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Caffeine Levels in Tea

Have you ever wondered about the caffeine content in your cup of tea? There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding the relationship between you, your tea, and caffeine, and today’s post will attempt to clarify some of that, dispelling some myths.

You may have heard before that “black tea has the most caffeine” or that “green tea has very little caffeine in each cup.” These kinds of statements are examples of the kinds of claims that seem true only because they get repeated so much. Though there is a kernel of truth in these claims, in reality, it’s not quite as simple as that.

 caffeine in green tea zhu ye qing  

If you ask any coffee connoisseur, they will tell you that the caffeine content in coffee varies from one kind of bean to another. Even if two types of coffee have both been equally dark roasted, it is very possible that the caffeine content in each is very different from one another. In fact, one brand of coffee markets itself as actually selling coffee with the highest amount of caffeine available, and it is not because they roast their beans the longest (or shortest) amount of time.

So what exactly determines caffeine content? The answer is that it’s a surprisingly complex interaction between multiple variables. Nearly everything affects final caffeine content in a coffee bean, and this is no less true in the case of tea leaves.

Everything from the terroir and the climate to the cultivar and age of the leaves affects the final amount of caffeine in your tea. For this reason, without a chemical analysis, it is nearly impossible to determine the precise amount of caffeine in your tea.

Does this mean you should avoid drinking tea? Absolutely not.

For one, unlike coffee, it seems scientifically well established that the antioxidants present in tea have a synergistic effect with caffeine. In fact, one of the most common amino acids in tea, L-Theanine, promotes a calming effect in the body. When paired with caffeine, it seems to dull the “jitters” of caffeine while retaining caffeine’s ability to keep you alert. Some speculate that these effects contributed to the reason why Buddhist monks are able to meditate for such long periods of time while sipping tea.

In addition, we generally use far fewer grams of tea to prepare our beverages than we do grams of coffee, and the overall weight plays a role in how much caffeine we expose ourselves to. Drinking a cup of tea brewed from 4g of tea leaves will not have nearly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee brewed from 24g of coffee beans.

Finally, even though we can’t say exactly how much caffeine is in your cup of tea, we do know that some variables within our control can affect the final amount of caffeine:

1. Tea Leaf Integrity - While green tea can have less caffeine than black tea, this actually has to do not with the kind of tea it is but with the integrity of the tea leaf. The more a tea leaf has been bruised, damaged, or pulverized (as in the case of matcha), the more quickly caffeine will be released into your cup of tea. This is the reason why black tea tends to release more caffeine than green tea; black tea leaves are usually more beaten, bruised, and twisted. Therefore, if you are trying to be cognizant of your 

caffeine intake, it helps to pay attention to your tea leaves (and for fun you can try to read your fortune when you’re done).

  

  1. Tea Leaf Age - We know from frequent analyses of the chemicals in tea leaves that the youngest leaves, those that are the smallest and highest on the tea plant, tend to have more caffeine than their larger and lower counterparts. This means that a tea like our Liu An Gua Pian (Sunflower Seed) green tea will likely have less caffeine than others due to the fact that it is harvested from larger, older tea leaves.
  1. Temperature - When the temperature of your water is higher, your tea leaves will tend to release more caffeine into your tea cup more quickly. Thus, because black tea tends to get brewed at a higher temperature than green tea, it likewise tends to release more caffeine. On this same principle, a cup of green tea brewed at 205°F (95°C) will tend to have a higher amount of caffeine than that same cup of green tea prepared at 175°F (80°C).
  1. Time - Finally, the longer you steep your tea leaves, the more caffeine you release into your cup of tea. Green tea leaves steeped in hot water for 45 seconds will release less caffeine than those same leaves steeped in hot water for 10 minutes.

For many of us, regardless of which tea we choose to drink, the caffeine in our cups of tea will have a minimal effect relative to a cup of coffee, and for some of us, that effect will even be surprisingly relaxing and welcoming, helping us to concentrate better and be more productive without feeling wired.

There are a few of us, however, that do need to exercise more caution, especially if we find ourselves craving a fresh cup of tea later in the day. By keeping the above information and guidelines in mind, we can make more informed decisions with respect to our own levels of sensitivity and goals.


MeiMei Fine Teas
MeiMei Fine Teas

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December 23, 2016

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