weegeebee1 said

Not having a good day

So this past weekend I ended up in ER with atrial fibrillation.

After talking with doctors and doing much research, my tea dreams have been shattered. Of course, I had shipments coming to me from Taiwan with fine oolongs this week. And a friend from Hong Kong was bringing me some fresh Dragonwell longjin and Yunnan black. What a bummer.

So, I know many are informed on this board, but many are not. I’ve come to discover that tea isn’t as “light” or “low” caffeine as most think. Myths about white tea and even green tea are straight out dangerous. And if you abide by the quick 30 second steep to remove 80% of caffeine you’re also going to be in trouble.

Anyway, I was hoping someone else has similar experience and can give me advice.

Oolong seems to be in a sweet spot because these teas are mostly made up of more mature leaves and many are roasted. Both play a factor in lowering the caffeine count. In case you didn’t know the younger leaves and buds have the most caffeine, so don’t think because you’re drinking white tea that you’re caffeine free. In fact, it’s probably worse than drinking black tea. Now generally speaking, tea is still better than coffee, but for those with medical conditions, don’t assume that you can get away with green and white because you’ve been told they’re essentially low caffeine.

I’m playing around with ideas, i.e. maybe doing a 2-3 minute first steep to throw out and then brewing one “good” pot for about 3-4 minutes. I think doing it this way will get me around a 20-40 count of caffeine vs a 50-75 if I were to just brew it straight up and still give me good enough flavor.

Or I’m wondering because of the quick steep times of gongfu style, maybe that is more bang for buck. The longer you steep the more caffeine you extract, but the caffeine count goes down with each count. On some of those teas you’re getting good flavor from 10-20 sec steeps on the first few. Of course you’re also using more tea on the gongfu, so not sure.

Again, don’t want to be a party pooper. If you’re healthy, drink away. I’ll be with you in spirit. Just trying to hopefully start a thread for us tea lovers that have to enjoy in moderation or have figured out little tricks to sneak a little extra.

24 Replies

I am so very sorry that you now have to drink tea in moderation. With that said, your post will be so incredibly informative for a lot of people. There is a common misconception that white and green teas are lowest in caffeine, when in fact, chemically speaking, they have the most caffeine out of all the tea types. Everything that you said about the amount of caffeine you consume having to deal with not only tea type, but also, how long you are steeping the tea for is crucial to understand for those looking to avoid too much caffeine. I would also like to add that the higher the temperature of the water that you are steeping your tea in, the more caffeine will seep into your brew.

I would definitely suggest gongfu brewing with teas that require very short steeps and can be enjoyed at lower temperatures. Some oolong (in particular yancha) can be very flavorful with a 20 second steep because they do not have to unfurl. The same can be said for some pu-erh. Although, it’s not ideal, it is possible to still enjoy those teas at lower temperatures.

Again, I am so very sorry about your news! I hope that others can add to the discussion and give some good tips! Please, please, be careful!!

weegeebee1 said

Many thanks. Good tip about water temp. The research reviews I looked at treated all the teas the same way, so all got 5 minute brews with boiling water. That might be a good counter argument for white and green because of the lower steep temp and possible lower steep time. Interestingly enough, given how popular tea is, there aren’t a lot of studies on the caffeine. Maybe it’s a tea lobby thing trying to keep the truth out, but I would think there’s enough interest to really study it further.

Many thanks for your best wishes as well. I consider myself fortunate enough to be able to continue on. So life goes on, albeit less enjoyable without my teas : )

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sansnipple said

There’s no real way to decaffeinate your tea at home, the caffeine release over time is pretty linear, by the time the caffeine is gone so is all the flavor. If you can’t tollerate caffeine for medical reasons, you need to avoid real tea completely, even commercially decaffeinated tea and coffee still has a fair amount left in it. Here’s a good article debunking some of these caffeine myths with actual science: http://chadao.blogspot.com/2008/02/caffeine-and-tea-myth-and-reality.html

weegeebee1 said

I’m not trying to avoid it. Not going to happen. Just trying to figure out ways to bring down the intake without totally killing the flavor with the extended washes.

I was probably drinking 3-4 fresh infusions (at least 16 oz) a day of black, green, oolong. Sometimes doing a 2nd infusion (i.e. Oolong), sometimes not (i.e. a masala chai). I was mostly doing western style, but some gongfu with the yunnan black.

So rough estimate, I figure I was doing about 300-400 mg caffeine a day which is on the high end of “normal” but definitely not where you want to be with heart troubles.

So I want to get in about 100 and see how that goes. I can either making one or two really good cups of tea or figure out a way to milk out 4-5 cups by playing around with steep times, temp, throwing first batch, etc.

Thanks for the article though. Think I read it already as part of this quest.

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teaenvy said

Need a hug?
I also recommend gongfu brewing. In fact you can just toss the earliest steeps with the most caffine and enjoy steeps 3 through 8 or so because there will be lots of flavor left.

sansnipple said

well, with short gongfu steeps that’s not really very helpful, the caffeine release is fairly linear, (ie: tossing steeps 1 and 2 would be similar to tossing steeps 4 and 5) You can’t assume most of the caffeine is frontloaded like that, that’s the same flawed thinking behind the “30 second rinse removes 80% of the caffeine” myth.

weegeebee1 said

this is interesting as this was my first thought too. You’re only steeping 10 secs to maybe 90 secs on the last steeps. So if I were going to make say a 16 oz pot, am I better off doing 5 3oz gongfu steeps, or one 16 oz pot that’s going to steep for 3-5 minutes.

My non scientific thought was go gongfu, but then I realized I also put in more tea when I gongfu. For instance, on an Oolong, I’ll do 4 grams in the pot, but probably 7 in the gaiwan.

teaenvy said

Respectfully, my suggestion might be off base but its not tthathacaffine release is “fairly linear”. Caffine will dimminish with each steep. Ill put that out there for you to reasearch on your own. I read enough evidence, through studies, that show caffine is heavily released in heavily at first then declines. Im not posting any links because, at the time, I didnt not care enough to save the sources.

Also, length of steep does play a role. the longer the tea soaks the more caffine is released. In gongfu the longest steep is likely to be 30 seconds. many teas are only steeped for 10 seconds. 7 grams of tea steeped for 10-15 seconds in a 2 oz serving will have far less caffine than 3 grams steeped for 3 minutes in an 8 oz serving. given that caffine is water soluable thats perfectly logical.

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weegeebee1 said

yeah, this article was mentioned above and one of the first I read which opened up my eyes as to the myths about white and green tea and the 30 second decaf wash.

There’s a very interesting discussion that continues in the comments of the article.

What the study confirms is that white, green, black have very similar caffeine counts. There’s some variance in seedling vs clone, african vs Chinese variety, etc. The problem is that all the teas were treated the same way, i.e. boiled water and steeped for five minutes. So one could make an argument that white and green are steeped at lower temps and in some cases for less than 5 minutes.

Amazingly, not to my knowledge, but there is no study which steeps tea at the various increments, i.e. 30 secs, 1 min, 1 min 30 etc. to gather how much caffeine is leaking, much less steeping at the recommended temps for that class of tea.

The two studies I’ve seen did 5 minute and 3 minute. So it’s still very difficult to dismiss how much caffeine comes out in the first minute vs. the 3rd. It’s perhaps logical that it’s linear leakage, but that by no means is scientific.

If indeed it is linear and water temperature and steep time play a factor, then you could argue that white and green tea have less caffeine in the finished cup, but maybe the actual tea has the same amount or even more.

I think I’m still going to stick with Oolong because I’ve seen it mentioned now a few different places as being the best choice, mostly because of the mature leaf and possibly because roasting may have a factor as well.

The Gongfu method also seems to me to make most sense because even if my 5-7 steeps total 7 minutes in brew time, I can spread those out through out the day and there is the issue of amount of water also affecting how much caffeine is extracted.

Given how big the tea business, I’m surprised there’s not more studies. Many of the ones found online go back 4-15 years. Maybe the tea business doesn’t want the truth to come out? But for people like me who can tolerate a smaller amount, you may lose us all together.

I would love to know how much caffeine is an actual finished cup when the tea is brewed “properly” both with western and gongfu style.

sansnipple said

It can vary so much from tea to tea and even brew to brew based on so many different factors beyond your control though that any such individual measurements would not really let you extrapolate any broader conclusions beyond that individual tea/harvest/batch. The only thing you can really do is take note of a individual tea’s effect on your own body when you try it. (and from my personal experience even though it’s brewed lower temp green tea often feels more caffeinated, presumably because of it’s much higher bud content)

weegeebee1 said

True, it varies no doubt. But if you took same tea and brewed western style, say a 5 minute steep, and then did the minute equivalent in short steeps gongfu style, you could compare total caffeine count with each method. Then at least you could make a scientific decision about which method yields the least caffeine.

The idea of how your body reacts is true too. I am quite surprised at how much caffeine withdrawal I’ve been going through past few days. I cut my tea intake by at least 75% since Sunday, and I’ve been getting headaches like I can’t believe. No doubt I was getting more caffeine than I imagined and my body is definitely signaling me back as such.

I’m sure there’s other things going on like the usual stress, etc. but other diet type stuff that was typically touted as being good for your heart, i.e dark chocolate, red wine, etc. is not in many instances. It might be good for arteries, blockages, etc. but not good for electrical wavelength problems.

Anyway, lesson here is take those Yahoo type articles with a grain a salt. I see them all day long, eat kale, drink green tea, etc. It’s not that easy.

Camellia Sinensis Tea House actually did some research for this and included a very detailed chapter in their book called “Tea” about this. They took a variety of teas, steeped them at different temperatures for different lengths of time, and measured the caffeine levels in the liquor. They also measured antioxidant levels too, I think.

If you can get a copy of this book through your library or through Amazon, it might have the info you’re looking for. Here’s the book itself:


weegeebee1 said

thank you, Christina. I will definitely look into this. I ordered via Amazon for about $12.

additionally I discovered this:

This link sources most of the studies I’ve read in one place.


There is definitely a lot of variance even within certain classes, i.e. green, white, etc. But there appear to be certain constants as well, i.e. water temp, amount of water, particularly steep time.

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It is said that oxidation is what releases caffeine, or rather “unlocks” the compound that keeps it hidden… and since White is not oxidized much at all, it should expel less of the energy boost.

I have a theory, far fetched as it is, that only certain people can process the caffeine in white teas because they are still bound by whatever it is that oxidation opens up, and it is those people who get jittery/feel the effects most.
But I could be crazy. Ya never know :P

Angrboda said

I think that sounds plausible. Some people can’t sleep if they drink caffeinated beverages in the evening, but to other people it doesn’t make a difference.

sansnipple said

You’re right, that is crazy. Oxidation or other processing only affects caffeine in tea a really small amount (see the experimental data in the chadao article linked above, oxidation actually reduced caffeine but only by a few %), and it certainly doesn’t “unlock” the caffeine or anything, that’s just ridiculous, not to mention that the experimental caffeine content data you see everywhere is almost always measured by the amount of caffeine in the brewed liquid, not the dry leaves.

Angrboda – exactly! Otherwise, why would this be the case right??

Sansipple – really? there is no need to be rude. That was just one study, and there is a lot of research yet to be conducted. And I am actually taking courses to become a sommelier, so this is my hypothesis (ie. an educated, unproven theory).
Every body is different and I highly doubt you know how every single person reacts to all the different compounds out there.
I’ll thank you not to throw any judgments my way now.

sansnipple said

Sorry, wasn’t trying to be rude, but I’ll take the existing body of scientific evidence over your random hunch that white tea caffeine is somehow just special.

It’s just the same old wishful thinking myths about white tea with a new coat of paint, with zero evidence in your favor, and in contradiction to an established scientific consensus that the caffeine molecule is the same no mater where we find it (coffee, tea, chocolate, guayusa, etc, and certainly when it’s from the same plant).

Our bodies react differently to different teas, because of differing levels of various active chemicals, caffeine among them, (also l-theanine, egcg, and many many others). This complex blend of stimulants and other psychoactives in varying amounts is what can make the energy from different teas feel different, not differences in the caffeine itself (other than its quantity, obviously, of which it’s been proven that white tea often actually has similar or even higher amounts)

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Cwyn said

I am just not understanding why anyone with heart issues, myself included, cannot simply cut back on the amount of tea and increase the amount of hot water. Gong fu and regular tea tasting is a really strong way to take tea, I don’t think most people will need to have an all or nothing approach to tea. People with health conditions worldwide have, for millennia, used tea in appropriate drinking dosages based on many factors, plenty of elderly people around the world drinking tea, maybe just drinking a little. An eighth tsp of tea leaves or even less in 16 oz of hot water isn’t much, the body would be positively impacted by the increased water intake.
Really the main post here is a bit extreme, IMO.

weegeebee1 said

This was my initial thought. But based on the research, this is actually contrary to research. I’m assuming you’re now brewing those leaves for a longer time to get a “suitable” cup. The more water and longer steep time actually extracts more caffeine. Maybe the fewer leaves averages it out, but a rose by any other name is still rose. You still might be getting the full amount of caffeine per pot with this method.

Now if you’re just using a small amount of tea and steeping really quickly, then I guess you’re ok. But that sounds like flavored water to me : )

I can only speak for myself, but I’d rather have one good cup of tea per day, than 2 or 3 mediocre. And gongfu is an interesting proposal because you could space out that “cup” of tea over a few different sessions, i.e. doing 2 quick steeps per sitting.

My alternative is as I mentioned, a good quality oolong, doing a wash steep of about 2-3 minutes, which based on research should remove about 40% of the caffeine. You can then do a “normal” 3-5 minute steep and still get a flavorful cup with maybe half as much caffeine as if you just would have brewed 5 minutes on a first steep.

No doubt, I need to remove cups from my daily routine, that’s a given. But the few cups I’ve decided I can still tolerate, trying to figure out the best bang for the buck.

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teaenvy said

On the jitters issue there are other comnponents of tea, besides caffine, that contribute. Theobromide, in chocolate also, is just one of these. The others are theophyline, and l-theanine. While different from caffine, theses components contribute to feelings of alertness and well being.
Coffee I can drink right up to bed time. But tea of any kind will keep me awake for hours.

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Cwyn said

weegeebee, so far you haven’t cited any research, but if the point of your post is simply to share your experience on having to give up tea, I can certainly empathize. I happen to like my tea light, I need the extra water. A person becomes accustomed to what they are drinking over time.

What I object to with your post is that it digresses from telling your own story and turns into a generalized exhortation to people on a tea site and a lecture on the dangers of tea. Given the point of this forum is tea drinking, and most people here don’t have your health condition, the lecture is inappropriate and a form of trolling, whether that is your intention or not.

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