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K S said

Tea Mythology

We have been having a really good discussion about various tea related subjects that may or may not be true.

One of the subjects was caffeine. I stated that white tea does not have less caffeine than black tea as most of us have believed. A link was furnished referencing the science that seems to back this up. Though I agree with the science, a possible point of contention is I did not see where the various leaf was tested prepared as it should. The caffeine level was measured after a three minute steep under identical conditions. BUT white should not be steeped at the same temperture as black or for the same amount of time.

So could it be that both positions are true? White does not have less caffeine than black but prepared per the parameters of each type tea a cup of white could contain less caffeine. Hope you can follow that. I don’t want to continue spreading an untruth. Has any one found a study that takes the time and temp variable into consideration?

7 Replies

Thanks for moving the discussion into its own topic, K S! In case anyone is interested, here’s the link to the article being referenced:

I was elated and relieved to read this article because I now have proof that my body isn’t just crazy. For a while now, I’ve been feeling the effects of caffeine from white tea when reputable sources tell me that there is minimal caffeine in whites. I purposely stay away from black teas because I get caffeine headaches and jitters, but I thought white was safe since I could drink green tea with no problem. But I’ve been misinformed for all these years! I should have just listened to my body to start with, so I guess it’s my own fault.

After reading the above article, I googled around to see what tea companies and “experts” are saying about white tea and a good number of tea companies claim that white tea has the least caffeine. Many others are repeating this information on sites such as Yahoo! Answers, etc. Very few sources actually state that white tea has the potential to be the most caffeinated of tea beverages. I found another good article about caffeine in tea here:

Neither of the articles go into the specifics of the water temperature used to steep the teas in the research, but I can tell from my body’s reactions that the white tea I had this morning is highly caffeinated (headache and faster heart rate). And I know I used the temperature range and steep time advised for white teas. However, this isn’t research, merely one person’s observations, so I guess I’m not really helping too much.

Considering all the variables that go into the caffeine level of a certain tea, it’s just a shot in the dark each time you have a cup unless you have very detailed information about how and where the tea was raised, which flush, tippy or not, how it was processed and stored, etc.

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I’ve been wondering about this!! I know that as coffee beans are roasted, the caffeine evaporates out of them, and thus stronger tasting roasts are actually less potent, contrary to popular belief… so logic would follow that a pan fired tea would have less caffeine as well, yes?
So… how is it that white is purported to have the least caffeine out of all the types? and why then, does green tea have the most caffeine? This has been puzzling me for some time now.
I understand that much of it depends on the region it was grown in, how it was processed etc but really that is just an easy answer because we don’t know the rest of it!
How does one measure the caffeine content? Can they grind up the leaf and determine it that way? but then it wouldn’t be equal to what one gets in a cup… and controlling brewing parameters is difficult as well because then the question must be analyzed- do you want to measure which leaf contains more caffeine? or which beverage? and even then, people have all sorts of preferences in regards to steeping conditions… there is plenty to consider!

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There was a popular myth as well that you could steep the caffeine out of a highly caffeinated tea by just pouring out the first strong steep and drinking the second, but that’s since been disproven too. The caffeine content has nothing to do with the strength of the taste and doesn’t dissipate by adding more water than usual. If you steep a teaspoon of leaf and add 8 oz. vs. 6 oz., you’re still getting the full brunt of the caffeine if you drink all 8 oz.

Another thing that occurs to me as I’m reading the posts and pondering the question about white tea is that white tea, along with greens, tend to be the least processed, and as such may contain higher caffeine, if the idea is that the caffeine is inherent to the leaf and not brought out as part of the oxidation or processing.

Definitely food for thought.

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Yes, that caffeine myth was really annoying the first couple times I tried it. The first time, I thought i didn’t do it right. The second time, I figured there was something fishy about the process altogether, so I just gave up on black tea, except for the decaf versions.

I’m really wishing I had a few tea bushes myself so I can do my own research! (And make my own tea. yum!) Has anyone ever tried to grow tea in NY state?

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I’m going to chime in on this one.

Wow. The elmwoodinn.com article was very informative. It seems to substantiate much of what I have believed about caffeine in tea that was based on many sources, coupled with my own experience.

The www.ratetea.net article was also very informative.

Thank you for providing both of those!

I, too, have read how the type of tea is supposed to effect the different levels of caffeine in the tea liquor itself (Teavana seems to currently support this). But, I have also read from at least one source (I think it was the one of the Heiss and Heiss Tea Enthusiast books of theirs) that, as some of you have mentioned, the processing is not the biggest factor in determining the caffeine in a cup (if it effects it at all); and that other things, like the number of buds in it, how young the buds/leaves were when plucked, when they were plucked (early spring, late spring, summer, fall), where on the plant the leaf/bud is picked, etc, effect the caffeine (both articles, which I read after starting to write this, basically seem to agree with this). We can’t control those factors, but the ones we can control are the temperature and steeping time. I believe that what I read stated that, in general, hotter and longer brings out more caffeine (those articles seem to supports that, too). Here is a link from Den’s website that supports the belief that hotter water brings out more caffeine (http://www.denstea.com/perfect_brewing.html).

On the ‘doing a first steep on a black tea then doing a second steep hoping for much less caffeine’ belief, that seems to be true in our experience. For example, recently there was one tea that I thought was decaffeinated, so right after we bought it my wife drank the first steeping all night (iced); it turns out she couldn’t get to sleep until early in the morning. We have found, though, that we can both drink as much of the second steeping in the evening and get to sleep just fine. The thing is: we do the first steep for 4-5 minutes (which is certainly not a ‘quick rinse’). Scientifically speaking, there could have been factors involved in my wife not being able to sleep when drinking the first steep, but I think there’s something to that.

So to help manage caffeine levels in our body: we mark any first steeping of an iced black tea as such, and drink it only during the day, and then drink the second and third steepings anytime we want. One important thing to add here: although the second and third steepings are not as flavorful as the first, they still have appreciable flavor, which can be controlled by the water to leaf ratio to maintain a certain flavor level (I use about 2/3 of the water for the second steeping, and about ½ for the third). That doesn’t mean it’s true for every tea, for every person, but it seems to work for us (and both articles do seem to support this).

K S said

Thanks for the link. They make a good argument. It does seem to be an argument from logic not testing. Maybe I missed the references? However my experience is similar to yours so I am inclined to agree with their logic. Just want to be careful not to compund the myth.

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Tea-Guy said

I would suggest hopping over the the Tea Geek’s nest and asking him. www.teageek.net

Michael is very knowledgeable and almost always has the science to back things up.

Also, he runs a “Tea Salon” Google Hangout event every Sunday at 6PM Eastern. Perhaps you could ask for an invite and ask your question there.

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