Blog 89: Control the Caffeine Level in Tea
Many of our first-time tea customers are regular coffee drinkers. Naturally, we get a lot questions about the caffeine level in tea products. Interestingly, the caffeine level of a tea is not entirely about “tea”, but the person who drinks it. Today, let’s talk about how we can control the caffeine level in tea.
First of all, we need to understand a ground rule: caffeine is natural in all tea plants, and there isn’t a tea leaf that’s caffeine-free.
“Wait a minute,” you might ask. “What about all those caffeine-free teas?”
To be honest, as a tea producer, we’ve never seen another tea producer/farmer producing such products. It’s just not possible that a tea plant can produce caffeine-free leaves. In fact, caffeine-free tea products are industrial, not agricultural.
The process of making a caffeine-free tea is to simply steam tea leaves for a period of time. While this process can make caffeine disappear, it also takes all flavors and aromas out of a tea. To be frank, this is the same as we infuse a tea over and over again until a tea has no tastes left. What you can get out of a caffeine-free tea is basically very expensive plain water.
If you truly want to reduce the caffeine level in tea, you should pay more attention to how you make tea.
When a tea is infused, caffeine, along with other nutrients, is released into the tea soup. To control the caffeine level, we need to control the variables that affect the caffeine-releasing process.
Therefore, we need to watch out for 4 things: the water temperature, the steeping time, the amount of tea, and the quality of tea.
First, to reduce the caffeine level, we need to use high-temperature water, and it needs to be boiled first. (Please refer to Blog 4 and Blog 7 for more detailed discussion of tea and water.)
The benefit of using boiled water is more than sterilizing teawares. For tea, water at the boiling temperature can help tea leaves release all nutrient contents. Caffeine is only one of many nutrients in tea leaves. Some nutrients, such as caffeine, are released more with lower-temperature water, and some nutrients, such as amino acids and tea polyphenols, require higher-temperature water to release.
The water temperature decides how much caffeine are released into the tea soup. Higher the water temperature, lower the caffeine level.
Second, the steeping time can greatly affect the caffeine level.
In the past, we’ve addressed many times that good teas don’t need to be steeped. A good tea should present its tastes, aromas and colors the moment it touches water.
Oversteep a tea (for more than 10 seconds) not only destroys it, but also releases excessive amount of caffeine.
If we oversteep a tea (also called suffocative steeping or cupping, please see Blog 37 for details), all we get in the first 1.5 minutes are caffeine.
Unless you want to have an ultra-strong tea that tastes butter, we suggest you avoid oversteeping it at all cost.
Third, don’t put too much tea leaves into your tea pot/Gaiwan.
This is perhaps the most common mistake in tea-drinking.
For most authentic Chinese teas, tea leaves are packaged in per-serving bags. White tea and black tea are packaged 5g per bag, and oolong tea is packaged 7g-8g per bag. This weight is decided by the size of the teaware. The intention is to deliver a constant, measurable tea experience.
For other teas that are not packaged by per-serving bags(e.g. green tea), we have to carefully measure the weight ourselves. Too much tea would lead to a thick/strong tea soup, and thick/strong tea soup has a high caffeine level.
Finally, choosing a tea from a good environment is the most ideal solution.
In a previous blog (please click here for Blog 78), we explained why tea plants that grow on the sunny side of a mountain don’t produce the best quality tea leaves. Too much sunlight forces tea plants to develop more caffeine. This inherited imperfection from the growing environment cannot be easier amended.
Needlessly to say, tea plants that grow on high mountains and receive the optimum amount of sunlight produce tea leaves with lower caffeine contents.
Furthermore, both conditions (high elevation and regulated sunlight) are necessary. Not a single one can be omitted.
Caffeine is an inevitable element in tea. It has its benefits and detriments. Since we cannot avoid it, why not take what we want and discard what we don’t like?
Fortunately, tea drinkers are the true decision makers in how much caffeine presented in the tea soup. We hope that this blog can help you better control the caffeine level in your tea.
As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at email@example.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!
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