Spirit Tea

Earth Humanity Heaven

An uncommon selection of handmade teas, each reflecting a unique moment in space and time.

Caffeine content between tea types

We get this question so often that we decided it would be best to address it in this article about the differences in caffeine content between various teas.  

As you know there are 5 distinct types of tea in the tea world.  

White

Green

Oolong

Black

Pu-er

The differences between the teas are the result of a cell oxidation process that gives us the four types.  

The first critical component to understand is that the amount of caffeine extracted is directly proportional to how long the tea is steeped, and at what temperature.  For this reason you often see companies saying that the amount of caffeine is proportionate to the oxidative level of tea (from white to black).  However, this is not entirely true.  

What much of it comes down to is the amount of bud vs leaf inside the tea.  As we discussed in our last article about the difference between tea and coffee caffeine , caffeine is the plant's natural defense against bugs.  If you were to allow your tea to steep way outside the brewing parameters you would be left with an overwhelmingly bitter brew.  You have over extracted many compounds at this point but one of the biggest ones is caffeine.  

Now if you were a bug flying along looking to get your morning leafy greens, would you be more apt to want the big leaf that have already been eaten? Or would you prefer the nice fresh bud that is just appearing out of the top of the plant?  

Nature, has decided that the bud should have the highest level of caffeine in relation to the plant itself.  This makes it actually more difficult to put the tea in different boxes for the amount of caffeine contained within it.  The truth is the more bud content the more caffeine in tea.  

Let's take for example two teas bao zhong and silver needles: 

Bao Zhong Oolong Tea

Bao Zhong Oolong Tea

Silver Needles White Tea

Silver Needles White Tea

Bao Zhong as you can see above clearly has less bud content than the Silver Needles.  So often in the tea world you see these sweeping generalizations.  A popular I see often is that White Tea has 10% caffeine content, green tea 10-30%,  Oolong 40%, and Black Tea 60%.  However it really truly depends on the amount of bud content.  In this case the silver needles have close to 40mg of caffeine and the bao zhong has only 10%.  

Finally it depends on time and temperature.  The total time the leaves are submerged and the temperature used to extract.   This is pretty clear as the longer it is submerged the more will be released.