Zeks said

Caffeine : bags vs loose leaf

So, who takes more caffeine per day – bag drinkers or ppl who re-steep loose-leaf repeatedly?

I mean – on one hand, bags must have less of… everything :) But they are not really re-steepable, so whoever drinks a lot of bagged tea inevitably consumes 5+ of them per day. Five+.“fresh”.dozes.per.day.

On the other hand, loose-leaf must have more caffeine(along with eveything else) but we resteep them so much that it hardly matters i think…

Any ideas?

22 Replies
K S said

I will ponder this at three in the morning when I can’t sleep from re-steeping the same leaves all day.

Seriously, I don’t have an answer but for me personally, when I drink bags I tend to stop at 3 cups or so. With loose, as long as it will go another round and my kidneys will allow it I am likely to keep brewing.

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teaenvy said

i vote for loose tea. i don’t use bags because they are not strong enough. i like a very stiff cup so i only steep once or twice and i always use a lot if leaf.

of course it just depends on how you personally drink your tea nd the type of leaf you purchase.

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SimplyJenW said

I think those who use a new bag with every cup get more caffeine than someone who resteeps the same loose leaves many times. The first infusion, as long as it is several minutes rather than a flash steep, always releases the most caffeine and with subsequent infusions, the amount of caffeine gets less and less, but there is still caffeine.

(There has been a myth floating around that if you steep a tea once, that it is decaffeinated for steeps after that…. not so.)

I know there is a research article on one of the tea sites……

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I bet loose leaf. From a more social-science standpoint, my assumption is that people that brew loose leaf tea are more tea enthusiasts than those that drink bagged tea. Therefore, those same people probably drink more tea in a day. :)

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Scott B said

Controlling for type of tea, tea leaves/bags used per cup, amount of cups and steep times (which is a must), I would say it depends. If you are talking about a whole leaf Assam versus a tea dust Assam in a bag, it’s probably the bagged tea that has more caffeine because of the higher surface area to volume ratio. Because of the surface area issue I doubt that you would ever find a whole unbroken leaf tea that has MORE caffeine than a bagged dust/fannings tea of the EXACT SAME type. However, if it’s a broken leaf loose Assam vs a pyramid bag with broken leaf Assam in it, caffeine levels could be very much the same.
However, when you consider that re-steeped tea does lose a little bit of caffeine with each steep whereas a new tea bag for each steep would contain the same amount of caffeine, it changes the equation. So, say 2 brews of that broken Assam (again both brewed the same amount, temp and time) with 3 infusions each (losing say just 10% of caffeine on each re-steep) would probably have less caffeine than 6 pyramid bags of the same type of broken Assam.

I think we all know who consumes more caffeine a day in a comparison between a serious tea enthusiast with a daily Matcha or Assam habit (or both) and a person with a casual use of tea bags.

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Rochey said

As a Newbie, am I missing something fundamental here?
Who on earth would use a loose leaf tea more than once, or for that matter, reuse a tea bag?
Has the World wide recession become so bad, that people have to resort to such uncouth practices?
From a quick poll of the ‘proper’ tea drinkers in the office i.e. those who warm the pot, fill from a height, use proper tea from Twinnings or M&S etc. not one would ever consider doing this?
Hmmm…am most intrigued!

Zeks said

“Who on earth would use a loose leaf tea more than once”
Everyone here ?:) You see – good quality loose-leaf tea easily survives multiple infusions and the taste, quite often, gets better with each one :)

Rochey said

Hmm…but doesn’t the tea get weaker?

Zeks said

it does… usually after 5th infusion or so … :) But at the same time it is not so much “weaker” as it is “different” . The taste develops with resteeping and quite often 5-ish cup can easily be the favourite one(take Yue Guang Bai for example which is a perfect example of this)

You just have to use proper “good quality loose leaf”. The one bought from tea shops (online or wholesale), not the boxed one from the convenience store. The difference between them is humongous.

I personally prefer later steeps. Especially when brewing gong fu (small amounts of leaves and ~3oz of water at a time, for short steep times), the tea profile changes SO DRASTICALLY over a session. One of my favorites is a Tie Guan Yin oolong tea, and I drink the first two or three infusions, but around the third or the fourth, the “good” (imo) flavor starts coming out… it loses some of the darker, earthier flavor in light of something very light, buttery and sweet.

I think the flavor gets /lighter,/ but not necessarily weaker… zeks had it right when they said it just gets “different.”

I resteep all, or almost all, of my oolongs, greens and whites, and some china blacks. It really does depend onn the tea itself and the quality of the leaf.

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Rochey said

Hmm…and so an education commences! Off to the shop for some Yue Guang Bai!
Thank you…..will report back! :)

Zeks said

I am not sure you will be able to find Yue Guang Bai in your local tea shop :)

Also, take note of the steeping time in tasting notes here. It is often 20-40 seconds, not the usual 5 minutes (I’ve been there myself just a few years ago :)) However werid it sounds – good tea starts tasting good almost instanly. In fact, it is VERY easy to oversteep some by just missing a time frame of 10 seconds >_< (Jk’s Taste Time Caps for example which goes from godly to bitter far too easy)

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teawade said

Not sure but if I had to choose one I’d say bag for the same reasons. But again, it would depend on the persons drinking habits and how many times they re-steep or how many cups they drink daily.

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Rochey said

After a spot of research, I see we’re talking white tea. Being in Britain, I was thinking along the lines of ‘proper’ tea, ie ‘black’ with milk like the vast majority of British tea drinkers take it. Most Brits use tea bags (typhoo, PG Tips, Tetley etc.), a few heretics like their tisanes and surprisingly still, fewer take green and white teas, though I think that is slowly changing. The big shift is in the Tisanes though I think.
Have found a few on line places to buy the white tea from so will give it a go.
I am a huge advocate of loose leaf M&S Luxury Gold and their Extra strong Tea Bags, so lets see how I find it!

K S said

You mentioned in your first comment, " use proper tea from Twinnings". These teas loose, even the black in my experience, will go 2 steeps.

While white, oolong and pu’er can often go further in my experience, greens and a good whole leaf black will reinfuse many times, but no we’re not really talking about “proper” British tea when you are brewing between 3-6 mins on the first steep. My husband commented the other day that he doesn’t care much for the second steep of his British blends (from Upton Imports). And when he does resteep them he won’t take milk in the second cup. (I however love the second and third steep of one of his Ceylon/Keemun/Darjeeling blends, it reminds me of mulled cider). As for your comments about a recession, I don’t care if my husband tosses his leaves after one brew because his British tea is much cheeper than most of the rare white, oolong and pu’er I buy. I am willing to spend the extra money knowing how many more cups they will yield me, but I don’t reinfuse leaves because I’m frugal. I do it for the cultural, social and educational experience. I get to taste all the leaf has to offer and take a journey with it. My husband doesn’t care for as short of steeps as I do where I can get over a dozen steeps (starting at 15-30 secs each), but we will also brew “western” style (between 1-3 mins depending on the tea) and still get 3-5 cups. Hope this helps some.

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Thought experiment.
Assam black tea (fannings) in a teabag
Assam black tea (broken leaf) in a pyramid bag
Assam black tea loose-leaf.

So all of them have a decent amount of caffeine. Imagine that it’s all from the same source, and steeped at the same temperature for the same length of time.

Assuming that the drinker has, say 6 cups of tea. The bag drinkers both steep once per bag and the loose-leaf drinker has two different “sessions” – steeps the leaves three times, twice.

I’m going to guess that the person that gets the most caffeine in this is the pyramid bagger. I believe that people who use bags (pyramid or otherwise) use them single-serve, and I also believe that there is more caffeine contained in loose-leaf tea than in the dust or fannings. So for someone steeping 6 bags of loose tea, they’re going to get the maximum amount of caffeine released each cup they have.

My next pick, for the middle amount of caffeine intake, is going to be the teabag. Why? Because even though I think there is less caffeine contained in the fannings, there is a MUCH greater surface area in the tea dust than there is within tea leaves, and therefore it is released more easily. Additionally, they’re steeping six fresh bags, each releasing the maximum amount of caffiene.

I believe that the tea drinker who uses loose leaves three times before throwing them out and starting again, although he is still drinking six cups, gets the least caffeine out of all of them. Because the amount of caffeine decreases exponentially with each steep, there is going to be, say 70% caffeine in the second steep whereas someone steeping with a fresh bag is still going to be at 100% caffeine, even if there 100% caffeine is a slightly smaller amount.

I’d like to note that absolutely none of this (except for the decrease in caffeine release over steeps) is based in fact, and that it’s all my own speculation. If any of you can point me towards a study, I’d love to read it!

chadao said

You have some very good thoughts Michelle, there is, in fact, an article online that backs up its claims with published scientific research:
This article really opened my eyes as to the complexity of the problem of caffeine in tea. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Oh, and as a disclaimer, I have no affiliation whatsoever with the “chadao” of this blog. The name seems to pop up everywhere in the tea world.

Chadao! I JUST read earlier today that it meant something… totally blanking on what it was, though. I remember making connections though XDD

And thanks for the survey link! That’s one of the ones I’d seen awhile back but didn’t know where to find :)

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