White teas are the least processed of all teas. Traditional white teas are mostly grown in Fujian Province, China. They are generally picked when the buds are tightly enclosed in new leaves. This retains a silky, downy quality in the leaves. When you first drink white tea, it may seem quite tasteless – as if you were drinking hot water. However, after a while, you’ll become aware of a subtle change in your breath and at the back of your mouth. You will taste a soft, nourishing sweetness and eventually experience a similar sensation down your throat. With its natural buttery-sweetness, white tea replenishes without provoking insomnia or nervousness.
White tea is the most delicate tea in flavor and aroma, as the leaves are not rolled or crushed during processing. Camellia sinensis bushes that have large, fleshy leaf buds are used for most white teas today. Those leaf buds become Silver Needles white tea. If the next two leaves are picked and processed the same way, they yield White Peony white tea. This is an ideal tea to enjoy on its own, or with a variety of dishes. Foods with any amount of cream or fat content will enhance its natural flavor, and spread its calming effects to your meal or dessert.
With flavors that are close to the heart of the tea plant, white teas were the favorite of the famous Chinese Tea Emperor in the 1100s, who was so preoccupied with his love of tea and his pursuit of the perfect cup, that he lost his empire to invading Mongols. White teas have since traditionally been used as a Tribute Tea to the Chinese Emperor. Long popular in China, they are just becoming well-known in America. Recent claims that white tea has less caffeine than green tea are often debatable. Caffeine content is sometimes more dependent on the part of the plant used, rather than on process.
The Tea Spot’s new “Monkey-Picked White” single-estate organic tea is a full large-leaf White Peony tea from Fujian Province, China. This tea is certified 100% organic and fair trade.
With the tell-tale flavors of a white tea, Monkey Picked White is delicate, and buttery-smooth in flavor. You will taste a soft, nourishing sweetness with a slight hint of apricot and eventually experience a similar warmth and sweetness down your throat. Each tin yields 34 servings, which you can re-steep 2-3 times.
Author, Maria Uspenski, is the owner of The Tea Spot.
Image to the left is from The Tea Spot website product page.
Maria, I think the only reason why the caffeine issue continues to be debatable is because there are still a lot of people having a great deal of difficulty letting go of the old beliefs. If you look at the research, it’s pretty clear. The Camellia sinensis plant contains caffeine, period. There is variation depending on a myriad of factors including the parts of the plant, as you mentioned, but also the varietal, the terroir, the processing etc. This creates the kind of variation that will give you a white tea that has more caffeine than a black tea. It’s time we all just accept that, although much less than coffee, tea does have caffeine in all of its forms. The difference, however, is that tea also contains L-theanine which has a mitigating effect on the impact the caffeine has on the body due to it’s calming action. That is why people, like myself, who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine from coffee, can drink a lot of tea without that “activated” feeling.
I’m a big fan of white tea. Personally I don’t react to the caffeine at all in this delicate tea – I think the jury is still out. I suspect each individual leaf, from each individual bush, is potentially different in its caffeine content. Thank you Mother Nature. Given that these teas are steeped for shorter periods than black tea, I suspect that also reflects less caffeine in each cup.
Sandy, good point! And with it’s mood-enhancing and anxiety-reducing effects, the L-theanine does its job on our alpha waves, counter-balancing the caffeine jitters. The Tea Spot line of teas may just be unique in its “old-style” caffeine profiles then – we had all our teas laboratory tested for caffeine content and the report came in as follows (per 8 oz serving): White Teas/Blends 6-11 mg caffeine, Green Teas/Blends 12-27 mg/caffeine, Oolong Tea 30, Black Teas 32-45, and Puerh/Blend 50+. But that’s just one line of 12 teas… so it does not merit generalization. I’m afraid i was not quite on the mark with trying to make my point, as it was intended to address the subtlety of the flavor of white tea, and not the strength of its caffeine content. My apologies!
I think you made your point just fine Maria. If anything, I’m the one who got off point. But since I have, I’m curious about your low levels of caffeine. Do your measurements reflect the level of caffeine from one steeping of an 8 oz serving, or multiple steeps, and what were the length of the steeps?
That’s a very good question – indeed, our servings were 8 oz fluid servings – and 2g (which was one rounded teaspoon)of all teas, save for the Green Roasted Mint and the White, where we used 1g (which was one heaping teaspoon), and steeped per our instructions: 2-3 minutes on the greens and whites, and 4-5 on the blacks. And yes, the measurements come from one (the initial) steep. No multiple steeps were tested… although later we wished they had been!
I wonder why 1g infusions of white tea yield only half or less of the amount of dissolved caffeine compared to 2g for all other teas?
But the high amount for pu-erh is what really surprises me. Previous tests (like the one here don’t show much of a difference between, say a white tea and pu-erh.
It is curious Jo. I’m wondering if it may be that these were blends. Maria stated the teas as the tea/blends. If the teas were blended with herbs/flowers/fruit etc, that might explain the lower caffeine levels and if the pu’erh was blended with another whole leaf tea with higher caffeine content, that might explain the high caffeine results for the pu’erh, although either way it’s still pretty high.
Maria, could you enlighten us? Thanks.
actually… i don’t know if i can enlighten the situation here… on the white tea end of the spectrum, in particular. Here is a detailed breakdown of white various teas and how they analyzed:
Meditative Mind (blend of White Bai Mu Dan, Green Jasmine Pearls, and Rosebuds)
0.4% caffeine by weight, 7 mg caffeine per serving
Monkey Picked White (Organic White Bai Mu Dan)
1.0% caffeine by weight, 9.5 mg caffeine per serving
By Contrast, the green teas came in as follows:
Green Twisted Spears (Organic hand-rolled full leaves)
0.6% caffeine by weight, 11.1 mg caffeine per serving
Green cloud mist (Organic Yun Wu)
0.8% caffeine by weight, 16.3 mg caffeine per serving
Boulder Blues (a blend of Lung Ching and Sencha, flavored with Strawberry & Rhubarb)
0.4% caffeine by weight, 8.4 mg caffeine per serving
The roasted green teas, were far lower in caffeine, and much higher, by the way, in polyphenol antioxidant content. We found that the antioxidant content of any tea correlated very strongly with the freshness of the tea.
Green Roasted Mint (blend of tea and peppermint, roasted)
0.3% caffeine by weight, 3.3 mg caffeine per serving
Nutty Roasted Twigs (pure tea, roasted)
0.1 mg caffeine by weight, 2.7 mg caffeine per serving
Don’t know if this helps, but I find the information interesting!
Thanks for the details Maria – it is VERY interesting and VERY helpful.