Green Tea Garden

Common Myths About Tea And Caffeine

There is an ongoing arms race to produce the most caffeinated beverage. Tea and its meagre caffeine content seems like a bug bite compared to coffee or energy drinks. Don’t let this comparison fool you. Tea is a very noticeable stimulant and it is worth examining some common misconceptions about tea that are floating around.

Wild Mountain Tea Tree

Myth: Tea Is Dehydrating

Millions of people can attest to the diuretic (urine production) effects of tea. The main culprit is caffeine which stimulates the kidneys and inhibits the absorption of sodium. If you’re drinking tea you will have a fuller bladder than before anyway. This fact can be misinterpreted.  Since you are losing water in your body, tea is therefore dehydrating. The problem with this line of thinking is that you are consuming a lot more water than the diuretic effect is expelling. Part of this misunderstanding comes from the fact that alcohol is dehydrating, and is also a diuretic. Alcohol and caffeine are not the same chemical and in this instance alcohol’s diuretic effect is strong enough to cause dehydration.

wild mountain tea cup

Myth: Black Tea Has More Caffeine

Plenty of big tea companies have promoted this myth in order to simplify their messaging, but it isn’t true. Caffeine content in tea does not come from its production style. Instead, it is the result of several factors including plant genetics, leaf size, and other agricultural elements. Tea plants make caffeine as an insecticide to protect their leaves from pests. The withering process in tea production helps bring out all of the volatile chemicals that make tea so amazing to drink, including caffeine. 

Black tea is made by allowing the withered tea leaves to completely oxidize, the same process that browns a cut apple. That process makes a lot of changes to the polyphenols and flavonoids in tea, but its not making any more caffeine than was already there. The only tea production technique that has an decreasing effect on caffeine is pile fermentation (or wo dui fermentation). This is the process used to convert sheng puer tea into shou puer. It happens as a combination of the intense heat, humidity, pressure, and added yeasts like aspergillus niger

One reason why this myth persists was a sample test. Teas taken from a typical store found that black tea had more caffeine than green tea. This experiment did not account for the fact that the western facing black tea industry uses a different cultivar of the tea plant, the camellia sinensis assamica (or da ye big leaf variety). Based on former British colonies taste, this family of cultivars are native to southeast Asia and produces more caffeine. They thrived better when transported to gardens in India in the 1850s

Myth: You Can Decaffeinate Tea By Rinsing It

This myth proposes that you can remove the vast majority of caffeine by rinsing the tea in hot water for a few seconds. You throw away that wash that has all that caffeine and you brew again for a simple DIY low caffeine tea. This is not true on two counts.

First, that the process of decaffeinating tea to produce “decaf” tea is a complicated and expensive. Research found that it took up to 15 minutes for a full extraction of the caffeine in brewed tea.

The second is that the quick rinse of tea is a standard part of Chinese “gong fu” style brewing. This style is designed for multiple rinses of a tea and may removes some dust, but is not removing Caffeine. We’ve had countless tea sessions and continue to experience the effects of caffeine with each new cup poured.