Coffee’s reputation as a high energy drink spans thousands of years, starting from legends of goats helping themselves to a shrubful of coffee berries and subsequently alarming their shepherds by refusing to sleep at night.
Tea follows a more mellow trajectory throughout history. However, many still take tea as a way to energise themselves before a full day, or to shake off the lethargy of afternoon slumps at work.
The enduring use of coffee and tea as powerful stimulants can be traced to one particular substance: caffeine. The excitatory effects of the compound on our bodies is widely documented, and it's considered the most widely ingested psychoactive drug.
So why are brewers mixing the world’s most popular upper with cannabidiol (CBD), a compound known for relaxing and calming our nervous systems?
Good Vibes, Minus the Jitters
Clammy palms, palpitations, the ironic inability to focus--most people have experienced the unpleasant side effects of drinking one too many cups of coffee or tea. Yet that doesn’t keep many of us from picking up their third cup in hopes of boosting productivity or getting through a particularly tough day.
CBD, which numerous studies have shown to help reduce anxiety, may help blunt the crash of coming off a caffeine high. “It’s the perfect combination, because the CBD oil can make you a little drowsy, so drinking it with your coffee kind of balances it out. You feel a nice, natural peacefulness while still feeling alert,” says Dan Guy, owner of coffee shop Espresso Bay.
CBD may also potentially make the buzz from a cup of coffee last longer. Cannabidiol has been found to inhibit the system that metabolises caffeine, which in theory should slow its reuptake.
Pain Relief Without the Haze
Beyond its effects on mood, CBD coffee and tea may help soothe pain. Barista Brandon Burdett, who uses CBD for chronic pain, now pairs the compound with coffee to offset the drowsiness that CBD can cause: “The coffee kept me awake, but I still had the pain relief benefits.”
Both CBD and caffeine are compounds that have been shown to interact with the systems in our bodies that manage pain. CBD may possibly have anti-inflammatory effects, and some use it to treat conditions such as arthritis and eczema. Experts, however, have yet to call the data conclusive. “I think we just don’t have enough literature yet,” says Kimberly M. Mauer, medical director of OHSU’s Comprehensive Pain Center in Portland, Oregon.
Caffeine may also have anti-inflammatory effects--yet possibly only when paired with healthy beverages such as green tea or organic coffee.
A More Palatable Way to Take CBD
Taking CBD oil orally is perhaps the fastest and cleanest way to introduce concentrated doses into your system. Yet pure CBD oil isn’t the tastiest. For many, the bitter earthiness of the compound is an acquired taste, and is the reason some prefer to take their CBD in candy or chocolate form.
Taking CBD with coffee can be an easy way to mask the flavour. The flavour profile of some beans--such as Colombian’s chocolate-y and nutty taste--can even complement the taste of CBD. Some attest that it can make coffee taste smoother.
Tea falls even closer on the flavour spectrum to CBD’s grassy roots. In fact, CBD tea can be prepared by steeping hemp leaves directly, foregoing the need to work around the greasy mouthfeel of oil extracts. Loose leaf hemp tea typically has a stronger grassy taste, which can be balanced out by the addition of sweeteners or a little milk.
What Does Science Say?
It’s not exact. As CBD is only now enjoying its newfound legality in the UK, there’s a limited body of research on how the compound interacts with common stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol. The effects of CBD coffee and tea are so far mostly anecdotal.
Some researchers say dosage determines whether CBD-infused coffee or tea has any notable results. Effects may also vary based on the chemistry of the drinker’s body. “Someone’s reaction to a combination of these compounds would not be easily predictable because various doses of each would affect the response,” says Dr. Bonni Goldstein, medical director of Canna-Centers.
And it’s not easy to gauge proper dosage with CBD. There’s no hard standard yet on the amount one needs to take to feel effects, just a range. Mixing cannabidiol with hot liquids can also affect its potency in ways we don’t fully understand yet. Then there’s how these drinks are made: some brewers use powdered isolate, while others use oil extracts.
As with any popular food craze, the lack of clinical support isn’t stopping these drinks from appearing on the menu of trendy cafes all over the UK. Given that the country is currently the world’s second largest consumer of CBD, we can only expect baristas to get even more creative with their infused brews and cuppas.
Many of us are lifelong drinkers of coffee and tea. However, the interaction between caffeine and CBD has yet to be thoroughly explored. This article is not meant to be prescriptive--please consult your healthcare provider before consuming CBD-infused beverages.