Your Biggest Tea Question Answered: Does All Tea Contain Caffeine?

Does ALL tea contain caffeine? For those of us in the tea industry, this is a loaded question. There are so many factors in play.

First of all, all true teas come from the plant Camellia Sinensis or a subspecies of this plant. What makes Black, Green, Oolong, Yellow and White teas different are how the leaves are processed. Therefore it can undoubtedly be said that ALL teas have some level of caffeine.

The level of caffeine in the different types of teas however depends upon many variables. Here are just a few:

  • Where the tea plants are grown.
  • When the leaves are picked.
  • How long the tea leaves are steeped.
  • The temperature of the water that is used for steeping.
  • The amount of oxidation that the leaves undergo during processing.
  • Whether the tea leaves are whole or chopped up.

In addition, the level of caffeine can even vary from cup to cup if you choose to resteep your tea leaves more than once. Oolong teas for example can be resteeped up to ten times within the same day. Each steeping will produce a subtlely different flavor, aroma and caffeine level.

When we drink a cup of tea our bodies react in a much different way than when we consume other caffeinated beverages such as coffee. Here is why:

  • There is less than half the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea as compared to a cup of coffee.
  • Our bodies absorb the caffeine in tea at about half the rate compared to other caffeinated beverages.
  • Tea is the only beverage that contains an amino acid called Theanine which produces a sense of calm that works with the caffeine to produce what we in the tea biz like to call a "Calm Alert".

This means that you get a lift and the improved ability to focus without the crash and jitters that are many times associated with coffee or soda.

Now for those of you like me that need a little help throughout the day to get the job done, a robust black tea is most likely going to have the biggest caffeine punch, but again this is not to say that a cup of green tea won't do the very same for some people.

With all of the health benefits associated with tea, there are lots of folks trying to make a transition from coffee to tea. One of my recent blogposts covers this topic and gives some clear and easy strategies.

For those that want to avoid caffeine altogether, I would suggest going the herbal tea route. Herbal teas, or (tisanes) come from plants other than Camellia Sinensis such as Rooibos, Chamomile, Honeybush and Peppermint. Each of these plants has their own set of health attributes and are naturally without any caffeine. Many have very interesting flavor profiles and, just like tea, can be enjoyed hot or iced.

Unfortunately, teas that are labeled as Decaf still contain small levels of caffeine and the process used to achieve this label is a chemical one. Therefore you are trading chemicals for less caffeine.

So as you can see, the answer to "the caffeine question" is not a simple one.

Personally, I begin the day with a cup or two of black tea and as the day progresses I move on to a green or white. I usually wrap things up in front of the television when I finally get to sit down for the day and enjoy a cup of my favorite herbal tisane. Sometimes I make it through the show without falling asleep, sometimes not.

This article was first published on SixtyandMe.com on March 12, 2018.