L-Theanine - a goddess in the guayusa?

Posted by Linda Elliot on

Guayusa tea leaves in a basket after harvest

*Update - September 2018

We are currently looking into this more having seen one scientific paper confirming the presence of L-Theanine, we learned there is no corroborating evidence. We'll leave this post up for now as it appears to be something that is known that needs to be addressed by the scientific community and that more research is required and we can come back and update it as we learn more.

I guess this leaves it (no pun intended) that Guayusa 'may' contain L-Theanine?

In terms of the umami flavour below - we looked up some of the other amino acids, and Guayusa contains one called 'Threonine' which also imparts the umami flavour. Perhaps if there is in fact no L-Theanine in Guayusa, it's partly the Threonine which lends to it's yummy/chewy taste?

Original article continues below...

We thought we'd continue our series of blogs that look further into the chemical composition of guayusa by focusing next on L-Theanine.

We didn't do Latin at school, but we now know that the 'Theo' in theobromine (a stimulant also found in guayusa) means 'God' so, we think, 'Thea' could mean its feminine equivalent - a goddess.

L-Theanine is found in various plants and fungal species, and was uncovered as a constituent of green tea all the way back in 1949. It is also present in black and white teas to a volume of about 1% of the dried weight. All the teas mentioned just here (green, black and white) are from the shrub 'camellia sinensis' - whose leaves or buds make the different kinds of 'regular' tea you all will be familiar with.

We don't know much about chemistry or pharmacology, either, so much of the scientific stuff we read about L-Theanine was kind of confusing(!), but we have tried to pull out some bits and pieces of information that resonated with us and makes sense when we think about the real taste and effect that drinking guayusa has on us.

Umami taste

There is something lip-smackingly tasty about guayusa - when we drink it we simply have to exclaim 'yum!'

Perhaps this is related to the fact that L-Theanine illicits the flavour of 'umami'. Umami is a savoury taste and one of the 'five categories' of taste - (bitter, sweet, sour, salty and umami).

Umami stems from the Japanese language and basically translates to 'pleasant savoury taste'. It's a blend of the Japanese word 'umai' (which means 'delicious') and 'mi' (which means 'taste').

We can definitely testify that guayusa has an absolutely delicious taste, although it doesn't only impart an umami flavour - it makes a lot of sense that it does.

By itself umami is not supposed to be particularly pleasant on the pallete, but what it does do is help to give foods a long lasting aftertaste that sticks on the roof of the mouth and tongue, helping to enhance flavour. We suspect this could be why guayusa has a lovely taste that lingers on the pallete and the L-Theanine helps to bring out guayusa's inherent deliciousness even more.

It's interesting to note that most humans first encounter umami as babies in breast milk. Perhaps there is some kind of 'life-giving-mother-goddess' connection there?

Green tea also has the umami flavour which makes sense given that L-Theanine is present in the regular 'camellia sinensis' teas.

Feel good chemicals

You have probably heard of serotonin and dopamine. These are some of the feel good chemicals that the brain naturally releases to regulate mood. L-Theanine is also understood to increase the levels of these chemicals in certain areas of the brain.

L-Theanine has been the subject of studies to discover more about the potential of its abilities to reduce physical and mental stress, improve brain performance and sharpness and boost a good mood in a similar way to caffeine.

It sounds from this that the slow release caffeine energy that guayusa imparts could be to do with the Theanine.

When we drink guayusa at work we find that we are sharp all day, and have a long creative energy that lasts well into the evening.

In summary, the more we learn about the make up of guayusa, the more it all seems to make sense that it does just feel so good for you.

Further reading:

There's a good 'tea-specific' related article over at worldoftea.org

And more general info on L-Theanine over at Wikipedia

And finally, please check out our blog on theobromine which is also present in guayusa!

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