Spilling the Tea: Why the Kucha Plant is Green Tea’s Prettier Sister
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When it comes to tea, green, black and red teas seems to get all the attention. And it’s not unwarranted – these teas are widely used and well known because of their many documented health benefits, between energy, metabolism support, antioxidant support, stress relief, and more. But there’s a lesser-known tea variety that offers all that same benefits, and that we think should get a lot more credit than it does: kucha.


The kucha tea plant (Camellia assamica var. kucha) is from the Yunnan province of China, where it’s been domesticated and used medicinally for well over two millennia. Technically a mutant version of the wild pu’er tea plant, indigenous peoples use kucha tea to treat viral infection like colds and flus. There are actually still several 1000+ year-old kucha tea trees still alive and used to this day.


There are two very cool nootropic compounds in the kucha plant that are either (a) not found in other varieties of tea leaves or (b) aren’t found in the same concentration in other tea leaves. These are theacrine and methylliberine. And while at first these might look just like their caffeine counterpart, they’re much more than that.


Is Theacrine Different than Regular Old Caffeine?

Both theacrine and caffeine are nootropics, and both work to provide the body with an energy boost. Structurally, they’re very similar, too. In fact, for a long time it was thought that theacrine’s benefits were inextricable from caffeine; it’s only recently been discovered that’s not the case. But now that we know theacrine’s benefits can be experienced without caffeine as a scaffold, we’re finding that theacrine outdoes caffeine in spades.


A purine alkaloid, theacrine’s energy boost is described as more even than caffeine’s, and lasts longer, too. That’s because it’s half-life in the body is longer, which means it peaks about 3-4 hours in and its total effects last around 8 hours. This is opposed to caffeine, which spikes at 30 min – 1 hour and loses discernible effects after 3-4, even though it stays in your system for 8 or more. 


Caffeine activates your stress response system in order to mobilize energy, which is why you feel stressed, jittery and clammy, and why you’re left feeling crashed after. Theacrine, on the other hand, may promote the production of neurotransmitters involved in motivation and focus while suppressing those involved in fatigue signaling, which can result in an optimal combination of increased energy and increased calm. We typically associate being relaxed with being low energy, but theacrine says that isn’t our only reality.


Is Methylliberine Tea’s Best-Kept Secret?

The other showstopper nootropic in the kucha tea plant is methylliberine, an almost-secret nootropic – have you ever heard of it? We recently added it to our advanced blend of adaptogens, nootropics and superfoods to improve MTE’s energy boost without adding caffeine or sugar. Now that we have, we’re in love. 


Methylliberine may promote improved mood, focus and attention by working complementarily with theacrine. Caffeine blocks fatigue signals completely, which is why it’s a spike-and-drop type of energy boost. We know theacrine instead gently pulls fatigue signaling back while pushing motivation signaling to the front, which is why you’re not tired but you’re also not cracked out. 


Methylliberine, then, is thought to act only as a modulator of fatigue signaling, meaning instead of blocking tiredness, it staves it off for a long period of time. In addition, methylliberine supports signaling of two key neurotransmitters for energy, focus and mood, which can promote its own version of increased energy and alertness + decreased stress response. 


This is the vital difference between caffeine and the kucha compounds: the sustained energy they promote is bolstered by sustained support for mood and stress. Which is why it’s like – why are we still relying on excessive caffeine for energy? Not only is it a less healthy kind of energy; it’s empty, temporary, and comes with drawbacks like tolerance, dependence and withdrawal.


Clinical Evidence for These Key Kucha Compounds

Let’s talk about the receipts, though, because while research on theacrine and methylliberine is relatively young, the fact that we already know consuming tea is safe means that clinical studies in humans have progressed quickly. Three recent evidentiary highlights for these two kucha-sourced nootropics include:


A 2020 study of the health benefits on theacrine saw it act as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, promote muscle/motor function, reduce fatigue, improve cognitive performance, calm, improve mood, support liver function, and even inhibit metastasis of breast cancer cells.


A 2020 study on the safety of methylliberine observed it improve several physiological markers of cardiovascular health, including lowered resting heart rate, increased levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and lowered LDL (bad cholesterol). As well, the energizing effect of methylliberine was not accompanied by a heart rate or blood pressure spike.


Studies from 2014 and 2015 saw supplements containing theacrine and methylliberine improve subjective measures of energy and mood while reducing fatigue. This may largely be due to the synergistic function of taking both theacrine and methylliberine: theacrine’s long-term benefits are likely sparked methylliberine’s more immediate ones.


In all, the mounting evidence supports the claims that theacrine and methylliberine improve energy, focus, attention, and mood while producing a stress-relieving/calming effect by acting on the neurochemical systems associated with motivation, mood, memory and cognition. Once again – why are we still depending on caffeine bombs to help with fatigue? Seems like there’s a better way to go.


Is There Kucha Tea in MTE?

Yup! We include theacrine and methylliberine in our supplement mix for all the reasons we discussed: they offer the good things about caffeine without the bad. Actually, they may offer a better, more even and longer-lasting version of what caffeine does. 


As an alternative to caffeine-based products like coffee and energy drinks, relying on these healthier nootropics at lower levels can bring about a synergistic type of energy – sustainable support rather than a swift kick in the pants and then it’s gone. 


Along with the other high-quality, bioactive, plant-sourced compounds in our 13-ingredient formulation, the adaptogen-nootropic blend MTE offers support for mood, recovery, energy, immunity, and more, with a little help from the kucha tea plant.

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