*The quick answer is none if you don't feel like reading the rest of this post!
This blog is a response to a question we were asked on Facebook however, despite my best efforts to keep my reply short, I ended up writing far too much (too much for Facebook anyway). Being an interesting topic, and one that we're asked frequently about, I though I would write a fuller answer here.
Caffeine in tea is a slightly complicated issue with a lot of conflicting information available online (much of which is based on speculation or research of dubious origin). This post however is a simple, non-scientific, response based upon what I've read, discovered for myself, or from discussions with experts over the course of my career.
All 'real tea' - anything derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant, as opposed to herbal infusions or tisanes - that have not undergone any major treatments, will contain caffeine. Therefore, everything we sell at driftwood tea should be considered to be caffeinated.
The Camellia Sinensis plant however also contains one of the highest natural sources of the amino acid, L-Theanine. Theanine, in combination with caffeine, promotes a sense of relaxation in humans as opposed to the strong jolt of caffeine one might expect from drinking a cup of strong coffee.
It's the presence of Theanine that means in moments of shock or distress, in Britain anyway, you are more likely to be offered a relaxing cup of tea as opposed to a shot of espresso!
So, while all tea is caffeinated if you are not overtly sensitive to caffeine, it can provide a relaxing drink which many can consume later at night without potentially upsetting sleeping patterns.
There are certain teas I personally find more relaxing than others. I regularly drink oolong at night without any detrimental effects to my sleep (especially if I'm using older leaves that I may have infused a couple of times earlier in the day).
Our Organic GABA Oolong from Taiwan and our Organic Ruby Oolong from Thailand (another GABA tea) are perhaps some of our most relaxing. There is evidence which shows that GABA Oolong may decrease anxiety while promoting a mindful state of relaxation due to its naturally elevated levels of Gamma Aminobutyric Acid along with Theanine.
While it is possible to buy decaffeinated teas, decaffeination generally takes place by soaking the leaves in some form of alcohol. While this leaches away most of the caffeine, it will also remove most of the flavour and benefits that would otherwise be found. For me this seems to defeat the purpose. Additionally I have never found, or been offered, a decaffeinated tea from any of the artisan producers or farmers we buy from.
We are frequently asked if Silver Needle White Tea contains low levels of caffeine? This seems to be a fairly common belief and one that is perpetuated by even the biggest tea manufacturers who have products in supermarkets here in the UK.
Most experts now agree that this is not the case.
Silver Needle, being the youngest of all teas, perhaps contains the most highly concentrated levels of caffeine however, this rise in caffeine is somewhat offset by an increased concentration of amino acids etc. Certainly in my own experience I'm most acutely aware of caffeine - tea drunkenness - when I've tasted a lot of Silver Needle however, others may find the opposite.
Overall, if you really want a caffeine free drink, your best choice is to avoid real tea! On occasions where I wish to limit my caffeine intake the hot drinks I go for are: Earl Grey Rooibos; Sleepy Time tea; or Chamomile - all which come in bags and contain no ‘real tea’ whatsoever - though lets just keep that last bit our secret!