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White tea with its very light and delicate flavors and appearance may seem like it does not have any caffeine in it. Black and green teas are known for their caffeine content, but does white tea have caffeine? We will explore this question as well as giving you some tips related to caffeine content.
Does White Tea Have Caffeine?
White tea does contain caffeine. All of the “true teas,” black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea, come from the same basic plant, the Camellia sinensis. As such, they all contain caffeine, but brewed white tea generally has the least amount.
It is possible to find decaffeinated white tea that has a minuscule amount of caffeine in it at around 2mg-4mg per 8oz serving. Unfortunately, this has to go through a very intensive process that tends to lessen the mellow flavor of white tea even more.
How Much Caffeine is in White Tea?
There have been many studies that have measured the amount of caffeine in different teas, but with the differences in leaves from year to year and even batches within the same year, it is hard to nail down a specific number. The general range of the caffeine content in the dry leaves of different types of tea is between 14 to 61 mg per serving.
White tea gets its name from the color of the buds that make up the tea itself. While green and black teas use a lot more leaves, white teas like Silver Needle, being harvested early in the season, consisting of leaf tips that have not yet unfurled. These tips actually have more caffeine in them than the flat leaves do.
Brewing Method Affects Caffeine Content
Because of the brewing method for white tea, less caffeine is extracted from the tips and leaves. This is how different dried teas can have the same amount of caffeine (or even more) in them, but the finished products will be different. Temperature, time, and the amount and quality of leaves will all have an effect on the final caffeine content.
Higher water temperatures used to brew tea will extract a higher concentration of caffeine from the leaves. Brewing black tea uses water up to a boiling temperature to extract the most flavor and caffeine from it. Oolong is a little bit less than that, green tea even lower, and white tea is at the bottom of the temperature range.
- Black Tea: 200°-212° Fahrenheit or 94°-100° Celsius
- Oolong Tea: 185°-212° Fahrenheit or 85°-100° Celsius
- Green Tea: 170°-185° Fahrenheit or 77°-85° Celsius
- White Tea: 150°-180° Fahrenheit or 66°-82° Celsius
You could increase the water temperature to attempt to pull more flavor and caffeine out of the tea, but for white tea that could ruin the flavor. Higher temperatures with unoxidized teas like white and green tea will easily make them bitter. White tea should taste floral and mellow and should be easily enjoyed without milk or sweeteners.
The time that tea is brewed can make a difference in the level of caffeine in the final drink. The longer that white tea is steeped, the more caffeine will be extracted. Most tea manufacturers will give you recommendations on the amount of brewing time for each of their varieties of tea, and it is worth following those as a baseline to avoid bitter tea.
Normal steeping time for white tea can vary, but it is worth starting out on the lower end and tasting as it steeps longer. If using the western style of brewing with an infusion or a tea ball, this usually means about 3-4 minutes. You can always steep for longer, but you cannot un-steep a tea that has been left in hot water for too long.
The Ratio of Tea Leaves to Water
You may decide that you want a stronger flavor from your white tea. To avoid the bitterness that can come from too high of a temperature, or too long of a steeping time, try adding more leaves while steeping. This will amp up the flavor, but also increase the caffeine content. You may also find that you are going through leaves more quickly!
When brewing with high-quality white tea leaves, you will also be able to use the leaves to make more than one cup. Using the gongfu method of brewing tea, a large number of leaves are used in multiple steepings as you taste the difference between cups. Each consecutive cup, however, will have a lower level of caffeine.
Other Considerations for Caffeine in White Tea
In addition to your brewing style or method, some external causes may have an effect on white tea caffeine levels. If you are trying to lower your caffeine intake, here are some factors to look out for.
Tea Bags vs. Loose Leaf Tea
It is often hard to judge the quality of the tea leaves that are in pre-packaged tea bags, but in general, they will consist of broken leaves, fannings, and sometimes dust. These leaf remnants are highly susceptible to the steeping process since the cell walls are already starting to break down.
This is why the brewing process is usually faster with tea bags since water can extract flavor (and caffeine) much more quickly from broken leaves than from full ones. Teabags generally contain the highest caffeine content for white teas, but you can limit this by lowering the brewing temperature or lessening the brewing time.
Different Varieties of White Tea
Not all white tea is the same. Different plant varieties, teas from different regions, and processing methods can all have a different effect on the amount of caffeine in white tea. There are different cultivars of Camellia sinensis, some of which are higher in caffeine.
White tea from the Fujian province in China is thought to have the least amount of caffeine due to the specific plants grown there. In different parts of the world, however, plants have been grown specifically for stronger flavors, and these generally have higher caffeine content. When looking for lower caffeine levels, try to stick to Chinese white teas.
White Tea Blends
White tea is sometimes blended with other teas, herbs, or dried fruits to create different flavors in your cup. When blended with caffeine-free products, this will often cut the final amount of caffeine by a substantial amount. Some white tea blends you may find have orange blossom, jasmine, peppermint, lavender, and others.
On the other hand, white tea blended with another tea like green tea will increase the level of caffeine. Be sure to pay attention, sometimes it is hard to tell what other tea leaves are included when the package only says “white tea blend.” It is always worth looking for the list of ingredients or, if you are in a tea shop, asking questions of the shop employees.
White tea does have caffeine, but it is generally a lower amount of caffeine in your cup than the other true teas that it is related to. This is due to the lower temperatures and brew time of white tea. If you brewed it using the same method as black tea, you can end up with a higher caffeine content, but the flavor would be a disappointment.