As we have discussed in other articles the world of tea is often divided into two groups: true teas and herbal teas. True teas are made from the camellia sinensis plant and contain naturally occurring caffeine. Herbal teas on the other hand are produced from non-camellia sinensis ingredients like hibiscus, rooibos, and lemongrass just to name a few. While almost all herbal teas are caffeine-free for the most part, teas in the true tea family like green, white, yellow, black, Oolong, and pu’erh all contain caffeine. But just how much caffeine do all of these teas contain?
The many colours of true tea
True tea can come in many colours, flavours, and forms. Many variables come into play that turns a standard camellis sinensis plant leaf into a vegetal green sencha leaf or a savoury lapsang souchong black tea leaf. These variables also play a role in how much caffeine a leaf may contain. It must be stated right away that individual tea leaves may possess more or less caffeine depending, but to keep it simple we have compiled a list of the average caffeine levels of the true tea family. But what other factors can come into play besides the leaf type?
What can influence Tea’s caffeine content?
Well, lots actually. Let’s begin with brewing. The way you brew your tea can lessen or increase a leaf’s final caffeine content. Higher brewing temperatures will yield stronger tea, so too will longer brewing and steeping times.
Ratios also play a role as they do with almost all culinary arts. More leaves with less water will result in a much stronger tea. Also if you rebrew your tea, each rebrewing will yield less caffeine each time.
The leaf grade and size will also play a role. The smaller the leaf, the faster they release caffeine. This is in part why so many black teas that come out as small pellets as a result of CTC processing are used as breakfast teas. The same principle also applies to matcha tea. Matcha is shade-grown green tea. The shade-grown teas contain more caffeine on average, but with matcha especially so since it is prepared from the whole crushed and pulverized leaf. In addition, when consuming matcha you are drinking the entire leaf instead of just water infused by leaves.
The tips of tea leaves often contain extra caffeine. This is because the tips and buds are very tender and vulnerable to insects and so the plant produces caffeine as a bug-deterrent on those soft and sensitive parts! Twisted whole tea leaves, though not necessarily containing less caffeine, may release caffeine slower and seem like a less caffeinated leaf as a whole. Now on to the different (general) tea varieties and their (average) caffeine levels.
It should be cautioned that while white tea has a reputation for being the “weakest”, white teas if brewed at higher temperatures and steeped for longer periods will produce a ton of caffeine! How much does the average white when brewed in a more standard way yield? An 8 oz cup of white tea may contain anywhere from 30 to 55 milligrams of caffeine.
While we mentioned matcha as being a bit stronger, especially if brewed with ceremony grade powder, the general green leaf will yield anywhere from 35 to about 70 milligrams of caffeine in an 8-ounce cup.
This considerably rarer tea is often found in China and Korea but certainly isn’t unheard of elsewhere! Yellow tea is often a bit more oxidized than green but not quite an Oolong just yet. For those lucky enough to grab yellow tea leaves an 8-ounce cup can yield about 60 to 63 milligrams of caffeine.
This variety of teas are exquisite to enjoy, offering up a whole host of great flavour and aroma palettes. As for caffeine, an 8-ounce cup of Oolong can provide anywhere from 50 to 75 milligrams of caffeine, making for a lively cup of tea!
There is a reason black is the chosen morning pick-me-up for half the globe! Black tea brewed in an 8-ounce cup can offer a drinker 60 to 90 milligrams of caffeine depending. A special note on black tea is that it is often prepared from the Assamese variant of the standard camellia sinensis plant. This variant often contains a bit more caffeine than its Chinese cousins.
Pu’erh and other fermented teas
The fermented tea world is as wild and diverse as they come! For folks who love a good pu’erh tea, you can yield a huge range of caffeination. Anywhere from 30 to 100 milligrams per one 8 ounce cup.
Caffeine in any colour
No matter what colour of true tea one loves most, you can expect a moderate to an impressive degree of caffeine in your cup. If you would like to enjoy tea but not disrupt your sleep patterns, try to enjoy tea anytime before 6 pm and you will enjoy a healthy, refreshing, and caffeinated beverage par excellence.