Everything you wanted to know about caffeine (but were too afraid to ask)

Caffeine is rather wonderful - what a super lift it can give us in times of need. But there are also moments in life when the buzz can be a bit troubling.

There is some misinformation out there we wanted to help clear up.

Is there caffeine in tea?

Yes. All true tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant; white, green, oolong or black, they're all made from the same leaves and all contain caffeine.

This is true of all varietals, including the most common var. sinensis and var. assamica.

What is the caffeine content of my tea?

This is a tricky one - because it depends on so many factors.

All our teas are from unique harvests, that change every year. The caffeine content from the leaves of the same plant will change, year on year, depending on the climatic conditions.

A stark difference in climate and altitude between Malawi (L) and Nepal (R).

We could test every one of our teas, every harvest, for their caffeine content but we still wouldn't be able to tell you how much caffeine was in your cup of tea.

That depends on how much tea you use, the temperature of the water, and the length of the infusion - all this will dictate how much caffeine you extract from your tea leaves.

Another important consideration is cold infused tea - if you cold infuse your tea overnight you will be extracting most, if not all, the caffeine in the leaf. Cold infusions will therefore be higher in caffeine than a short, hot infusion of the same leaf - even though they taste so smooth and elegant.

Does green tea contain less caffeine than black tea?

Sometimes. We've seen a few statements about white and green tea containing less caffeine than black tea, and sometimes even claims that these teas don't contain caffeine at all - which is a particularly dangerous bit of misinformation.

All true tea contains caffeine. Although some green teas can contain less caffeine than black, these might only be marginal differences. And again, how you make your tea will be a big determining factor.

Different tea processes, such as roasting can also affect the caffeine content of tea. The secondary roasting of Hojicha (a toasted green tea) removes some of the caffeine in the leaves, and so it tends to contain less caffeine than other green teas. Conversely, matcha (a finely ground green tea powder) contains more caffeine because you are ingesting the whole leaf, and not just an infusion of the leaf.

Do you offer decaf tea?

You can decaffeinate tea but the process requires chemicals that can strip the leaf of some of its flavour and beneficial natural properties. We prefer to keep our lovely leaves pure and unmolested.

If you’re looking for a naturally caffeine free option we recommend exploring our wonderful range of herbal infusions. None of these (with the exception of coffee leaf) contain caffeine - naturally.

Our lovely Rooibos is great with milk and naturally caffeine free.

The most widely sought variety of decaffeinated tea is English Breakfast. If you're looking for a herbal option that shares some of those wonderful rich and malty characteristics we love in English Breakfast teas, we recommend trying Wild Rooibos - if you make a strong infusion it can even take a silky drop of milk. In South Africa, especially in the Cape, where rooibos originates, a decaf Breakfast Tea is always a strong cup of red "tea" with milk and sugar.

Is there such a thing as low caffeine tea?

There is a way to safely reduce the caffeine in your tea. If you are pregnant and trying to reduce caffeine or just highly sensitive, but don't want to cut out caffeine altogether - we have a brilliant trick for you - do a quick "wash" of your tea leaves. A fast, first infusion with hot water can bring down the caffeine level of your leaves by around 20-30%. You will have to throw away this first infusion - but as you probably know - the second infusion is often the best.

If you have any other questions or information to add, do please get in touch.

Image Henrietta Lovell
Rare Tea Lady
Image Follow her on Instagram
Image Follow her on Twitter
Since 2000 Henrietta has been travelling the world, working directly with independent tea gardens, from the Shire Highlands of Malawi to the foothills of the Himalayas. Lovell is at the forefront of the tea revolution. She founded Rare Tea Company in 2004 to champion responsible and ethical relationships direct with farmers. In 2016 she founded Rare Charity pledging a direct percentage of Rare Tea revenue to their partner farms, supporting tertiary education scholarships. In 2019 Faber & Faber published her first book – "Infused - Adventures in Tea", named the New York Times book of the year and was awarded the prestigious Fortnum & Mason award. She is currently working on a documentary series.