Caffeine is the most consumed psychoactive drug in the world, according to a 2013 study. That sounds a little scary, but actually, caffeine has several health benefits. A recent review of more than 220 studies found that drinking coffee, the most popular caffeinated beverage, was associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease and cancer. It was also linked with a lower rate of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Some people, however, are sensitive to caffeine and experience negative rather than positive side effects when they consume it. If you’re one of them, you may be concerned about the caffeine in your kombucha tea.
How Does Caffeine Affect the Body?
A psychoactive drug is simply a substance that affects how the brain works and causes changes in mood, awareness, thoughts, feelings, or behavior. Examples other than caffeine include alcohol, nicotine, certain pain medicines, and some forms of cannabis.
Caffeine is the most popular psychoactive drug because its effects are mild and often helpful to people. At moderate amounts, it can boost alertness and wakefulness, enhance cognitive performance, increase energy, and improve mood.
Some people, however, do not experience these beneficial effects. Instead, they suffer from negative effects after consuming caffeine, including anxiety, jitteriness, trembling, nausea, headaches, and a low mood.
Some People Are More Sensitive to Caffeine Than Others
Scientists have discovered that how we metabolize caffeine varies from person to person. Whereas one person can enjoy up to four cups of coffee per day with no negative effects, another may not be able to drink even one cup without having trouble.
Some of these differences can be attributed to our genes, while other factors may include age, sex, circadian rhythms, and other medications taken.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is about the same amount as four cups of coffee. Consuming more than that can result in side effects no matter whether you’re sensitive or not. If you are sensitive, though, you’re likely to experience side effects at lower amounts.
Does Kombucha Contain Caffeine?
Whether you’re sensitive to caffeine or you just want to be sure you don’t consume too much, you may be curious about whether kombucha contains any.
Here’s the answer: it depends, but usually, it does.
Most kombucha is made from “true teas” that contain caffeine. These include black, green, oolong, and white tea. (Read our article about teas used to make kombucha.) The amount of caffeine varies, however. Black tea, for instance, contains more caffeine than white tea. Here’s a basic comparison for a six-ounce serving of tea:
- Black tea: 50 mg
- Oolong tea: 30-40 mg
- Green tea: 20-30 mg
- White tea: 15-20 mg
As long as one of these four teas is used to make your kombucha—which is the case the majority of the time—your kombucha will have some caffeine.
Sometimes kombucha is made from non-caffeinated teas like rooibos or hibiscus, but these may be combined with true teas. The bottom line is that as long as the source tea has some caffeine, the kombucha will, too.
Kombucha, however, will have less caffeine than the source tea used to make it. Here’s why.
Kombucha Has Less Caffeine Than Standard Tea
Kombucha tea is made via a fermenting process during which healthy bacteria and yeast convert carbohydrates (sugar) into organic acids and alcohol. During this process, the yeast and bacteria multiply, creating a fermented beverage that contains a rich variety of healthy microorganisms and acids.
This process also naturally breaks down a lot of the caffeine in the tea. The general consensus is that about one-third of a tea’s caffeine content remains after fermentation. So if you made your kombucha with black tea, which contains about 50 mg per serving, then a comparable serving of kombucha would contain about 16-17 mg of caffeine.
For comparison’s sake, a cup of coffee contains about 80-100 mg of caffeine.
If the source tea was green, oolong, or white tea, then the remaining caffeine in the kombucha would be even less. A longer fermentation time, as well, will further reduce the final level of caffeine.
Will the Caffeine in Kombucha Bother Me?
In most cases, kombucha tea contains a low amount of caffeine that is unlikely to disturb even sensitive people. Keep in mind, however, that the caffeine levels vary from one batch to another. To keep caffeine low, take these steps:
- Use a low-caffeine true tea to make your kombucha.
- Cut back on how long you steep your source tea. Less time results in less caffeine.
- Ferment your tea for a longer period. The longer it ferments, the more caffeine is broken down.
Be aware, as well, that store-bought kombucha can vary widely in terms of caffeine levels. Most bottles will include the amount on the label, but not all. Some manufacturers add caffeine to the product to satisfy users who want more of an energy boost with their kombucha.