A shot. A pop. A beat, a drop.

Caffeine produces different effects when consumed through tea or coffee; here’s the science explaining what specifically happens to the brain and aural perception.

Coffee and tea provide the fuel for the majority of our daily lives. Both containing the stimulant caffeine, they make you work, focus, and perceive surroundings in an altered state of mind.

As the most widely consumed psychoactive drug, caffeine is absorbed by the body directly to the bloodstream as soon as you take a sip. It passes through the lining of your mouth, throat, and stomach, taking just 45 minutes for 99% of the caffeine to be absorbed via these membranes.


The caffeine is pulsing around your system, trembling in your blood like a seismic earthquake creating ripples in a surface of liquid.

Get it from coffee or get it from tea. It’s the same variety of caffeine, but the results are somewhat different.

Coffee’s high caffeine content means the brain’s quick response is to let the molecules attach themselves to the receptors that would normally host adenosine, the molecule responsible for signalling the need for sleep. The remaining adenosine is left to mingle around the blood instead, triggering the adrenal gland to produce adrenaline.

This stimulating effect explains why coffee lends itself to faster, beat-driven, higher-pace music that can make you feel revved up and excited, in sync with the drink.

So if they both contain caffeine, why doesn’t tea do the same?

Brewed tea contains a fraction of the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. But even then, drinking four times the amount still wouldn’t produce the same addictive, heart-racing, tensed-muscle repercussions.

This is because tea’s compound structure is a little more complex. The caffeine is coupled with amino acid L-theanine, which is shown to reduce stress and increase relaxation.


It works in synergy with the caffeine to calm the body and ease it into a more meditative, relaxed state of mind. Tea has been used for generations by Monks practicing alert mindfulness.

This softer pace is assisted by the high antioxidant levels in tea that slow the absorption of caffeine. The body becomes at ease, harmoniously connecting with the tea.

Shown in the two videos, the exact same track is played for studying in ‘tea’ version and ‘coffee’. Both may be considered enjoyable pieces of music, but it different ways. The tea conjures soothing feelings of ease, calm and relaxation. Whilst the coffee, at just a slightly faster pace, can make its listener feel pumped and ready to move; mentally or physically.

The explanations are scientific. Straight-up high caffeine versus slow and steady antioxidants and l-theanine. The former make the brain alert, wired and hyperactive: ready to rave. The latter alleviates any frantic feeling, making the drinker more dispensable to lighter notes, softer rhythms and gentler riffs.

An espresso shot. A tea pot. A fast beat, a slow drop.

Elements in our body have the power to change the way we perceive our surroundings.

Bernadine Tay is a tea designer and founder of Quinteassential. She tells stories and relives memories through her tea designs. She is the tea curator and brand ambassador for Wedgwood, and has designed bespoke blends for luxury brands and hotels. She had won 7 Great Taste awards out of her 12 blend designs for her own tea range and is now also a tea judge.