is in loose
There’s a lot of bad information out there when it comes to caffeine content in loose leaf tea. Many reputable sources - even the US Department of Agriculture - wrongly assert that different tea types naturally have different caffeine levels.
If only it was that simple.
To the surprise of many, most tea leaves have about the same amount of caffeine. On average, a tea leaf is 3% caffeine by weight, though some tea varieties produce caffeine as low as 1.5%, or as high as 4.5%.
Yes, green, black, and white tea leaves all have around the same amount of caffeine.
Let’s separate some fact from fiction and discover what really affects the caffeine content of our tea leaves.
Environmental factors play a large role in the production of caffeine in the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. Soil acidity, humidity, harvest season, direct sunlight, altitude, and age of the tea bush all affect the final caffeine content of the harvested leaves.
The genetic variety of the tea plant also contributes toward caffeine content. Some varieties, such as the gunpowder green tea or Keemun black tea, are known to contain low amounts of caffeine. Other varieties, such as silver needle white tea and assam black tea, naturally produce more caffeine.
Since all tea types - black to white - come from the same plants, all of the leaves from a single bush begin with the same amount of caffeine, no matter how they are going to be processed. Contrary to popular belief, caffeine content doesn’t change during the processing stages and is unaffected by oxidation.
Like I said earlier, all tea leaves produce around the same amount of caffeine, though the exact amount is determined by the growing conditions.
Next, let’s look at how that caffeine gets into our mug of brewed tea.
Though tea leaves generally have the same amount of caffeine, we can clearly measure different caffeine levels in brewed tea. Why is that?
The tea steeping process determines how much caffeine we pull out of the tea leaves and put into our cups. Here are ways the steeping conditions affect caffeine:
The hotter the water, the more caffeine is extracted from the leaves.
The longer the steep, the more caffeine is extracted from the leaves.
So, even though green tea leaves have the same amount of caffeine as black tea, we don’t extract as much because we use a lower temperature water and a shorter steep time.
It’s easy to see how temperature and time correlate with caffeine in our brewed tea:
As temperature and time rise when brewing tea, so does the extracted caffeine, no matter the tea type.BACK to blog
Which Has More Caffeine: Loose Leaf Or Tea Bag Tea?
Like we’ve already established, the tea leaves themselves all have close to the same amount of caffeine. However, there is a noticeably higher caffeine content in tea that comes from a tea bag than tea that comes from loose leaf tea.
The answer is simple.
Since tea bags are generally filled with tea leaves that have been reduced in size, they have a larger surface area and release caffeine more quickly than larger leaves. It’s not that tea bags contain more caffeine - the small leaves within simply release the caffeine more quickly.
While this extra speed may sound convenient, tea bags are known to contain low quality, bottom of the pile tea fannings, which are literally swept off the floor of tea processing plants and sold at rock bottom prices.
You’re much better off with choosing high quality, fresh loose leaf tea. Even though it will take slightly longer to steep (only a minute or two), the elevated flavor is worth it.
In summary, about 3% of a tea leaf’s weight is caffeine - regardless of the tea type - though growing conditions cause some teas to be 1.5 to 4.5% caffeine. Water temperature, steeping time, and the size of the tea leaves are the real factors that determine how much caffeine ends up in our final cup.
Are you curious about what fresh, premium loose leaf tea tastes like? I’ll give you a hint: it’s vividly flavorful, balanced, and is great throughout the day. If you’d like to explore the world of tea, check out our samples
We’d love to connect you to some delicious, rich loose leaf tea.