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!
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3 comments
  1. zorach said:

    I compiled the research for the RateTea.net page, and I must say, it was reading Nigel’s original post that inspired me to write that page.

    I am really glad to see others passing on this information and getting people to think more critically about this topic.

    Also, as a side note, I would recommend modifying your post, and either adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the hyperlink to http://www.whiteteacentral.com, or just including the hyperlink as text and not making it a live link. Links to a page tend to make those pages factor more prominently in search engine’s results, so by linking to the site, even though you are criticizing it, you are actually helping others find this misinformation inadvertently!

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