The question of caffeine content in tea has been one of the most discussed and debated in recent years. Sweeping generalizations, aided by skillful marketing, seem to have created a common consensus among tea drinkers, like–White Tea is a low-caff tea but Black Tea has high caffeine. And, there are many more myths and misunderstandings about caffeine in tea.

Join us as we bust these myths by delving deeper into what caffeine is and what effect it has on the human brain, as we then understand the complex relationship between tea and caffeine.

Black Tea

What Is Caffeine

Simply put, caffeine is a psychoactive compound that acts as a stimulant. Caffeine is naturally found in many plants like tea, coffee and chocolates. Like any stimulant, caffeine relieves fatigue, improves alertness and cognitive abilities and enhances overall performance.

Is Caffeine Bad For Us?

No, Caffeine is not bad for us – too much caffeine is bad for us.

Moderate intake of caffeine is beneficial to us. Not only does it improve cognition, helps stay alert and relieves fatigue, it is also known to protect against cardio-vascular disorders, Parkinson’s disease and even certain kinds of cancers. But, like everything else, it is when we cross the limit that caffeine starts becoming detrimental, and then dangerous.

According to numerous studies, the generally recommended safe intake of caffeine in adults is between 400-500 mg per day. During pregnancy, the prescribed limit is 150-200 mg. It is not recommended in diet for children under four years of age. However, please remember that each one of us has a different metabolism rate, and how one person’s system processes caffeine is different to another.

Caffeine In Tea

black tea leaves

The tea plant produces caffeine as a natural defense to ward off insects and pests. The highest concentration of caffeine occurs in the youngest tea leaves, typically found at the top of the plant. This is because insects tend to attack young shoots and leaves, which are juicier, compared to leave in the middle and lower part of plants. Generally, as one does down the tea bush, the chemical concentration decreases.

Compared to coffee, tea has significantly less caffeine. While one shot of espresso has 80 mg of caffeine and one cup of coffee has 120 mg of caffeine, a cup of tea has between 10-60 mg of caffeine. The wide variance in caffeine content in tea – from 10-60 mg, is because the caffeine content in tea depends on multiple factors like the season of plucking, the type of tea bush, the kind of leaves plucked and the variety of cultivar of the tea plant. And this is why, there can and should never be sweeping generalizations about caffeine in tea. Generalizations give way to myths, and it is time to bust these myths!

cups of coffee and tea 

#1 White Tea And Green Tea Have Less Caffeine Than Black Tea

All teas are made from the leaves of the same plant - Camellia Sinensis. White Tea, Green Teas, Oolong Teas, and Black teas are a result of the processing of tea leaves, specifically, a stage in processing known as oxidation. White and Green teas are not oxidised, while Oolong teas are partly oxidised and Black Teas are fully oxidised.

Processing has nothing to do with caffeine content and has no impact on the caffeine in the tea leaves. In fact, it is possible to have White Tea and Green Tea with higher caffeine content than Black Tea!

#2 Caffeine In Tea Causes Dehydration Like Coffee

Caffeine is a diuretic. But unlike a cup of coffee where 10 gms of coffee powder are used, a cup of tea is made with only 2 gms of tea leaves. Also, tea has a higher content of water than coffee. Tea, therefore, is only mildly diuretic and does not cause dehydration like coffee, but is a very good hydrating drink.

# 3 All Teas Have Same Caffeine Content

three cups of tea

Not really. Teas are grown in a variety of countries, regions, elevations and climates using different types of tea bushes. The caffeine content in each of these tea changes depending on whether the leaves are new or old, whether the elevation is high or low, whether the bush is seed-grown or clonal and whether the weather is spring or summer!

Based on where and how they are grown, the best we should do is to classify popular teas as either High Caffeine Teas or Low Caffeine Teas. Here is quick-and-easy reference table :

Relatively Low Caffeine

  • Genmai Cha (Green)/Japa
  • Gunpowder (Green) / China
  • Hojicha (Green)  / Japan
  • Kukicha (Green)  / Japan
  • Keemun (Black) / China

 Relatively High Caffeine

  • Silver Needles (White) / China, India
  • Gyokuro (Green) / Japan
  • Matcha (Green) / Japan
  • Assam (Black) / India
  • Ceylon (Black) / Sri Lanka
  • Darjeeling (Black) / India

# 4 Tea Bags Have Lesser Caffeine Than Loose Tea

Generally speaking, it is the other way around : tea bags, particularly the non-pyramid tea-bags, have a higher caffeine content. This is because these tea-bags contain finer grades of tea like fanning and dust, which give out infusion quickly. Loose leaf teas, on the other hand, infuse slowly, and give you a higher degree of control on brewing. You can do a quick brewing of loose leaf, say 2 minutes, to make a cup of tea with less caffeine. In the case of tea bags, even in 1 minute, all the caffeine would be extracted.

# 5 Decaffeinated Teas Are Caffeine Free

This is another of those popular myths propagated by shrewd marketers. Decaffeination is an industrial process where a solvent is used. What the process does is strip the caffeine molecules. But in doing so, a lot of the goodness of tea is also removed. And even after the decaffeination process is over, the tea is still not 100% caffeine-free - it has about 5-10 mg of caffeine per cup!

# 6 Washing A Tea Can Make It Decaffeinated

‘Washing’ means steeping the tea for a quick 30 seconds and throwing out the liquid. Many people believe that washing will get rid of the caffeine in tea, and thus, the next cups you brew will be caffeine-free!

The truth is different. Caffeine in loose-leaf tea is extracted slowly. It takes about five minutes for all the caffeine and flavors to come out. The first washing of 30 seconds will only extract about 10-20% of caffeine, but worse, when you throw away this liquid, you will also be throwing away the goodness of tea! To completely extract the last bit of caffeine, you will need to steep the tea for 13-15 minutes and then throw out the liquid. But by then, nothing is left is tea : no flavour and no taste.

Other Factors That Impact Caffeine in Tea


Because caffeine is produced by tea plants as a defense mechanism against insects and pests, the quantity of caffeine in tea leaves increases during summer. This is to ward off the higher incidence of pest and insect attacks during summer, which is relatively higher than, say in spring or autumn. What this means for the caffeine-conscious tea drinker is that a spring tea will have relatively less caffeine than a summer tea.

Top Leaves Versus Lower Leaves

The concentration of caffeine and other chemical compounds is higher in the top leaves and buds and reduces as one goes lower. This is because insects and pests tend to attack the top-level leaves more as they contain more ‘ juices’. As one goes lower down, the leaves become less ‘juicy’ and are not attacked as much. Hence, the amount of caffeine in lower leaves is lesser compared to top leaves. This means that teas like Oolong Tea which are generally manufactured from the middle section of the tea bushes, will have lower caffeine content.

Plant Cultivar

There are two kinds of tea plants : Camellia Sinensis Sinensis (China) and Camellia Sinensis Assamica (Assam). The Chinese tea plants have been cultivated for over five centuries. The Assam tea bushes grew wildly in the jungles of Assam before being discovered by the East India Company in 1823.

The Assam tea plants have a higher caffeine content compared to the Chinese tea plants. This is perhaps the reason why the Assam tea bushes could survive the harsh and hostile conditions of tropical rainforest, but the Chinese bushes perished when they were planted in Assam.

Also, it has been found that tea bushes planted using the cloning method (which gives us Clonal Teas) have a higher caffeine content than seed-grown tea bushes.

Growing Conditions

Shade-grown teas like Gyokuro and Matcha Tea tend to have higher caffeine compared to teas grown in sunshine. But shade-grown teas also have a higher concentration of amino acids.

Steeping Process

This is where you can control the caffeine in your tea. Here are simple things you should keep in mind :

  •  Use Loose Leaf Teas

  • It takes around 4-5 minutes for the caffeine and other compounds from loose tea to be get completely extracted during steeping. In case of non-pyramid tea-bags, which are generally made using finer grades, the infusion comes out almost instantly, giving you no chance of control the caffeine.

  •  Steeping Temperature

The higher the temperature of the water, the more caffeine will be extracted. This is one big reason why green teas are recommended for low-caffeine teas as they are steeped at lower temperatures. The only exception is Matcha Tea, which is the only completely soluble natural green tea, and all the goodness is imbibed.

So, The Final Question…

What is the best low-caffeine tea?

The answer is choosing the correct tea and steeping it correctly :

  • Select a tea that is produced during the Spring season
  • Use loose-leaf tea
  • Go for Oolong tea
  • Use a bit less leaf than recommended
  • Steep the tea at a lower temperature than recommended
  • Steep for less time than recommended

This would make a weaker cup of tea, but at least ensure that a much lower caffeine tea is enjoyed.

But Also Remember…

The caffeine content in tea is a very complex subject. There has been a lot of scientific research on the topic, which continues to fascinate herbalists and researchers. As more and more studies are conducted, new facts are discovered. As a complicated and continuously evolving field, we have tried to synthesize the latest findings and present them in simple and easy terms for every tea lover. In case you have anything new or different to add, please do reach out to us and we shall update this.


Subscribe to our newsletter & stay updated! What's more - A SPECIAL DISCOUNT ONLY FOR YOU!


Subscribe to our newsletter & stay updated! What's more - A SPECIAL DISCOUNT ONLY FOR YOU!