We’re stepping into some controversy as we embark into the category of White Tea.
But first, lets have a look at White Peony (or as its also called: Bai Mu Dan or Pai Mu Dan), a very mild, slightly sweet white tea from China. It’s made from harvested leaves (2 leaves and a bud) before the leaves are fully open and still have the fine white, fuzzy “hairs” on the leaf. These leaves are left to wither slowly and air-dry so that there is minimal oxidation as compared to green, oolong and black teas and is not exposed to heat from a flame. The low oxidation and minimal processing yields a very delicate, fresh, crisp brew with mild, light honey flavor.
Now to the controversy: There is overwhelming information on the internet about the caffeine content of white tea – which is generally thought to be lower in caffeine than green or black tea. However, there is evidence that original tea plants from the Fujian, China may have a low caffeine content compared to other other tea plants. That said, there are studies that show that white teas contain as much or more caffeine as green or black teas. I did a blog post in 2009 on this and used the research from Nigel Melican, a tea master and scientist in the tea industry. You can revisit that blogpost information here. . but also check out this post by Cha Do back in 2008.
It’s important to gather as much info from sources related to the caffeine levels in white tea, especially if you are sensitive or allergic to caffeine. I’m still reading and researching the mystery around white teas and caffeine to stay informed and relay the information to my tea followers. Americans in particular are very intent on knowing caffeine levels in tea, often asking for subtleties by percentages. My standard answer is always the same: If you are sensitive or allergic to caffeine, do not drink tea (camellia sinensis). There are so many other options like herbals/tisane and rooibos–which rivals green tea in many ways related to health and wellness benefits and anti-oxidants. And its totally caffeine free. Here are further notes on White Peony (Bai Mu Dan):
• Overview: A very mild, subtle, delicate and slightly sweet tea.
• Dry Leaf: Large, unbroken leaves
• Liquor (liquid): Pale yellow
• Aroma: Fresh, slightly hay, light floral
• Flavor notes: Floral, sweet, herbaceous
• Brewing recommendation: 185-190˚F for 3 to 5 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes
-The Chief Leaf