The 10 Best High Caffeine Teas
A Brief History Of Tea
It wasn't until the following century, however, that the first tea leaves actually reached Europe, courtesy of the Dutch East India Company.
The Yunnan Province in southwestern China is said to be the birthplace of tea. The oldest cultivated tea tree in the world, estimated to be around 3,200 years old, can be found there in the city of Lincang.
There are many legends surrounding the discovery of tea in China, but one of the most popular attributes it to the legendary Emperor Shennong, who lived about 4,500 years ago. As the story goes, at the time there was a decree that all water must be boiled before drinking. Shennong was preparing to sip from his bowl of freshly boiled water, but as it was cooling, a gust of wind blew leaves from a nearby tree into it. The leaves changed the color of the water and imparted it with a light and pleasant flavor. The Emperor immediately felt its restorative power, and shared his discovery with his subjects.
While the Emperor's story is compelling, it's probably a myth. Historians believe tea drinking comes from ancient, pre-Dynastic traditions in southwestern China. Whatever its roots are, there's no denying tea's importance in Chinese culture and its global impact.
By the end of the first millennium C.E., tea drinking had spread throughout Asia. Up until that point, leaves were usually compressed into dehydrated bricks for consumption. During the Chinese Song Dynasty, which lasted from 960 to 1279, loose-leaf styles that closely resembled those we drink today became popular. In the year 1391, the Ming court decreed loose tea was the only kind acceptable for tributes, further tipping the scales in favor of the full-leaf production style.
European explorers in Asia documented the consumption of tea throughout the 16th century. It wasn't until the following century, however, that the first tea leaves actually reached Europe, courtesy of the Dutch East India Company. By 1636, the drink had gained significant popularity in France. By 1689, caravans of hundreds of camels delivered tea by land to Russia on a regular basis.
While tea is often associated with Indian culture, it was actually introduced as a crop there by the British in the 19th century as a means of breaking up China's global monopoly. In a mission overseen by the British East India Company, tea plants were stolen from China and brought to Indian soil. The British used Chinese planting and cultivation techniques and offered free Indian land to any European willing to grow tea for export. By the early 1900s, India was the world's top tea producer, though it was recently surpassed by China once again. Long seen as a symbol of colonialism there, local consumption in India only took off in the 1950s, after a successful ad campaign by the India Tea Board.
Some Notes About Tea And Caffeine
Contrary to popular belief, tea is actually more caffeinated than coffee, at least by weight. However, it takes far fewer grams of tea leaves than it does of ground coffee to produce a single cup, so a mug of coffee does tend to contain more caffeine than the same amount of brewed tea.
Once it's picked, the way it's prepared also changes the degree of pick-me-up you'll find in your cup.
While a cup of coffee usually contains around 100 mg of caffeine, only the blackest of teas extracted in the perfect conditions can come close to that mark. A cup of unadulterated black tea usually hovers in the 60 to 90 mg range. Green tea comes in second, with between 35 and 70 mg, while white tea typically has a bit less than that amount.
The body absorbs tea's caffeine more slowly than that of coffee, which means you might get more bang for your buck from the steeped stuff despite its lower content. The slow release also helps you avoid the jitters and crash often associated with coffee consumption. In addition, tea naturally contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which promotes calmness and relaxation and tends to produce a mindful alertness when combined with caffeine, as opposed to a wired feeling.
There are a host of other factors that can effect your tea buzz. Younger plants tend to contain higher quantities of caffeine — its naturally bitter taste renders the plants less desirable to potential predators, improving the young plant's chances of maturing to adulthood. Other factors including climate, time of harvest, soil nutrients, and rainfall have an impact on a given tea plant's caffeine levels. Once it's picked, the way it's prepared also changes the degree of pick-me-up you'll find in your cup. Water temperature, steeping time, and vessel choice (tea bag, strainer, or loose leaf), all have an effect.
Understanding The Different Types Of Tea
While there are seemingly endless types of tea on the market, you might be surprised to learn that it all comes from a single plant. Camellia sinensis is a small, shrublike, evergreen tree, known in English as the tea plant or tea tree, though it is not the source of tea tree oil, which actually has nothing to do with the tea plant.
Green tea leaves are typically scalded after harvest, then rolled and dried.
It's a common misconception that different varieties of tea are made from different plants. The names of some varieties, such as jasmine, simply indicate herbs or botanicals that are added to actual tea leaves. Names like Darjeeling or Ceylon actually refer to the region where the tea is grown, not variations of the plant itself. Still other classifications, such as oolong, indicate the way the leaves are cured or fermented after harvest.
While it might seem like black, green, and white tea would come from different plants, those designations actually have to do with time of harvest as well as how the leaves are dried and their levels of oxidation. White tea comes from the youngest clippings, which are fried or steamed before drying to halt the oxidation process. Green tea leaves are typically scalded after harvest, then rolled and dried. Black tea comes from the most mature leaves and is allowed to oxidize or ferment before drying, which helps embolden its flavor.
There are plenty of tea-like beverages that do not contain actual tea leaves, such as herbal teas and yerba maté. However, these are not truly tea, and the British tend to refer to them as "infusions" to avoid confusion.