Why do less oxidized teas make me sick? Also, a Gaba question.

It’s been a while since I posted here, but I’ve been continuing to experiment with various teas, and I’ve found the effects astoundingly consistent:

White teas, green teas and greener oolong teas make me nauseous for several hours every time. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not I drink the tea with food, after a meal, morning/afternoon, hot/cold, etc. I don’t drink flavored teas, so there’s nothing perfume-y or artificial causing it. Rinsing doesn’t make a difference. Nor does the actual quality or grade of the tea, or whether or not it’s organic or non-organic. And since darker teas produce more tannins, I’m assuming that’s not the issue. Plus, I can drink coffee just fine, so the problem isn’t the caffeine.

So far there is one and only one green tea that I can drink without making myself miserable all afternoon: hojicha. I do notice slight nausea with it, but it’s nothing compared to the way other greens make me feel. And matcha was the worst, I suspect, because my body is not particularly suited to digesting green leaves.

Meanwhile, I drink a wide range of black teas — as well as darker oolongs and a couple pu’erh teas — without incident. I do like the flavor profiles of these teas better, but I’d like to be able to change up my routine from time to time with a good green. I’d particularly like to be able to drink from the whole range of oolong teas without getting sick.

I’m not so concerned with white tea, as I haven’t tasted any that I actually like yet.

To those who have experienced something similar: Have you found any greener teas that don’t bother you, or did you just stop trying? Also, what exactly causes some of us to react this way?

And this is sort of off-topic, but what’s the deal with Gaba tea? I’m sort of averse to food marketing strategies that involve health-related claims (as well as anything endorsed by Dr. Oz, or claiming to cause weight loss), but Gaba tea always seems to come at a reasonable price, and well… I do need to keep my blood pressure down. In the past, I’ve noticed that they’re not often ranked highly on here. Do they taste bad?

19 Replies
Oneironaut said

My reaction doesn’t seem to be as severe as yours. I’ve had some japanese greens give me stomach cramps bad enough to make me feel like throwing up but for me they are solved by eating something. Hojicha doesn’t negatively affect me either, perhaps the different preparation (roasting rather than steaming) has something to do with it.

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Yeah, I think it must have something to do with the roasting, although I don’t really understand what. So far I haven’t thrown up from tea yet, but I almost did the few times I tried matcha. I noticed that Teavivre describes nausea caused from tea as a drunk-like feeling, but to me it seems more a migraine headache. Sick almost to the point of throwing up, and nothing really helps. I’ve just had to sit it out and wait. I don’t think they were solved by eating anything, but then… I may not have eaten soon after because of the nausea, so I’m not sure. I guess that’s similar to being drunk too, or at least it’s like a hangover.

AllanK said

The person to ask is probably not on this forum. I would suggest you see a gastroenterologist and ask him. They would have a better idea of why certain teas make you ill.

In my experience, they don’t know much about this beyond, “Tannins and caffeine can upset your stomach.”

OMGsrsly said

Some oolongs make me feel that way. Nauseated and drunk and headachey. Blech. I haven’t identified completely which ones do this, but it’s happened with both “lily” oolongs I’ve had as well as a couple others. If it wasn’t a blanket “these all don’t work” experience, I would suggest growth areas or elevations. Different soils contribute different things to the tea.

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Rasseru said

I dont know anything about the sickness, sorry to hear that btw.

But I’ve tried one gaba tea, ancestor mount honey gabalong from imperial teas of Lincoln, UK. And it is wonderful honey taste & cooked sugar /fudge aroma. So lovely


That sounds great, thanks for the info. There are a couple of them from Taiwan Sourcing that allegedly taste like sweet potatoes, which also sounds great to me.

Rasseru said

It is so like honey, but without the cloying sugar-sweet that you would be forgiven for thinking that it is flavoured with honey. But apparently not.

Really very very delicious and totally unlike any other oolong ive tried before.

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AllanK said

I have speculated that some teas are higher in FODMAPS than others. This is something that can make you sick. This is only a theory.

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I’ve tried a number of GABA teas from green oolong gabas, roasted oolong gabas and black tea gabas. Prepared western or gongfu they have a distinct taste to them, a tartness. You may or may not like the taste, really depends on your tastes.

Their claims are like other tea claims – bogus without much good research that has dosaging and general population or cause and effect.

Yeah, I figured as much about the health claims. I have a sample from Mandala that I’ll try one of these days. Thanks for the description of the way they taste. I was mainly intrigued by the lower prices I’ve seen, but I’ll have to see how I like the taste.

Rasseru said

Hmm. Any that taste of honey? The one I mentioned is literally like honey water if you took out the sugar but left the honey taste & aroma. I wouldnt say tart I dont think! Apparently the honey flavour is created with the ‘process’ of making the tea. Whatever that means.

You might guess by now I dont like flavoured teas, I like to see how far the tea plants natural flavour can be taken, apart from roast flavour but thats un-avoidable & preferred to be kept to a minimum

I’ve tried GABA teas from 5 different vendors too, all have that distinct tart taste. Some more than others. I found Mandala’s black gaba was more in the sour dough honey bread turf.

Ah, interesting. The one from Mandala is the GABA sample I have on hand.

Ah, interesting. The one from Mandala is the GABA sample I have on hand.

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I find this interesting because my BF has the same problem, but with black teas. He discovered recently that he is more likely than not to barf if he drinks black tea on an empty stomach. He does drink black iced tea with meals without issue and he doesn’t seem to have a problem with greens, oolongs, or whites.

I’ve mostly had this problem with black teas myself, too, though if I have had a lot of tea during the day, oolongs can sometimes hit me the wrong way as well. It seems to vary for me, as some days a tea will hit me the wrong way and other days it won’t.

My wildly unscientific speculation is that it has to do with body chemistry on any given day and/or some sort of food allergy that goes beyond tannin and caffeine. I have absolutely nothing to base this on, it’s just a wild guess. ;-)

This is very interesting, thanks for replying. This makes me wonder if it is something to do with body chemistry as you say. Specifically, I wonder if it’s just that my body is just more accustomed to black tea? I grew up in the South, drinking black iced tea on sort of a daily basis. It wasn’t always of spectacular quality, but it was actual brewed tea (as opposed to the Cyrstal Light junk that you see in the North at casual eateries in its place). I didn’t start drinking green tea until I was an adult. Hmm… Maybe it’s as simple as that.

Another thing I find interesting is that some teas actually settle my stomach. I’ve had the experience of drinking a flavored black tea early in the morning, feeling a bit sick, and drinking a straight black tea afterward and having it completely counteract the nausea. Shou pu-erh can do the same thing. I don’t ordinarily feel nauseated by greens, but I have had teas of all stripes that have a stomach settling effect.

Huh. I don’t really know the answer to this, but… One reason I don’t drink flavored teas other than (1) chai tea with only ingredients I can see and (2) jasmine tea with visible jasmine flowers is that things like natural flavoring, artificial flavoring and assorted additives always make me feel off. It’s not quite the same nauseating effect I get from green tea, but I don’t really like the taste. And, for example, the chemical smells of flavored teas from places like Teavana just make me feel sick. For me, that’s mainly due to the fact that I find them unappetizing.

I haven’t ever remedied the green tea effect with either black tea or pu’erh, but I also haven’t tried that much of the latter yet. So far it seems to affect me more or less the way black tea does (with a little less of the jittery caffeine effects). I haven’t tried it to counteract nausea — I’ve assumed that the answer to the nausea doesn’t include drinking more tea, but maybe I’m wrong about that.

Really, I can’t say I’ve ever experienced the stomach-settling thing from tea. Coffee tends to give me ulcers if I drink it everyday, but tea does not. And when I’ve been on a coffee kick for a while, switching just to tea for a time seems to, um, help move the digestive process along.

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