White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?


White and yellow teas are among the most subtle.

White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby iris_bulb » Sep 26th, '13, 23:11

Hi everyone,

I am a white tea lover, my "go-to" tea for many years has been Bai Hao Yin Zhen/Silver Needles from Fujian Province, and occasionally Bai Mu Dan/White Peony tea. I love the ethereal and delicate sweetness of white tea (though I also love a good Darjeeling or Nepalese Kanchenjunga as well sometimes).

I have often noticed that when I drink white tea, I do feel keyed up and completely unable to sleep oftentimes. It's the feeling of drinking a caffeinated beverage. Now, the "party line" that one always hears about white tea is that it has very negligible amounts of caffeine in it, the lowest amounts of all the teas. However, over the years I have also stumbled onto some websites that state that such a view is a fallacy, that in fact white tea has a LOT of caffeine in it and is indeed one of the teas with the HIGHEST amounts of caffeine. Although I'm naturally skeptical of conspiracy theories, I can't help but wonder if this is true given the fact that when I drink white tea I often definitely feel keyed up and unable to fall asleep.

So I ask: What is the truth on this matter? Does Silver Needles and other white tea contain a lot of caffeine or not?
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby Poohblah » Sep 27th, '13, 00:19

Depends. Even given the same variety of tea, caffeine levels can vary based on the season, where and how the tea was grown, particular tea bush/tree, how the tea was brewed, and so on. For instance, younger tea plants contain more caffeine (apparently).


Furthermore, caffeine is not the only stimulant in most natural products which contain it:
Wikipedia wrote:The disparity in experience and effects between the various natural caffeine sources could be because plant sources of caffeine also contain widely varying mixtures of other xanthine alkaloids, including the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine, and other substances such as polyphenols that can form insoluble complexes with caffeine.

Different people have different reactions to these different chemicals, which means that a beverage which is stimulating for some may not be for others. Further complicating the matter is the fact that tea also contains theanine in varying quantities, which generally produces a relaxing reaction, but again, different people will experience its effects to varying degrees.

Also keep in mind that a single person's sensitivity to caffeine is not constant as well; it changes over the short term based on factors like your stomach content, or the presence of nicotine or alcohol in your bloodstream, and over the long term based on factors like your level of caffeine tolerance.

So, to answer your question... there is no real "truth"; there are simply too many variables to make such a thing easy, practical, or worthwhile to measure. In my personal experience I have generally found that Japanese sencha gives me the greatest kick, while black teas are generally most relaxing... but that is just me, and only sometimes. :wink:
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby GuyWan » Sep 27th, '13, 01:23

We all have different body chemistries but, as far as I am concerned, green teas and lightly oxidized oolongs generally feel like they are the most potent. I occasionally drink some silver needle tea and I get zero effect from it.
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby Chip » Sep 27th, '13, 07:52

If you take a teaspoon of a fluffy white tea and compare it to a teaspoon of dense sencha fukamushi for instance ... the teaspoon of white will have far less caffeine. Why? It is much less dense than the sencha fukamushi.

However if you compare by weight, I believe you will find a gram of white has about the same as a gram of just about any another tea.

This is an over simplification as it does not take into account what part of the plant is used. The most terminal leaf or leaves of an active growing plant will have the most caffeine.
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby Evan Draper » Sep 27th, '13, 16:50

Short answer? This:
iris_bulb wrote:such a view is a fallacy, that in fact white tea has a LOT of caffeine in it and is indeed one of the teas with the HIGHEST amounts of caffeine.

is generally correct. There are plenty of mitigating factors. And there are several reasons why people are misinformed about this.
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby Chip » Sep 27th, '13, 18:40

Evan Draper wrote:Short answer? This:
iris_bulb wrote:such a view is a fallacy, that in fact white tea has a LOT of caffeine in it and is indeed one of the teas with the HIGHEST amounts of caffeine.

is generally correct. There are plenty of mitigating factors. And there are several reasons why people are misinformed about this.

I would still say a gram of white has ABOUT the same as other teas. I do not think caffeine is lost through oxidation related factors.

But yes, there are some other mitigating factors.
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby iris_bulb » Sep 28th, '13, 13:50

Very helpful and informative answers. :)
I guess its not as black and white as I had thought, but if the caffeine content tends to be highest in the terminating new growth/tips, then it does make sense why my Silver Needles, which are buds about to burst open, might often contain quite a lot of caffeine and make me so jittery sometimes. Thanks again!
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby Kosmos4 » Oct 25th, '13, 10:41

It's not just you, iris_bulb; a 3 minute steep of 5g Silver Needles for two 8-ounce cups usually gives me a potent kick, although I rarely feel jittery. For me it is NOT a night-time beverage unless I need to stay up late for a particular reason. I don't think I'm allowed to post links yet but as others have inferred, Tea is a complex beverage and it's not just about the Caffeine. The amino-acid L-Theanine likely interacts with the Caffeine and may make Caffeine more perceptible and there are many other variables as well; I won't try to post any links but there are good scientific articles on this.
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby ethan » Oct 25th, '13, 11:57

Those posting who drink tea may help more than studies. E.g. Japanese green tea-drinkers are giving very good information because they know that they use a lot of tea (by weight) & what they feel.
If worried about caffeine, I think it is good to explore ways to deal w/ it besides eliminating the enjoyment of favorite teas. For example:
If I have a fairly full stomach when drinking tea, I hardly feel the caffeine.
To rid myself of caffeine-jitters, I put sugar of any sort (candy, chocolate, etc.) on my tongue for 10 seconds or so.
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby Devoted135 » Oct 25th, '13, 13:38

ethan wrote:To rid myself of caffeine-jitters, I put sugar of any sort (candy, chocolate, etc.) on my tongue for 10 seconds or so.


That's really interesting, I've never heard of that before. Where did you learn about that?
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby ethan » Oct 25th, '13, 15:03

Devoted135, I used to smoke cigars. Cigar-smokers do it for nicotine sickness. Many smokers unintentionally counterbalance nicotine by swirling wine or whisky around their mouths or having other drinks w/ sugar in them between puffs.
Sugar to dampen caffeine does not work for most people; however, I hope it works for a few who visit teachat (as it does for me).
I am saying individuals' own ways to deal w/ caffeine may not be "scientifically logical" yet work for them & may work for others.
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Re: White Tea & Caffeine: What is the Truth?

Postby Devoted135 » Oct 25th, '13, 18:10

ethan wrote:Devoted135, I used to smoke cigars. Cigar-smokers do it for nicotine sickness. Many smokers unintentionally counterbalance nicotine by swirling wine or whisky around their mouths or having other drinks w/ sugar in them between puffs.
Sugar to dampen caffeine does not work for most people; however, I hope it works for a few who visit teachat (as it does for me).
I am saying individuals' own ways to deal w/ caffeine may not be "scientifically logical" yet work for them & may work for others.


Thanks, I find that really interesting. It would be hard to test out on myself since I never notice any real caffeine effects. Seems to fall in the same vein as my own anti-nausea method of having a mint or chewing minty gum. :)
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