Ask The Tea Wizard
About Chinese Tea: Health & Caffeine
About Chinese Tea and Health
There are many health benefits attributed to drinking Chinese tea, ranging from feelings of well-being to near magical cures. Much of this interest is focused on ancient claims related to weight loss and more modern claims of cancer-prevention due to tea’s anti-oxidant properties. Each person must make their own assessment of the facts. While there are centuries of tradition and empirical evidence, modern scientific facts that support the health benefits of tea and the effect of anti-oxidants in the body is still a work in progress.
We believe that any food product can have positive and/or negative health effects and in varying degrees for different individuals. We do not recommend teas on the basis of health benefits and at this point, do not think it is prudent to recommend tea-drinking for anything other than to enjoy the wonderful flavour and the joyous experience of enjoying tea alone or with friends.
It is common to hear people say “Tea has much more caffeine than coffee”. It is just as common to hear the opposite point of view. In fact with all the varieties of teas and coffees available, the different methods of manufacturing and preparing them for consumption and the different amounts consumed, both statements are in need of significant qualification.
So how much caffeine does tea and coffee have? Scientific studies and consumer group reports can both be less than detailed about what teas were used in their research. We refer to a well detailed study published by the British Government in 2004 for a quick comparison:
- All Teas mean 40 mg per serving
- Instant Coffee mean 54 mg per serving
- Ground Coffee mean 105 mg per serving
Here is a quick summary:
- All coffees are higher in caffeine than all teas
- All Indian teas are higher in caffeine than all Chinese teas
- Chinese green teas are higher in caffeine than all other Chinese teas.
It has been generally believed that Chinese green tea has less caffeine than black tea. There is much study and discussion on this subject which suggests that his may not be the case. In fact green tea may have more caffeine than black tea. The confusion has been the result of more broad and unqualified statements that compare apples to oranges and not apples to apples, so to speak.
Most black tea exported to the West is from India and the Camellia assamica plant from which Indian tea is made produces higher levels of caffeine than from the Camellia sinensis variety that is used for Chinese teas. Futhermore, the oxidization process used in making Chinese black teas appears to reduce caffeine content rather than increase it as previously thought. So when you compare Chinese green tea to Chinese black tea, caffeine content in Chinese green teas seems to be higher than in Chinese black teas. Both are less than Indian black teas and all teas are significantly less than coffee.
Of all teas, green teas have the highest caffeine levels followed by Oolongs and then Black tea. This comes as a surprise to many people because green tea does not taste as strong as Oolong and Black Tea. Green teas (along with Yellow and White Teas) have a subtle taste but use the least amount of processing to produce the tea, so most of the natural caffeine from the plant is still intact in the leaves. The process used to manufacture Oolong and Black teas removes more of the caffeine.
One of the strongest tasting Chinese teas is Pu-erh tea which has some of the lowest caffeine levels due the processing methods used and the fact that they are aged and the caffeine breaks down over time.
But there is a way to reduce the caffeine level of any tea if you are sensitive to it. Any tea is best enjoyed using the traditional Chinese method of tea-making known as Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill). This highly controlled method of tea-making is characterized by using small teapots and multiple brews with very short steeping times of just a few seconds. This intensifies the flavour of tea and reduces caffeine levels. Using this method, the first brew is for washing the leaves and is poured away, so it is not consumed. This also has the effect of washing away much of the caffeine which is highly soluble in water.
To learn about the traditional Chinese Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill) method of tea-making, see our guide “Gong Fu Cha - The Complete Guide to Making Chinese Tea – by Daniel Lui” in the Learn Section at www.TheChineseTeashop.com .
Traditional Chinese Medicine
For reference purposes only, we list some of the benefits of Chinese Teas as commonly recognized in Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Reduce fat, protein and low-density “bad” cholesterol
Rich in fluoride, promotes dental health
Reduce fatigue, stimulating the central nervous system
Promotes strong bones
Enhance blood vessel elasticity and strength
Tea catechins have anti-bacterial and anti-virus properties
Regulates cholesterol and high blood pressure
Bacterial killing properties in the mouth and intestines
Tea catechins and polysaccharides can lower blood sugar
Improves blood flow
Can reduce inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis
Can control insulin secretion
High source of Vitamin A, can prevent dry eyes and night blindness
Can reduce radiation levels and repair DNA damage
Polyphenols prevent tooth decay
High source of Vitamin C, good for the skin
Can reduce skin irritations
Can improve the performance of enzymes that break down fat and increases fat metabolism
Can lower cholesterol
Muscle relaxant in the bronchial tract
Can regulate body temperature
Aids digestion and fat break down
Has been used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis, colds, bleeding and hepatitis
High level of Vitamin C which is soluble in water and can be rapidly assimilated by the body