Caffeine and Tea

As most of us already know, caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant which kicks awake the brain and central nervous system, our best friend in helping us stay alert and preventing the onset of tiredness. We generally intake caffeine easily from tea, coffee and cacao drinks. and it is considered safe for adults to drink up to 400mg per day, although one should not aim to consume any more than that. A lesser-known fact is that Caffeine is a methylxanthine, a chemical compound which serves a secondary purpose in plants, meaning it is not necessary for the plant's survival. It is believed that plants create caffeine as a natural pesticide to keep unwanted insects away, with large quantities being toxic to small insects and bugs and will therefore deter them from eating it.


The majority of Chinese tea comes from Camellia Sinensis and each tea type contains different levels of caffeine. 


We understand there to be four main factors that contribute to the differing quantities of caffeine in Tea:

What part of the plant is picked

During growing seasons, the tea plant draws most of its biological energy to the top, where it receives more sunlight, to produce chlorophyll and caffeine. This results in the newly sprouted tea buds and tips holding the most caffeine, (leaving older leaves and stems with lower levels).

​​The growing environment

    Many factors affect the tea plants ability to produce caffeine. Such as the estate's geographical location, regional terrain, soil chemistry, climate and environmental changes. Tea tends to prefer a warm, humid climate with a rainfall measuring at least 100 centimetres a year. Ideally, it likes a deep, light, acidic and well-drained soil, meaning low mountainous regions are often ideal. 

    The brewing process

      Water temperature and the steeping time also affect the release of caffeine from the tea. How you brew tea is probably the most significant attribute to the caffeine content in your tea.

      Caffeine is water-soluble. Generally, the hotter your water the more caffeine is released. And, the longer you steep tea, the more caffeine is released. Our handy chart gives an estimation of the caffeine released during infusion.


      The Chinese tea ceremony, or Gong Fu Cha, literally means "brew tea with great skill". This highly controlled method of tea-making is characterised by using small teapots and multiple brews with very short steeping times of just a few seconds. This intensifies the flavour of tea and reduces caffeine levels. Using this method, the 'first pour' is for washing the dust and impurities from the leaves and awaken the flavour.

      The manufacturing process

        After the flush (tea harvest), Camellia Sinensis is set apart into White tea, Yellow tea, Green tea, Oolong tea and Black tea according to the time of harvest, levels of oxidation, or fermentation of leaves in the steaming, frying or roasting process. Every further step of the manufacturing process contributing to increased caffeine concentration. The drier, more oxidised the tea, or the longer it is fermented for, the more caffeine it presents. 

        Here is our guide to the caffeine levels in our teas compared with a few other drinks:

        Typical Caffeine levels in Tea


        Of course, there are manufactured decaffeinated teas (levels typically less than 2mg per serving) available for those who prefer a minimum caffeine diet. Going even further are herbal teas which do not contain caffeine at all.


        We say tea deserves the same attention to quality and detail as diamonds. Interestingly, caffeine flows adversely to the quality of tea. Dried whole tea leaves (special teas) impart much less caffeine than broken tea leaves (common teas) in the same species. 
        Conventional tea bags consist of mainly tea fannings (broken leaves) or fine dust (tea powder) whereby caffeine is released more rapidly on contact with boiling water. Hence the caffeine content in the vast majority of tea bags on the market tends to be much higher than loose leaf teas of the same type. 

        It's not all bad!
        Caffeine is often lambasted as 'bad for you', and recurringly features as an aspect of peoples diets to cut out or at the very least reduce. Which is fair enough, but we say it's about moderation. If you simply love tea and drink it all day, then perhaps consider a premium white or pu'erh for the full benefits and lowest intake of caffeine.

        On the contrary, many experts believe caffeine can help you achieve your weight-loss goals by increasing the body's metabolism and thanks to especially high levels of anti-oxidants. To that end, The China Tea Pot has designed a 'Top Tip Bundle', giving you the very best flavoured teas of China with maximum impact. Check it out here.

        Like our article? Read about The History of Chinese tea and The Health Benefits of Chinese tea in our Discovery Blog.

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