The debate on whether there is caffeine in white tea or not goes a couple of decades back. The topic has been clouded by different misinformation and myths. The most common form of the myth is that white tea is very high in antioxidants and very low in caffeine. But is it?
These myths often arise from misinformation being passed from generation to generation. A common misconception is that caffeine is bad for our health whereas antioxidants are good. Studies on the chemical composition of white tea revealed that it’s nothing but a marketing agenda.
Let’s get a closer look at the origin and composition of white tea. By the end of this article, we will be answering the question being asked for decades, ‘Does white tea have caffeine?’
What is White Tea?
White tea is produced from immature tea leaves, mostly from the buds. They look white and feathery. These feathers protect the buds from insects. White tea provides a very nice, fruity and delicate flavor.
White tea is not heated in the processing. Other tea variants like green tea and black tea are heated to kill the enzymes. The process of not heating the white tea causes oxidation. Although white tea is not as processed as green tea, the oxidation creates a darker color than green tea.
The classification of white tea is not universally acclaimed. White tea is often classified as a sub-type of green tea. Though some experts disagree with the fact because the white tea production process is different and white tea is more oxidized than green tea.
The most common answer, when asked about the white tea’s flavor, is subtle and delicate. Sometimes fruity. But that is not the case for all variants. White tea has a diverse range of variants that provides different aromas and flavors.
Comparatively light white tea leaves have a very aromatic appearance. Kind of like a melon. It is very unlikely in other types of teas. Green tea possesses a grassy texture that is not present in white tea. The toasty characteristic of green tea when fried in the pan is also missing in white tea.
White tea is believed to be originated in China, in the 1700s. White tea has been consumed in mostly china for centuries. The northern parts of the Fujian Province are known for producing white tea. Also, most of the world’s white tea is still produced there.
In the early 2000s, some studies emerged about white tea variants. These studies said that white tea is low in caffeine and high in antioxidants. Since then, the popularity of white tea has made its way around the world.
India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malawi, etc. countries now produce white tea. But the white tea produced in these countries is different strains from the authentic Chinese ones. So, they are considered low in antioxidants than the white tea from Fujian, China.
Some variants of these white tea often emulate authentic Chinese styles. Silver needle in particular. Sometimes white peony. Different countries developed other methods of their own white tea styles and all of them have characters of their own.
Does White Tea Have Caffeine?
Yes, white tea contains caffeine. More than you would think. White tea is a diverse plant and all of them contain different amount of caffeine. There is white tea that contains 15mg of caffeine in one cup of tea. There is white tea that contains 75mg of caffeine in a cup.
There is a popular misconception that white tea is decaffeinated. But it is wrong. White tea is not decaffeinated. It contains a high amount of caffeine. Some of the people who know that white tea contains caffeine believe that white tea is caffeinated. But the caffeine in white tea is completely natural.
The white tea caffeine content will be different depending on the origin. The authentic white tea from Fujian, China contains a very low amount of caffeine. Only 6-25mg to be particular. Whereas white tea from India can contain up to 60mg of caffeine.
Recent studies on caffeine content show that white tea has the highest amount of caffeine than any other tea. Green tea, black tea, oolong, and yellow tea were also part of the study. They used white peony tea, which you would find in your nearest local shops.
Some brands marketed their white tea as lighter in color and milder in flavor. They claimed that these parameters are signs that their white tea is low in caffeine. This type of marketing can lead people to wrong conclusions like light colored white tea is low in caffeine and high in antioxidants.
The actual fact is the opposite. Chemical composition of white tea indicates that the lighter the color, the high the caffeine content. Among the most common variants of white tea, the silver needle has the lightest color. But it is also the highest in caffeine content.
Shou mei is the darkest of all white teas. It provides a strong aroma and a bold flavor. According to popular belief, this variant of white tea should be the most injurious to health. But Shou mei has the lowest caffeine count among all white tea strains.
The reason is simple. The highest quality white tea like the silver needle is produced from the tips and buds of the tea plants. These parts of the plants contain more caffeine than other areas because they are prone to insect attacks.
What Determines the Caffeine Content?
A number of factors influence the caffeine content in different kinds of teas. White tea, green tea, and black tea are very different from each other in how much caffeine they contain and how they were processed.
It is possible to make tea from different parts of the tea plant. Leaf buds and younger unopened leaf have higher caffeine count than older ones. This is why white tea caffeine content is very high. Mature leaves contain lower caffeine as they are not as prone to insect manifestations.
The specific horticulture method used in producing tea plants greatly influence the caffeine content. This is called a cultivar. The cultivar is used differently for different tea plants. The same cultivar can also be used to grow different teas.
Processing of the tea leaves directly impact the caffeine level. Especially roasting. The more the leaves are roasted during the process, the less caffeine they tend to contain. As mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, white tea processing does not include heat. Hence, the high caffeine content.
Let’s Buy White Tea
If you have ever bought white tea from any store, you might have noticed the high price. Significantly higher than the green and black teas. The reason being, white tea has to be harvested from the young tea plants, by hand.
The time and cost it takes to produce top quality white tea is what makes it so expensive. Also, white tea is often not very easily found. The limited supply and high demand are responsible for the high price too.
After all that discussion on white tea, it is only fair to include the recipe to a good cup of white tea. Preparing a good cup of white tea is relatively easier than making green tea.
If you are new to the white tea phenomenon, it is a good idea to purchase a sampler kit from an online vendor. As white tea has different strains that provide different aroma and flavor, a sampler kit will help you get started to align your preference.
Be certain that the white tea you are purchasing is fresh. Ask your vendor whether the batch you are getting is the most recent harvest or not. Also, make sure the white tea is in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.
White tea usually has a very delicate flavor. If your area supplies hard water, make sure to filter it. Brewing white tea is simple, but hard water will ruin the flavor.
Now, boil the water to get rid of all the harmful bacterias. Cool it down for 5-8 minutes. At this moment, the temperature of the water should be around 160-190F.
Try to stay on the cooler side of the water temperature. Add the white tea leaves very carefully to water and start brewing.
White tea is very flexible when it comes to brewing times. You can brew according to your likings. But for starters, steeping longer in cooler temperature is advised.
Use a tea infuser basket, a teapot or something similar as per your convenience. Use two teaspoons of white tea leaves per cup. You can use less if you are trying it for the first time.
Put the tea leaves into your preferred pot and steep. White tea leaves can withstand more steeping than other tea leaves. Green tea becomes bitter if steeped for longer. But white tea is suitable for steeping longer in a cooler environment.
White tea is best served in an authentic way. Meaning just the brewed tea. You can add milk or sugar if you like, but the subtle flavor of the white tea will be dominated.
There have been numerous debates on the caffeine content of white tea. Does white tea have caffeine? Now you know it does. The very nature of the white tea is to be high in caffeine, to protect itself from insects and other natural attacks.
Tea companies like Teavana used to market their white tea as low in caffeine and high in antioxidants. They later took down their page that claimed the false white tea caffeine content. Their claims were somewhat true for some blends. White tea from Fujian Province do contain high antioxidants and low caffeine.
On the other hand, companies like Lipton tea has been honest about their white tea. On their website, they explicitly publish the white tea caffeine content of all their teas. Although Lipton doesn’t sell a pure blend of white tea, the numbers on their websites check out.
So, it is your duty to check before buying your white tea. White tea has a lot of variations all over the world and they all contain different level of caffeine and antioxidants. The Chinese authentic blends are low in caffeine whereas other blends might contain a high level of caffeine.
Your question has been answered. The next time you go out to buy white tea from the local store or order online, remember the valuable lessons you learned here and choose wisely.