White Tea and Caffeine

Im pausing and digressing for a moment instead of posting Day 4 of my Taiwan/Japan tea adventure. Here is why…

There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there on white tea and its caffeine content. Most people, it seems, believe that it has the lowest. This is simply not true. It can be quite a challenge as a Tea Purveyor to tell people that white tea does, in fact, have a very high amount of caffeine. But because we can do a quick Google search and find information to the contrary, people believe it. Here is an example: http://www.whiteteacentral.com/caffeinewhitetea.html

My first encounter with the “white tea – caffeine” debate was a few years back while I was at an expo. A gentleman had come up to my booth and asked to buy some white tea because he only drank teas without caffeine and herbals because of his religion. He was a Mormon. I tried to explain to him that it did have a lot and that he should stick to herbals. He insisted he was right and went home to look it up on the web, came back the next day and said I was wrong. What could I do? Argue with a Mormon and force him to buy herbals?

My next experience was recently at a local shopping mall. I stepped into a tea store to grab some hot tea. It was around 7pm and I needed something hot and herbal. I tried a couple of samples and decided on one but asked them not to include the white tea that it was blended with. I only wanted the Rooibos blend. Here is how this played out:

The salesgirl, who had extensive training in tea (she said a week) said: “Why not have the white tea? It will relax you.”
I said, “If its white tea, it has a lot of caffeine. I doubt Ill be relaxed.”

She said, “No white tea has the lowest caffeine of all the teas because of how its made. The steaming takes the caffeine out.”
I seriously just blinked in disbelief.

I said, “I’ll just take the herbal infusion.”
She said, “Are you sure about that? You wont get any health benefits from just herbal tea.”
I said, “Why is that?”
She said, “Because herbal teas only have vitamin C.”

I felt like Daffy Duck, looking at the camera with that stare of disbelief. I said, “I think Im fine with just having Vitamin C tonight.” I glanced up at the wall of tea and asked her what the most expensive one was.  She said that it was a Monkey Picked tea and brought it over for me to smell.

I said, “Ah yes, Monkey Picked…”
She said, “Yes the reason its called that is because Monkey Picked means that its won championships.”

The Monkey Picked comment I’ll just skip for another blog post and just keep on track with the White Tea – Caffeine Debate. I decided to go the one man I knew would have the correct information: Nigel Melican of TeaCraft. My question to him was:

“Nigel, what is the latest word on the caffeine levels in white tea? Im getting bombarded with questions and conflicting information about this. So many are saying its the lowest. I remember you saying its quite high. Can you help?”

His response is below. Take heed people. Nigel knows his stuff.

“No, despite those who would prefer otherwise, white tea is the highest in caffeine content – the younger and smaller and fresher the bud and the less processing – the higher the caffeine, whatever the color of the tea. It’s facts. It’s sci…ence. It’s indisputable!

Richard Enticott (President & CEO of Martin Bauer US, Inc.) spoke at World Tea Expo 2010 and presented data for caffeine content based on 30 years of caffeine analyses of tea (tens of thousands of actual analyses on actual tea). He says caffeine in China white needles tea is typically over 7% – and this matches my own findings.For another treatment of caffeine with some typical amounts in black tea see:

For a comparison of black, green and white tea caffeine – the best single reference I know is “Characterization of White Tea – Comparison to green and black tea” Y Hilal and U Engelhardt. J. Verbr. Lebensm. 2 (2007) 414-421. The authors are in the Dept. Food Chem, University of Braunshweig, Germany. Around 160 tea brands were sampled from across the German retail market  They show for caffeine:

  • Black tea (50 teas) average 3.5% (range 2.0 – 5.4%)
  • Green tea set 1 (50 teas) average 3.4% (range 1.5 – 5.2%)
  • Green tea set 2 (30 teas) average 2.9% (range 1.7 – 2.9%)
  • White tea (30 teas) average 4.9% (range 3.4 – 5.7%)
A rare website that has accurate data is: http://ratetea.net/topic/caffeine-content-of-tea/21/ on this basis I commend it to you. – Nigel at Teacraft
Thank you Nigel!
White Tea and Caffeine

Tea and Caffeine

Morning Peeps...

Its been a month since I blogged. Bad me. I’ve been focusing on new ventures that are coming up this fall. Like teaching a tea class at Open Kitchen and attending expos and events (more on that later). I have been loyal to my morning cup of Jade Oolong and Im about to cup a few more this afternoon. Yeah me!

I was sifting through some old emails and came across this interesting bit from my Peep over in England, Nigel Melican. He is an expert on many many tea related issues especially caffeine. So Id like to share with you what he said recently. A question was asked:

Q. “First, I was wondering which tea had the greatest caffeine content White,Green,or Black?…

A. “A 2007 study in Germany (Hilal & Engelhardt) looked at 30 Black teas, 2 sets of 30 Green teas & 30 White teas. This is the most comprehensive study I know. They found a range of caffeine:


Black tea 2.0 to 5.4% – average 3.5%

Green tea (1) 1.5 to 5.2% – average 3.4%

Green tea (2) 1.7 to 3.9% – average 2.9%

White tea 3.4 to 5.7% – average 4.9%


My conclusion from this is that to drink any particular color of tea for its low or high level is to fool yourself. Despite what many misguided (or unscrupulous) vendors may tell you, your black could be as low as 2.0% and your green as high as 5.2% – and even on average (if you could ever find an average tea) a black will be the same caffeine level as a green – from sample set 1 at least.


White tea scores higher on average than black or green, though a ‘high’ black or green could still beat a ‘low’ white.


Steeping practice will modify caffeine intake more than your choice of tea type. Halve the tea you use = 50% less caffeine in your cup. Treble steep your green or white teas and you will have significantly less caffeine per oz of water consumed than in a single steep of black.


Finally, don’t worry so much about caffeine in tea. Nature provided tea polyphenols to complex it – so you do not get the coffee jitters from tea – and the unique relaxing L-theanine to balance caffeine’s energizing effects. New research (in mice only, so far) points to caffeine having a protecting and reversing affect on Alzheimer dementia at a dose of 500mg per day – around 14 cups! That has to be an argument for increased tea drinking.


Analysis shows that the African cultivars are consistently high for caffeine content. Some can be up to 6% in parts of the year and the CTC manufactured types are the highest. Teas from Kenya and Rwanda are particularly good for combination of taste, high caffeine and high L-theanine (the stress busting amino acid unique to tea). In USA though it’s difficult to find these teas as straight origins. I suggest you seek out a supplier of Taylors Yorkshire Gold – their blend incorporates a lot of the best African teas – good and strong and my favorite for the morning wake up cuppa.

Q. “I know this has been addressed in the past, but once again….Which if any tea has the most caffine? I am a loose tea drinker, but also love my coffee. Coffee isnt agreeing with me anymore, but Ive gotta have that “buzz” in the morning to get me going. I have a job where I sit all day and look at a computer, and need to stay awake!…[I’d] appreciate anything you can advise me on.”


A.  “Analysis shows that the African cultivars are consistently high for caffeine content. Some can be up to 6% in parts of the year and the CTC manufactured types are the highest. Teas from Kenya and Rwanda are particularly good for combination of taste, high caffeine and high L-theanine (the stress busting amino acid unique to tea). In USA though it’s difficult to find these teas as straight origins. I suggest you seek out a supplier of Taylors Yorkshire Gold – their blend incorporates a lot of the best African teas – good and strong and my favorite for the morning wake up cuppa.”


There you have it. Thanks Nigel!

Happy Sipping!

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Tea and Caffeine