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Frequently Asked Questions about Tea

Q. Does tea contain caffeine?
A. Yes, unless it is decaffeinated or it is a herbal tisane, tea contains caffeine. Health Canada reported that a 6 oz. cup of regular coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine whereas a 6 oz. serving of tea contains about 34 mg of caffeine. It should be pointed out that a pound of tea contains the same amount of caffeine as a pound of coffee. The difference is that a pound of tea will make about 180 servings whereas a pound if coffee makes about 60 servings. Even though tea and coffee contain the same amounts of caffeine pound for pound, the difference in yield results in a cup of tea having about 1/3 of the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Caffeine content is not related to the level of fermentation (white, green, oolong, or black) but instead more closely aligned to the type of leaf used. Teas with a high concentration of tips will contain more caffeine.

Q. Is there a way to decaffienate my own tea?
A. Yes you can. Caffeine is highly water soluble, and nearly 80% is extracted from the leaves in the first 20-30 seconds of steeping. If you wish to “decaffeinate” your own tea, the process is simple. Pour boiling water over the tea leaves, and allow to steep for a maximum of thirty seconds. Discard this water, and pour fresh boiling water over the rinsed leaves. Brew for the desired length of time.

Q. Is tea good for you?
A. Recent studies in the last 10 years undertaken at major medical universities in the United States have found that black and green tea are rich in polyphenols which are antioxidants. Antioxidants are known cancer inhibitors and studies have shown that people who consume 4 or 5 cups of tea per day have exhibited up to a 50% lower probability of contracting specific types of cancer such as breast and colon cancer. Also in the last 2 or 3 years initial study results are showing that there is a lower incidence of heart disease amongst those who consume 3 or more cups of tea per day.

Q. Is the antioxidant level in all tea the same?
A. All teas are a good source of antioxidants. Research suggests that tea grown in different regions contain varying levels of flavonoid antioxidants. The length of brewing time will affect the release of flavonoid antioxidants. The majority of flavonoids are released within two minutes of brewing. The method of brewing also affects the amount of antioxidant in each cup of tea. Swirling tea bags within the cup tends to release the flavonoids faster than stationary tea leaves brewed in a teapot. This is why it is advised to stir the brewing tea leaves inside the pot a few times before pouring the tea.

Q. Does green tea have less caffeine than black tea?
A. Green tea and black tea come from the same plant – Camellia Sinensis – and as such contain more or less the same amount of caffeine. The difference is in the method of preparation. Caffeine is highly water-soluble at high temperatures and goes into solution very quickly. Generally green tea is prepared with water that is between 170°F to 180°F whereas black tea is prepared with water that is between 200°F and 212°F. Since black tea is generally prepared with water that is a higher temperature, more of the caffeine leaches into the tea resulting in higher caffeine readings. If green tea is prepared at the same temperature as black tea the caffeine levels are virtually the same.

Q. What does milk do to tea?
A. Milk alters the pH balance of tea and tends to make the tea smoother by reducing the acidic nature of tea.

Q. Should I drink tea with milk or without milk?
A. The consumption of tea with or without milk is a personal preference and it is for the tea drinker to make their choice and consume the tea in the manner they enjoy best.

Q. What is the difference between green and black tea?
A. The difference between green, black, and oolong teas result from the method of processing the leaves of Camellia sinensis undergo. Black tea is produced when newly harvested leaves are crushed or torn and exposed to the air. The leaves undergo a natural enzymatic process – the enzyme polyphenoloxidase contained within the leaf is exposed to oxygen when the leaves are crushed/torn. This then changes the colour of the leaves from green to a coppery brown and after drying or “firing” to black.

Green leaves are typically heated with steam or parched which stops and enzymatic activity. The leaves are then dried. The resulting dry (green) leaf produces a tea liquor which is pale green. Oolong tea is produced using the same process as black tea, however the time for enzymatic development is shorter than for black tea. Oolong tea produces a liquor that is midway in flavor and colour between green and black.

Q. Why is tea sometimes bitter?
A. Tea contains tannins and if a tea is allowed to steep too long, more of the tannins are released causing what some people say is a bitter taste. A dash of sugar can reduce this bitterness or alternatively add some milk, as this will reduce the pH level of the tea.

Q. What are tannins?
A. Tannin in a general term for flavonoids found in tea. Polyphenols is also a term that refers to specific chemical structure of the antioxidant compounds in other foods. However, tea flavonoids show specific antioxidant properties not found in other foods.