When I want to enjoy a big pot of tea, it’s going to be black tea or white tea. I love greens, oolongs and pu’erh, but in small doses—and it’s usually these tea I end up tasting with customers in the afternoon. I’ve moved back to white tea in the mornings because I’m finding it allows me to better manage my daily caffeine with the tastings in the afternoon.
Since I started drinking tea, I found I loved black tea the most and that it worked well with my personal chemistry to give me the “lift” while also agreeing with my stomach. Once I discovered white tea, I enjoy it as a wonderful alternative when I want to manage caffeine more throughout the day.
Since both white and black tea come from the same plant, why does white tea seem to have less caffeine? The white tea leaves don’t have less caffeine, however if the tea is steeped properly, the first steeped tea liquor in the cup will have less caffeine because the caffeine doesn’t leach out of the leaves as quickly as other types of tea.
White tea is the least processed of the five main types of true tea. Although there are variations on the processing, ideally, the plucked leaves are just laid out to dry in the sun (there may be some heat firing to bring residual moisture down below 5%). As the least processed tea, the leaves don’t release their caffeine as readily. I have found though that steeping my tea leaves for a second pot (still very tasty) seems to result in much more caffeine in the cup. This actually makes sense because the first steep acts to provide an initial weakening of the leaf structure.
In one of my Specialty Tea Institute classes during training, we made four types of tea from Hawai’ian tea leaves (overnighted) and Michele Rose of Cloudwater Tea Farm led our class. It was wonderful insight into just how simple white tea really is. As you look at the pictures below you’ll see oxidation–which some white teas exhibit. There was no de-enzyming or rolling of the leaves so even with some oxidation it was a white tea. The result was a really good tasting white peony and even more rewarding to taste because we helped make it.
I still enjoy my black tea and will switch out from time to time. The wonderful thing about tea is that there is always a tea for your mood(time of day) or the mood you want to move into!