to the question how much caffeine kombucha contains.
Broadly speaking, however, coffee has a lot of caffeine, black teas have about half, green teas somewhat less and white teas the least. In data terms, this equates to something like this:
Amount of caffeine in a 250ml serve
- Coffee: 100-250mg
- Black tea: 50-100mg
- Green tea: 30-60mg
- White tea: 15-40mg
Let me caveat this by saying that these numbers have been pulled together from some 25 different sources, each different, but all are directionally the same. Very quickly, you start being able to see how tricky it is to give a succinct answer to this question.
So how does this compare to our kombuchas? What are the kombucha benefits as far caffeine and REAL Kombucha are concerned? Well, we brew our teas to about half the strength of a normal cup of tea, and a small amount of the caffeine is consumed in the fermentation process. All told, our kombuchas have about a third of the caffeine of their equivalent tea. So, in the end, we assume the following:
In addition, tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which is a relaxant and works in a complementary manner to caffeine. So the effects of caffeine are less pronounced in tea than in coffee, and even in high-caffeine black teas, this helps to give you a calm alertness rather than that jittery anxiety common to coffee.
Suffice to say, all the empirical evidence suggests a pretty low amount of caffeine in kombucha as well. This means that we cannot say Kombucha is caffeine free. Some kombuchas, especially brewed with lemongrass, are naturally caffeine free, if that should worry you. However, I have been in a caffeine-free zone for most of my life, and even a single cup of tea in the late afternoon can really upset my sleep patterns. But a glass of REAL Kombucha late in the evening has never affected my drowsiness at bed time. As far as kombucha benefits are concerned, this seems like a real plus to me.
So that’s where we come out on the “how much caffeine in kombucha” debate. It is not rigorously scientific, but it shouldn’t be too far out.
We should note that this article refers only to REAL Kombucha. Each kombucha brewer has their own methods, and as David points out, processing methods along the production line can really affect the final bottle. As far as REAL Kombucha benefits are concerned, we consider ourselves a low-in-caffeine drink.