White Tea and Caffeine Levels - Zest's Guide to White Tea
Creating tea with the most caffeine is important at Zest, but we never compromise flavor. In fact, we love all tea flavors, including the most delicate and sweet white teas.
In this guide, we'll take you through the origins, flavors, and composition of white tea. We've also compared it to Zest Energy Tea and other popular tea types to explain whether it really does have lower caffeine levels.
What is White Tea?
White tea is a caffeinated tea type that's made from the tea leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. All traditional tea is made from varieties of this plant. So, just like green tea, black tea, pu-erh and numerous other tea types, white tea contains caffeine, polyphenols, L-Theanine and delicious tea flavors.
Unlike those other tea types, however, most white teas (like silver needle) are made with the buds of the tea plant, rather than large leaves. This changes the flavor and caffeine levels drastically!
The first place white tea is made is the Fujian province of China, the birthplace of tea. Nowadays, white tea is made across China and a few other locations around the world (like Darjeeling, India) make white tea too. But it's in Fujian that tea varieties were first selected for their large buds to be made into white tea.
If you look closely at loose leaf white tea, you'll see tiny white hairs coating the tips of the tea buds. It's this silvery white color that gives white tea its name.
White Tea Processing
What separates the tea leaves and buds of white teas from any other type of tea, is the way they are processed. All types of white tea are harvested from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, whether they're young tips or mature leaves. Next in the usual tea process is oxidation, however white teas are very lightly oxidised. Even less than green teas!
Oxidation is what turns a black tea rich, malty and dark. The less oxidation you have, the greener, grassier and sweeter the tea is. To stop the white tea oxidising, the freshly picked tea is withered and dried (usually by firing or steaming) quickly, with no crushing or bruising the leaves.
White tea, like silver needle, is made from the delicate tea buds and is very lightly oxidised, so you can expect a very light tea with delicate flavors.
White Tea Types
There are various types of white tea, all made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant. The different grades and types of tea leaves create distinct flavors. Here are some of the most popular different types.
Silver needle is made from the white, soft tea buds from the tea plant. These buds actually look like slender silvery needles! Some of the best silver needle teas in the world still come from the Fujian province in China.
As for the flavor, silver needle tea tips have a sweet and soft flavor. You can usually detect fruity and floral notes. Honeydew melon, lilies, orchids, etc.
While silver needle is made from just the tips of the plant, white peony is made from the buds and first few unfurled leaves of the plant. This means that you can make white peony from a wider selection of tea varieties, not just the ones that produce an abundance of large buds.
As a result of including a few leaves, white peony has a slightly darker brewed color with some greener flavors - think of that green tea taste. The processing is the same as silver needle, with no oxidation.
Long Life Eyebrow and Tribute Eyebrow
Long life eyebrow (shou mei) and tribute eyebrow (gong mei) are the two lower grades of white tea. These aren't as common to find and have fewer delicate notes as they're made from the slightly larger leaves left over after the silver needle and white peony harvest.
They have slightly richer notes, although they're still quite light. They're closer in flavor to a green oolong than a delicate silver needle.
Darjeeling White Tea
Outside of the traditional Chinese white tea types, Darjeeling white tea is also popular. This white tea is made from tea varieties grown in Darjeeling, a region in India. Darjeeling is more well-known for its delicate black and green teas. These are sometimes referred to as the champagne of teas.
So, it's no surprise that Darjeeling tea varieties also make tasty white tea types as well.
Tea Leaves vs Buds
A loose rule is that buds are better than leaves when it comes to white tea. Silver needle, with the highest proportion of buds, is considered the best. A tea made mostly from leaves, like tribute eyebrow, is the lowest form of white tea.
But in our opinion, the white tea leaves are just as tasty - they just have different flavors. So, if you don't get on with the sweet, fruity and floral notes of silver needle, go ahead and try a shou mei instead (or check out our green tea blends below).
How to Brew Delicate White Tea
Brewing white tea is simple but it will taste amazing.
Place the loose leaves and buds inside a tea infuser (like the Zest Paris Tea Cup Infuser) over a cup, pour over hot water, and let the tea brew for a few minutes into a light and fragrant drink.
You should drink white tea "black", meaning without milk, cream, honey, sugar or any other additive. Although it's quite light, the tea has enough sweetness and flavor factors naturally.
As you're about to find out, the leaves and buds of white tea contain surprising levels of caffeine, so if you're looking to bump your caffeine intake, this is a morning tea drink to consider!
Does White Tea Have Caffeine?
White tea contains 40 mg of caffeine per serving, on average, as we discovered when researching which tea has the most caffeine.
Except, the caffeine content of tea varies depending on numerous factors. The length of time you brew your tea, for example. One of the factors impacting caffeine content is the part of the tea plant used.
The young buds of the tea plant contain a lot more caffeine than the mature tea leaves and stems. This means that a silver needle tea may even contain a higher amount of caffeine than black tea (47mg).
Comparing Tea Caffeine Content
The amount of caffeine in tea isn't impacted by the processing - oxidising won't change how much caffeine is in the tea leaves. However, different varieties of tea leaves contain varying levels of caffeine. That's why you'll find that green tea, for example, contains a different amount of caffeine compared to white teas.
The average mg of caffeine per 8oz cup for the different types of tea are:
- Green Tea - 28mg.
- White Tea - 40mg.
- Black Tea - 47mg.
- Oolong Teas - 37mg.
- Herbal Teas - 0mg, teas like our Immunity Formula are caffeine-free.
The format, from loose leaf tea to tea bags, doesn't impact the caffeine that ends up in your cup.
Besides tea, there are some caffeinated drinks that contain higher caffeine levels than green teas, black teas, and white teas:
- Standard Coffee - 96mg.
- Espresso - 64mg (per 1 oz).
- Zest High Caffeine Tea - 120-150mg.
Some soda drinks and many sugary energy drinks also contain caffeine - learn about how they stack up against tea in our article, How to Find The Best Tea for Energy.
How can I get more caffeine from my tea?
White tea is lower in caffeine than coffee, so if you need to up your caffeine intake in the morning, it might not be your best choice. In fact, each tea type we've mentioned is lower in caffeine than coffee, with one exception.
At Zest Tea, we create high caffeine tea by adding extra tea extract to our blends. This allows us to naturally bump the caffeine levels up to 150mg per serving. Our plant powered energy is amazing for morning productivity and calm, thanks to L-Theanine. This naturally-occurring amino acid found in tea prevents the jitters and crash you'd usually expect from high caffeine drinks.
We've written a great article explaining how our energy tea works, if you'd like to learn more.
And if you enjoy the delicate green and fruity notes in white teas, then check out our Pomegranate Mojito and Superberry Samba teas first. They have delicious fruity notes and up to 135mg of caffeine.
White Tea FAQs
We've answered some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about white tea and caffeine content here. Why not chat with us on Instagram if you can't find the answers you need here?
How much caffeine is in white tea?
On average, 40mg of caffeine is in each serving of white tea. The exact amount depends on numerous factors, however. See our detailed explanation above.
Does white tea have more caffeine than black tea?
Some white tea types, made from the caffeine-rich buds of the tea bush, can have more caffeine than black tea. On average, however, white tea has slightly less caffeine than black teas.
Which tea has the lowest caffeine levels?
Herbal and fruit teas are caffeine-free! Next up, green tea has a low caffeine content with under 30mg of caffeine per cup.
Does white tea have less caffeine than coffee?
Yes, white tea has a lower caffeine content than coffee and Zest's high caffeine tea.
Is Bai Hao white tea?
Silver needle white tea is also known as Baihao Yinzhen. However, you can also find bai hao oolong, which originates from Taiwan.