August 26 2022 – Diana L
It's well known that some tea contains caffeine, but we also know that some teas are caffeine-free. Knowing if tea has caffeine is important, especially when considering when you plan to drink it.
White tea comes from the same Camellia sinensis plant as caffeinated green and black tea, but does it have caffeine?
What is white tea?
White tea is named so because the young leaves and buds used for it are covered in fine white hairs. These hairs act as a shield for the leaf. It is a popular selection for its light, delicate flavor and aroma along with many health benefits.
Black tea, the most caffeinated tea, steeps out a dark cup with robust flavors, so it is natural to assume that bold flavor equals caffeine. (And in reverse, light flavor must mean the amount of caffeine is less.) But just because the flavor is light doesn't guarantee it is caffeine free.
So does white tea have caffeine?
White tea is a true tea just like black and green tea. The delicate nature of white tea comes from the fact that it is the least processed of the three. All true teas contain caffeine, however at different levels:
White tea has the least amount with 6-55 mg of caffeine per eight-ounce cup of tea. While black tea ranges from 47-90 milligrams and green tea falls in the middle with 30-70 milligrams of caffeine.
White loose-leaf tea has less caffeine than white tea in tea bags. Teabags have less carefully chosen tea and may have dust and fanning of other teas.
There are several factors affecting the level of caffeine in white tea:
What you can't control:
The part of the plant plucked: Young leaves contain more caffeine than mature leaves.
The harvest season: Summer-harvested teas have higher caffeine than Winter harvests.
Leaf position: The first leaf closest to the bud contains 40% more caffeine than the leaf furthest away from the bud. Caffeine levels in the stems contain about 10-50% of the caffeine in the leaf.
Cultivation: Tea leaves that are harvested from cultivated plants tend to have more caffeine than plants grown in the wild.
Production Method: Contrary to popular belief, oxidation does not affect the level of caffeine significantly. Green, oolong, black, and white teas have different levels of oxidation, yet all four contain caffeine. It is the process of halting oxidation that affects the caffeine level of the tea.
What you can control:
Types of white tea: Tea made from just the buds of the tea plant has the least caffeine. An example would be Silver Needle tea. White peony tea is similar to silver needles white tea and is made from a bud and two leaves.
Steeping Temperature: Steeping white tea over 194° increases the caffeine level significantly. We recommend steeping it at 175-180° due to its delicate nature. It requires a cooler temperature than black or herbal teas to avoid damaging the leaves.
Steeping Time: The level of caffeine extracted from the leaf increases with time. Caffeine begins to release from the leaves after steeping for about one minute. Steeping tea over 7-10 minutes increases the caffeine level significantly.
White tea requires more time than green tea to extract the flavor, but we recommend steeping it for only 4-5 minutes. If you select a tea made strictly from buds, you can increase that time by a minute or two to release the full flavor.
How to reduce caffeine in white tea
While containing less caffeine than black tea, white tea still has caffeine. If you love the delicate, full flavor there are a few techniques to reduce the caffeine level:
Use whole-leaf/loose-leaf tea. Teabags often contain more caffeine.
Choose white tea that comes from Fujian, China, the homeland of white tea. It is available from other countries such as Indonesia and India. This expansion of white tea cultivation now can include tea from different tea plants such as Camellia sinensis assamica. This tea is similar to white tea but has less caffeine.
Select a decaf white tea. This won't guarantee the tea is 100% decaf if your caffeine intake is critical, but it will be lower in caffeine.
Choose a late-harvest tea. White tea made from the buds or tips of the plant is typically higher in caffeine. Late-harvest teas such as White Peony have leaves that are more mature and have lower caffeine content.
Enjoy a white tea blend. White tea is also becoming a popular tea to use in blends. Blending with ingredients such as fruit, rose petals, or spices reduce the caffeine content.
Brew it properly. Brewing the leaves for more than five minutes increases the level of caffeine. To experience the best taste and control caffeine levels, use water heated to 175-180° and steep for 4-5 minutes.
Use more tea and less time. For a stronger flavor without increasing caffeine, add more tea and steep it for a shorter time in your infuser.
White tea is also refreshing as an iced tea. But either cold brew it or refrigerate it after steeping to avoid the dilution caused by ice cubes.