season 2 | ep. 14

mini episode:
caffeine in tea: what
does it really mean?

mini episode:
caffeine in tea:
what does it
really mean?

with Nadia De La Vega
& Celia Aceae

Nadia De La Vega & Celia Aceae

steeping together podcast
- season 2 | Ep. 14

mini episode: caffeine in tea: what does it really mean?

with Nadia De La Vega & Celia Aceae

Date:
june 2022
Length: 43:51 see all
episodes
Listen on:

episode transcript

Marika de Vienne 0:18

Welcome, everyone to a special mini episode of Steeping Together, where we explore a specific topic within the vast world of tea with a tea enthusiast. I'm your tea-obsessed host Marika, and as typical as ever, I am delighted to be here today. We are finally getting a chance to dig deeper into the seemingly simple world of caffeine and tea. A hot-topic issue that seems to be on most of our customers minds when they are drinking tea. Caffeine can simultaneously be seen as an ally for those of us seeking more energy, and the main enemy to getting that oh so important good night's sleep. To help me unpack this most fascinating topic I have enlisted the help of not one but two of my colleagues to answer all things caffeine. Welcome our two returning guests Nadia De La Vega and Celia Aceae!

Nadia

Hello!

Celia Aceae 1:18

Hi, thanks for having us.

Marika de Vienne 1:20

So excited to have you. Before, okay before we get to it, who are you? Would you care to introduce yourselves?

Nadia De La Vega 1:29

I'm Nadia De La Vega, the Director of Tea Sustainability and Content. I started working here at DAVIDsTEA for almost 10 years, focusing mainly on regulatory affairs when I began and before that, before working in this wonderful world of tea, I studied chemistry and I did a little bit work in an analytical lab. So I'm warning you. Things might get nerdy.

Celia Aceae 1:56

I can't wait. I'm Celia, I am a Tea Specialist here at DAVIDsTEA and I originally studied conservation and horticulture, which are two topics that contain a lot of botany. I generally tend to say I studied plants for 11 years of my life. And during that time I spent a lot of time working for DAVIDsTEA as well. So I started in stores and then came into the lab here to share plant knowledge in abundance, which I cannot be more thrilled about. And I love working with both of you because we do get very nerdy, and I can't wait to get deep into this topic, which I was surprised to hear you say might be simple, because it's anything but.

Marika de Vienne 2:42

It is anything but and that's why I really needed both of your brains. I really need people not only who you know, having experience with tea is something, it's easy to find in this office, right? We have such an amazing team with so much diversity and background and knowledge. But I think the reason I said it was simple is because technically you look at certainly our packaging, and it has the caffeine level and you're on your merry way. There's your answer. Is it caffeinated, is it not? How high is the caffeine? I want caffeine, I don't want caffeine, end of story. And that is literally never the end of the story. Because we should say that together we have over 40 years experience in the tea world. Do you ladies agree that flavour is the number one factor that people consider when they're buying a new tea?

Celia Aceae 3:36

Yes, in general, but I would say it kind of depends on the segment of the customer. If they are looking for function, or if they're looking for flavour first because I don't think that those always overlap.

Marika de Vienne 3:47

Completely agree. Nadia, your take?

Nadia De La Vega 3:50

I agree, I think flavour, mood are like kind of what you're looking for. I think in North America, there's a lot of emphasis put in caffeine or function as well.

Marika de Vienne 4:02

So caffeine comes in second, almost kind of across the board of those people, of that customer segment, right. The flavour seeker, the wellness seeker, the mood, the function, you know. All of those things. You'll have different people looking for teas for different reasons. But I really find that the second question is almost always related to how caffeinated is this tea?

Celia Aceae 4:30

Well, I think that makes sense. Because caffeine is something that affects us. I would say most of us, whether it be one way or another. And so I think that it's one of those components in anything that we consume, where we see an effect immediately, or very close to immediately, so because you can witness that effect in your body yourself it is something that you're conscious of when you're choosing a product to consume.

Marika de Vienne 4:55

Now to that excellent point, Celia, how caffeinated are you ladies right now? Because I am in that two o'clock slump, like right before we started recording. I was like, no, no, no, no, no, there's no way I'm going into this. I mean, I always have a cup of tea, but specifically I was like I need something caffeinated and I need something caffeinated right now in order, certainly to have a conversation about caffeine. So we're, it's two o'clock in the afternoon. Where are you ladies at, how caffeinated are you? Like your consumption from morning to right now?

Nadia De La Vega 5:29

Okay, I have to say, I'm the same. Right now, we always come with tea to all of the podcast recordings. To every meeting, actually.

Marika

Every single meeting!

Nadia

But especially for this one. I picked like a black, double caffeinated tea, because yeah, I feel like I need–we need to feel it! To speak about it. No I’m kidding.

Marika de Vienne 5:52

No, but it's true. It's true! Like we’re talking about caffeine. So it makes sense that we choose something caffeinated. But also it's that time of day, you need that boost, you need that energy. Celia did you go for something functional as opposed to something caffeinated?

Celia Aceae 6:05

I did both. So originally, yeah, last night I had a ton of caffeine, I drank a lot of tea. And so I didn't sleep much last night, I’d already had a lot of Honey Black. I slept maybe two hours. And I woke up still caffeinated, because sometimes that happens to me! And so then I just kept going with it. And I came in and I had a breakfast blend. And then I had a chai, and I actually liked my chai experience so much that I you know, I was gonna say like, maybe I should balance this out this afternoon and have something without caffeine. But then I thought, oh, no, we're recording this podcast, I should keep going.

Nadia

She’s riding the caffeine train.

Celia

So I'm just on this steady strain of caffeine. Last night, you know, I got a few comments about how hyped I was already. And I think that's just going to carry on. So I'm actually drinking David's Chai, has a nice blend of spices to it. I think it's very soothing. It's raining here today so I needed something a little bit spiced. It's fantastic.

Marika de Vienne 7:05

Look, this isn't on our outline, but I feel it is my responsibility as host to ask right now. Celia, are you okay? Because you're telling me, you're telling me you were so caffeinated last night, and you got two hours of sleep because of the amount of caffeine in your system. And this morning you decide to just just like ride that dragon and keep like, I am not a doctor, but I feel like I need to ask you like you, you good?

Celia

I’m fantastic.

Marik

Okay, then we shall continue. Nadia, did your double caffeine dose–like are you ready? Because I'm gonna open… You're riding the wave this way! All right so here we go. Here's my first question. What is caffeine? Like we use that word all the time. I'm so caffeinated. Oh, that was so caffeinated. Oh, it's so strong. I'm sensitive to caffeine. I love caffeine. But honestly, like, what is it?

Nadia De La Vega 7:59

I love that you asked this question. But you also own a necklace with the caffeine molecule and you wear it often.

Marika de Vienne 8:08

I do wear it often. I try to fit in Nadia, I try to fit in with the other scientists in this office. I do not have a science background. And I thought if I get a necklace with the caffeine molecule, like maybe they’ll let me in, it's worked. I mean…like it's an excellent point, I definitely have this necklace of the caffeine molecule. I understand that it's a molecule. End of list.

Nadia De La Vega 8:33

Okay lovely. Okay, so first things first, let's start very general. Caffeine is a naturally-occurring organic compound that is produced by many plants, and it's very soluble in water. And like Celia mentioned earlier, it's something that it's very present or a lot in people's minds, because we see a direct reaction in human bodies and the central nervous system. So people get alert, they feel a decrease in fatigue, it enhances the mood. So I think that's what Celia’s trying to go to get,

Celia

Love the mood enhancement.

Nadia

That’s in all what it is. But why do plants make it or why some foods have it? Celia?

Celia Aceae 9:22

I'll step in here. From a plant perspective, caffeine is a naturally occurring insecticide that the plant is producing to try and protect itself. And we actually see this in a lot of other plants and a lot of other compounds that plants are producing. Generally a lot of terpenes or like flavour components of plants are associated with those benefits as well. So plants are producing tons of aromatic oils that protect themselves. And caffeine is just another layer in the defence against insects and the world.

Nadia De La Vega 9:57

Question, because caffeine is bitter. Do most insecticides that plants produce, do they normally tend to be bitter?

Celia Aceae 10:05

Not always, no. So I'm thinking of a lot of terpenes that plants produce. So when you think of eucalyptus, for example, all of those high concentration of oils are also naturally occurring insecticides, and I don't think of them as particularly bitter. I think that the ones that are tannic in nature might be, but the ones that are maybe oil-based or terpene-based, I mean, I'm not a chemist. I'm gonna say right there that, you know, you have a very, very, very, very high magnification on what you're looking at. It's kind of like a very, you can look at everything through a microscope, and you understand the world on a very particular level. And I think that I'm like one step more general than you are.

Nadia De La Vega 10:53

No it’s just different views, because I think that I, because of my background in chemistry, I like to see the similarities in the molecular structure, whereas you see it more of how it all interacts within the plant.

Celia Aceae 11:05

And also from a flavour like, I guess from an herb background of just like trying a lot of these herbs and plants myself. And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm like, yeah, when I chew on a eucalyptus leaf, which maybe isn't the most recommended, it is pretty bitter and it's a very intense experience. So I would have to read a little bit more about that.

Marika de Vienne 11:26

I love that Nadia, you had a question for Celia and I want to encourage both of you to do that, because I'm coming at it from a perspective of like, what is it, you know, and you guys have so many insights. So please continue. But I do have one kind of burning, I have a lot of burning questions, but one of them is, is caffeine bad for you? Because it's just a conversation you have with people all the time, like, oh, I can't have any more, or I react so badly to it. Inherently, is it bad for you?

Nadia De La Vega 11:57

I like that you start with that, because I do think that caffeine is very personal. And it really affects people differently. And different people have different tolerances to caffeine, like Celia probably has a very high tolerance.

Marika de Vienne 12:10

Apparently! I mean, she's not rattling down the halls of the office, she's quite cogent at the moment.

Celia Aceae 12:18

Let’s admit that it's really dependent on other things that are going on. You know, I think that mental health in general is dependent on a lot of factors. And so how you react to, you know, external factors is always going to be dependent on all the other things going on in your life as well. So like, Oh, for sure, you know, right now, I can handle a lot of caffeine. A year ago, maybe I couldn't, you know, I wasn't in that headspace, I couldn’t handle a ton of caffeine. So I think that that is also hugely dependent.

Nadia De La Vega 12:44

Oh, for sure. There's even maximum daily intakes of caffeine even here in Canada, Health Canada recommends a daily maximum for children and for adults as well. So I think it also comes into play, depending on how your body reacts. So for example, if it makes you really anxious and nervous, then, or if you're already in that space, of being very nervous and stressed, maybe you don't want to consume.

Celia Aceae 13:13

Yeah, and I think like anything in excess, it can be bad, whereas like, in a little bit, in a small dose it can be good. And yeah, it's very person dependent. I think if I look at a lot of heart medications, for example, they incorporate a lot of plants where at a high dose could kill you because of a heart attack or, you know, but when they're incorporated into a medication and a very small dose is actually what’s saving you or helping you. So I think that to label something as good or bad is maybe something we should explore through like Harry Potter or some other topic.

Marika de Vienne 13:49

You're trying to not put necessarily like the value judgement attached behind the words good or bad on something that–moderation in all things, right? And know how you yourself reacting to something is more important than what a label says.

Celia Aceae 14:06

Yeah and we can’t just label things good or bad all the time.

Marika de Vienne 14:10

It’s a larger question. It's one that I'm interested in, but we're gonna have to put a pin in it and go back to Nadia. Nadia, you were talking about the recommended dosage by Health Canada, and that's interesting, because I mean, there aren't a lot of studies as related to caffeine specifically in tea, like there's still a lot of new stuff emerging. But at least Health Canada had this to say.

Nadia De La Vega 14:32

Yeah, so Health Canada recommends the maximum daily caffeine intake for children between four to six years of age to be 45 milligrams of caffeine. They say that that's about a can of cola, and for example, for us at DAVIDsTEA, our high caffeine rating is 40 milligrams per cup.

Marika de Vienne 14:52

So that's for a child from four to six. I mean, obviously, if you're as an adult…

Nadia De La Vega 14:58

It's different, they also say that teens should follow precautionary recommendations and they give like a caffeine per kilogram. And they said that the limit for an adult should be around 400 milligrams per day.

Marika de Vienne 15:13

So that's roughly 10 cups of tea per day?

Nadia De La Vega 15:17

Yes, but it has to be very caffeinated, like highest caffeine.

Marika de Vienne 15:21

I'm talking about myself here. And I'm like, because I'm rolling at about eight, I'm averaging about eight cups. So I'm still within the norms. That's wonderful, very reassuring. Thank you, Nadia. Because sometimes I worry!

Nadia De La Vega 15:35

We can have 10 cups. No, I'm not saying–that's not, no!

Marika de Vienne 15:39

Again, moderation and all things, but in referring to, you know, is it good or is it bad? And we've acknowledged that that's not necessarily the best verbiage to attach to it, you still need a lot of, I mean, eight cups of tea. I'm bordering on having a problem. You know, it's, not, I’m still not in dangerous levels according to Health Canada. According to myself, I could push it much further, quite frankly. Celia is proving that as we speak. But you know, according to Health Canada's thanks, you know, that that's kind of the guidelines.

Nadia De La Vega 16:11

I feel like it's kind of reassuring, especially for all of us that drink copious amounts of tea throughout the day. I'm like, Oh I'm average. Okay, I'm good. There’s a limit–

Marika

And you haven’t reached it yet!

Celia Aceae 16:25

I like that you that you specified that, you know, this is still something that we're doing a ton of research on. And something that I love about the tea world is that we're constantly learning new things. And so even in, you know, when we were preparing for this podcast episode, we did a little, you know, review of the things that we talked about regularly. And I think that I feel generally prepared to answer people's caffeine questions. But I started to get a lot more in depth about what I was reading. And the truth is that every time we learn something new, we have something new to counteract that. So, you know, we might be very confident in what we're saying right now and then a year from now, we might disprove that as well, because this research is still so fresh, and we're still examining so many different things. And because tea is not just caffeine, and it's not just L-theanine, and it's not just, you know, flavour, it's so much more than that. And there's so many things that go into a single plant leaf, that affect us as humans, and that also affect the flavour and the action of the plant or the growth and everything that goes into it. So I think that I really like your specification, that this is a conversation that we're having, based on what we've learned and what we know, but that it's constantly changing.

Nadia

Research is awesome.

Celia

We love research

Marika de Vienne 17:40

We love research. It's so fascinating. And I mean, I think we can all agree that that's one of the reasons we love working in the tech industry. That literally every single day, and I'm not exaggerating, this is not hyperbole, every single day in this office I learn something new. When we were prepping this podcast episode, I had like five truth bombs just kind of dumped on me. And I've been working in the tea industry for years, but I'm never going to know it all. And that's the appeal. Okay, having said how, long I've been working in the tea industry, I'm now quite possibly going to embarrass myself with the next question. Does tea contain less caffeine than coffee? And I would like to give you what I have heard and you can tell me if I'm anywhere near the ballpark of correctness. Okay, I have heard that yes, tea contains less caffeine than coffee, but it is the polyphenol of L-theanine that distributes the caffeine of tea more slowly in your system than the caffeine contained in coffee. Have you ever heard such a thing? Am I anywhere near being correct? And also what did I just say as a sentence?

Nadia De La Vega 18:55

Okay, I haven't heard that before.

Marika de Vienne 18:57

Okay, great. I don't think I made it up. I'm in the habit of dreaming things into reality. But I mean!

Nadia De La Vega 19:06

So caffeine is a stimulant, L-theanine is an amino acid. The amino acid, this specific amino acid that's unique to tea plants is said to have an effects of calming and kind of focusing in the brain. I'm not a biologist.

Marika

You’re a chemist.

Nadia

I’m a chemist. But I think it regulates GABA in the brain. That's what I've read in research.

Marika de Vienne 19:31

I'm gonna trust your research more than mine.

Nadia De La Vega 19:34

Does that mean that the way that the caffeine is delivered? I don't, I don't know.

Marika de Vienne 19:41

Okay, I only bring it up because I feel like there's been so much misinformation surrounding caffeine in tea versus caffeine in coffee, that publications have just started going rogue and just kind of putting any kind of information or you know, to your earlier point Celia, maybe they were basing it off research at the time and because there's so much more research now, it's been proven to be incorrect. So very simply, let's just, I'm gonna erase my brain caffeine in tea versus caffeine in coffee, who has more and why?

Nadia De La Vega 20:13

Coffee, definitely a cup of coffee. I'm just gonna talk really analytically. A cup of coffee has more caffeine than a cup of tea. So let's put numbers to that. So a cup of coffee generally has 140 milligrams of caffeine in an eight ounce cup. Whereas, a cup of tea and range, let’s say I'm talking about just the pure leaf tea, so Camellia sinensis, can range between 20 milligrams to 100-110 milligrams of caffeine. So, yes, who has more? 140 is more than 110.

Marika de Vienne 20:49

You’re using basic math here, keeping it simple for me, thank you, I love it.

Nadia De La Vega 20:54

Keeping it simple. Coffee has more caffeine than the highest caffeinated tea, yes.

Celia Aceae 20:58

Okay, I want to jump in. All right. So we talked a little bit earlier about how caffeine is a naturally occurring insecticide. And that means that the levels in every plant change. And so that changes with environment, that changes with temperature, and it changes with insect presence, it changes with elevation. There are so many different things that impact the concentration of caffeine in the tea leaf as it's growing, that it's really hard to trace and to peg down and say like, you know, all teas fit this, or all teas fit into this category. And the same goes for coffee as well. So to your earlier question about L-theanine and caffeine, I think they're doing many studies where they're looking at, you know, how caffeine impacts people, and then they're, you know, they're just giving caffeine and then they're giving caffeine with L-theanine, and they're giving just L-theanine. And that's still to be determined. But we know that, you know, as the plant changes–So plants do this really cool thing where when they're under attack, or when they're under threat, they kind of do this growth-defence trade-off. So they might increase production of one element or one component in the leaf and decrease production of another. And so that can change how you're intaking caffeine, absorbing it, and what else you're intaking and absorbing. And that's pretty neat. We do see that like the buds of the plant often contain more caffeine than further down the leaf because the buds need a lot more protection, they're quite young. And so the plant is putting a lot more into that as it's going. And so it just depends on like where your tea is being harvested, how it's being harvested, is it being shaded? Because we see that sometimes under shading conditions, the tea is producing more caffeine. Sometimes we see that as the tea is produced in higher elevations, because it's more slow growing, the concentration is a little bit higher of different components. So that can change and that changes for coffee as well. So there's always this huge range. And before we used to just label it as like, one tea type has around this much. And now that we're testing all the time, and we're putting so much more interest into this, I think we're learning that maybe we weren't always accurate in that, and that there's such a diversity for every tea type.

Nadia De La Vega 23:11

And just to clarify, when you say “we,” did you mean the tea industry? Or we DAVIDsTEA?

Celia Aceae 23:19

Well, yeah, good question. I think “we” as a tea industry, as a coffee industry, because you know, coffee is just as interested in caffeine content, if not more, because that's really what they're all about. You know, tea has many, many benefits and coffee really puts itself on that caffeine leg. That's what they're standing for. So I think that many industries that have caffeine are interested in this and are doing many tests. DAVIDsTEA as well, you know, we test all of our teas for caffeine content. And so we are contributing to our own understanding of caffeine and that's really exciting as well.

Marika de Vienne 23:56

So many things I want to pick apart about what you just said. I can tell already, this is not going to be a mini episode, like we're already heading into maxi territory. Okay, so I guess one question that I'll let you ponder on Celia, and then I will follow up with an immediate question for Nadia. What you just said is that caffeine is one of the many defences that plants will use against insects. If I'm just spitballing here, does that mean that organically produced teas inherently would have more caffeine because they don't have any pesticides? To stop–okay, think about your answer. And I have a question, because I want to pick apart something else that you said, but I think Nadia can answer this for me. Nadia, how exactly is caffeine measured?

Nadia De La Vega 24:49

Ooh that’s a good question.

Marika de Vienne 24:51

Thank you. I'm asking simultaneous questions.

Nadia De La Vega 24:54

So we send a tea to a lab where they do analytical testing–analytical testing! They do analytical testing on the steeped tea. And this is very important because the type of testing that we do, we're not testing the dry leaf, we're testing the tea following our steeping instructions.

Marika de Vienne 25:15

Right. So one Perfect Spoon to 16 ounces for four minutes. That's how we're measuring the caffeine.

Nadia De La Vega 25:22

That's how we're measuring. But because a standard cup size is an eight ounce cup size, when we're giving the results for caffeine or the range, we want people to easily compare it to a cup of coffee, or any standard cup of tea that they normally get, which is eight ounces. So we do the equivalent, but in eight ounces, so it would be half a Perfect Spoon in eight ounces. And we steep it according to the steeping instructions. So it's very important: temperature and time.

Marika de Vienne 25:54

Right because the way you steep your tea is going to affect your caffeine levels, right? Because, okay, again… You’re gonna play teacher, I'm going to try to regurgitate all this correctly. So if I took, gonna take half a Perfect Spoon for eight ounces, and I'm going to steep it for four minutes, it's a pretty standard infusion time across the board. But because I'm just loving my tea so much, if I steeped that exact amount of tea, at the same temperature for eight minutes, I would have a lot more caffeine.

Nadia De La Vega 26:30

Okay so here's the deal. I was reading a lot of research, and I found this so interesting. So like we said before, caffeine is easily soluble in water. Especially hot water. And there's many studies about this and how water extracts different compounds from tea and the rate of extraction. But it's very interesting to know that at a specific time, it seems like it won't extract more caffeine than what has been extracted. I even have a graph, I wish I could show people.

Marika de Vienne 27:08

It's a beautiful graph, and I'm so grateful that you brought it, but it does make sense because like if you just think of like cooking, right? If you put just oregano in a soup, which is essentially steeping. Even if you cook the soup, if you're making like one of those like long-cook stews, you put oregano, it's not like the essential oils from the oregano is gonna keep, you know, going into the soup. At a certain point it's done.

Celia

There’s a finite amount.

Marika

There’s a finite amount of like flavour in it. So it's the same principle with caffeine?

Nadia De La Vega 27:39

That's what this graph is telling me. Yes, and so if you have very low temperature water, and I'm talking very low, like–

Marika de Vienne 27:50

65-75?

Nadia

Let's say less, like 50.

Marika

Okay. Tepid, warm.

Nadia De La Vega 27:54

Very tepid, I don't seek to get that temperature. But this one specific research, I was looking at, water between 75 to 95 degrees Celsius, the caffeine level extracts at a very kind of consistent rate, there's not a significant variance between those, between that range of temperature. But if you go lower, it needs more time. So caffeine is more soluble in higher temperature. But at that specific rate between 75 and 95.

Celia Aceae 28:24

That’s interesting, because so when I was living in Japan, I was studying matcha. And I was working with this farmer. And he, one day I asked him because I was used to working in stores, and so many people had asked me at that point, you know, like, does it have caffeine, I knew that it was the most important thing that people were considering. And I found that Japanese green teas were generally quite caffeinated, that they affected me a lot. And so I asked him, like, what does the caffeine content look like in this? And how can, how can you alter that? And he just looked at me. First of all, he said, you North Americans are so obsessed with caffeine.

Marika

We are!

Celia

He said every time, every time I get someone from North America, that's the first question they asked me. And he said, anytime I get a visitor from somewhere else, nobody even thinks to ask me that question. So I thought that was very interesting. And second thing he said was, well, if I don't want caffeine, I just cold brew my tea. And I thought, oh okay, that's interesting. And so I took it back to Nadia and I asked her the same question, like Nadia is this true? And you confirmed that there is a lower infusion of caffeine, if I understood correctly, in the cooler temperature.

Nadia De La Vega 29:33

It takes more time to extract the caffeine. It would take way longer to extract if you want to use the same amount of caffeine, it would take longer.

Celia Aceae 29:44

But that being said, like if you're doing it for a shorter infusion in cold water, you're just not getting as much flavour in general either.

Nadia

Exactly.

Celia

So is that really what I want in my life? I like tea for the flavour.

(overlapping talking)

Marika

Okay, Celia, have you had time to think about the bug V organic V caffeine content question?

Celia Aceae 30:06

Okay. Very interesting. Depending on the country, there are different laws that regulate insecticides and pesticides. In general, in the places that I've visited and worked, insecticides are not the biggest pesticide that is being used. So pesticides can be broken down into different categories. And I would say that herbicides are a little bit more common in the tea industry, but still not that prevalent, because tea is, by nature, a very hardy plant. Which is great, it's great to know that we're consuming a plant that doesn't require much in the way of insecticides and herbicides, that's wonderful. In response to your other question, which was…

Marika de Vienne 30:48

Well do organic teas ultimately have more caffeine, not that they would be necessarily more caffeinated, but like, if you grew a green tea in one field with a bunch of pesticides, and you grew green tea in another field completely wild, organic, like nothing, there would be more insects, and the plants would need to protect themselves more. So would they ultimately have more caffeine content?

Celia Aceae 31:11

Right. And I don't know if we have the data to back that. But we do know that when there are insects present, more insects present, so like the leafhopper is one of the biggest insects that consumes tea plants, one of the biggest pests. That we do see, you know, an increase in certain compounds, like polyphenols. And we do you see an increase, as we see like stress, we see an increase in those, in flavonoids. And then we see a decrease in maybe like amino acids and things like that. So we do see that there is an impact as soon as there are insects present. And I think that that's a really interesting thing to explore more. But it is also you know, it comes down to so many other things that are going on in the plant as well. Like we discussed.

Nadia De La Vega 31:56

Interesting thing, piece of data. Our highest caffeinated tea is an organic black tea. And I'm drinking it right now. Do you want to guess which one it is?

Celia Aceae 32:07

Wow, okay. Okay, wait, it's the highest caffeinated tea. And it's an organic black tea?

Marika de Vienne 32:

Jasmine Black Pearls.

Nadia

Yes!

Marika

I didn't even go for the caffeine I just went for what would Nadia ultimately be drinking. We're all huge fans of Jasmine Black Pearls in this office, but if there were to be an ambassador…

Nadia De La Vega 32:31

Now that you guys were talking about like organics, I’m looking at the data. And a lot of the top caffeinated teas are organic. We’re connecting dots!

Marika de Vienne 32:40

We need to find the research. Ladies, we have our mission for the afternoon. We have to stop all work on anything else.

Celia Aceae 32:49

And we know that, you know, there are certain occurrences where we're encouraging insects to come and feed on plants.

Nadia

For the flavour.

Celia

For the flavour, like our Honey Black, because it does change the leaf composition so much. And so to that point, like a lot of polyphenols and a lot of flavonoids do come into play when there are higher insects, insect levels. So that's, there we go!

Nadia De La Vega 33:12

I'm just gonna make it easy because a lot of people please, we're talking about polyphenols and flavonoids. These are the things that people, when you read antioxidants, these are the molecules that we're referring to.

Marika de Vienne 33:27

Ohhh, because I hear flavonoid and I think flavour. And I hear polyphenol and I hear adaptability.

Nadia De La Vega 33:31

Both polyphenols and flavonoids have antioxidant capacity. So that's when people are like, Oh my God, there's so many antioxidants here. These are the compounds that we're talking about.

Marika de Vienne 33:43

Oh my god. Okay. So just, it's wonderful, it’s just so much. I'm thinking of like three other episodes that I want to do based on this episode alone, and it's wonderful. Okay, I have one last big question, which is, caffeine levels in white tea and maté specifically, because I have heard so much conflicting information. I've heard that white tea contains no caffeine. I've heard that white tea contains the most caffeine. I've heard that maté is more caffeinated than coffee. Like I've heard it all when it comes to these two categories. Whereas the other categories, the green, the oolong, the pu’erh, I feel like there's a general kind of consensus across the tea industry, across different countries, everyone's kind of more or less agreeing with the same thing. But when it comes to white tea, and maté, I don't know what to–I don't know what to believe anymore!

Nadia De La Vega 34:34

So I'm totally with you and understand your frustration because when I first started working in the tea industry, I would read a lot of books and a lot of magazines and it would be like, Oh, white tea, low caffeine, white tea, low caffeine. And then we started testing all our collection. Because we wanted data. We want data to be able to back the information that we're putting out there, and as a team of scientists, we wanted to make sure that we have the data of our teas. And we started sending the teas for testing specifically for caffeine. And Bai Hao Yin Zhen–

Marika de Vienne 35:11

The most famous white tea on the planet.

Nadia De La Vega 35:15

Came back as high caffeine.

Celia Aceae 35:17

But can this surprise us because when we think about it, it's almost entirely buds. That’s why it's chosen. And as we just discussed, buds often have the highest levels of caffeine.

Nadia De La Vega 35:28

But it's just because you told us this earlier.

Celia Aceae 35:31

So now we can’t be as surprised.

Marika de Vienne 35:34

I’m not as surprised. I think my thinking years ago was that because Bai Hao Yin Zhen was just buds and had no leaves, like you'll see in other white teas that are you know, the bud and the first two leaves and those two leaves are often green. When those teas would come back with a high caffeine content or high caffeine level, I'd be like, Oh, it's not because of the bud it's because of the two leaves attached. But here, what you're saying Nadia, is that it was the bud all along.

Nadia De La Vega 36:02

So the bud, and this is why I love data!

Celia

We love science!

Nadia

We love science! I love it because what you were talking about, Celia, about the leaf and when it's growing, protecting itself and producing more caffeine, we can see that in the tea. Because right before this episode, I also wanted to see another type of white tea that is also just the Camellia sinensis, but its buds and leaves. And that one has significantly lower caffeine than the buds only.

Marika de Vienne 36:32

Wow, fascinating. Okay, maté.

Nadia De La Vega 36:36

So maté, maté is another one that I get kind of riled up about. Because maté doesn't have high caffeine.

Marika de Vienne 36:44

Maté doesn't have high caffeine. Okay. I think I knew this, please to elaborate.

Nadia De La Vega 36:48

So maté is very stimulating, and I grew up drinking maté. My mom was from South America, so whenever I had a test or something, I was prone to get nervous. So she would brew me a cup of maté, because I wouldn't react to that caffeine, I would just be alert. But I wouldn't be jittery. And now that I'm older, and that we've tested, we know that maté has low caffeine, but it has other compounds in maté that also boost your focus. But is it caffeine? It's a mixture of caffeine and other compounds.

Celia Aceae 37:27

And this is exciting because this is still something that we're doing. We as an industry, not us specifically, are doing still doing tons of research on.

Marika de Vienne 37:34

I wish, I hope that research comes out soon because maté is the one type of infusion that makes me just irritable, and I'm not a nice person on maté at all. And now I'm wondering if it's because I turn into like a hummingbird with like hyper focus, I become really focused on the details when I drink maté. And that makes a lot of sense because I can drink so much caffeine and I don't get jittery and I don't, you know, caffeine in tea specifically. I don't get physically like, I don't get shaky or nervous or anything. But you give me one cup of maté , and clear the room. I will flip a table!

Nadia De La Vega 38:14

I'm the opposite.

Marika de Vienne 38:16

Okay! It goes to the point that you should know yourself. Like just because the research is out there, the information is out there, know how you react to it personally is so so so much more important than what any–not to throw shade on scientists–but what any scientist can say.

Nadia De La Vega 38:30

Yeah, 100% you need to know your body and know what works for you. And you can do that by tasting different teas or different foods. And that's where you're like, oh, you know what, at this specific time, I want to switch to a low caffeine. And there's other people that are like, I don't care, I can drink high caffeine until bedtime.

Marika de Vienne 38:53

We're all individuals and I love it. Okay. Another question is, we talk about, in our society we talk about caffeine in tea. We talk about caffeine in sodas. We talk about caffeine in coffee. It seems to be that like caffeine is really a beverage-centric conversation. But there are plenty of foods out there that also have caffeine. So can you just give me just a little roundabout of like what does that mean? Because we're always, like you said people are watching their caffeine intake, but focusing solely on what they're drinking and then eating like an entire chocolate bar, which is like so much caffeine in it.

Nadia De La Vega 39:33

I see it more when people come and say like, Oh, I'm gonna make a tea for my kid, but I only want caffeine-free. But then that same person can give their kid a can of soda, can of cola. Cola will have way more caffeine. So like we said, one kind of cola has around 45 milligrams of caffeine. A milk bar has around five milligrams of caffeine.

Celia

Chocolate? Like milk chocolate?

Nadia

Yeah milk chocolate, sorry. And dark chocolate has around 20 milligrams of caffeine. To put that into perspective. So let's talk about our caffeine, so our caffeine rating, low caffeine is from one to 20 milligrams. So all of these things that I mentioned, like the milk chocolate bar would be low caffeine. So let's equate our low caffeinated teas to a milk chocolate bar.

Marika de Vienne 40:31

Okay, fair enough.

Nadia De La Vega 40:33

A medium caffeine tea has between 20 to 39 milligrams of caffeine per cup. That would be equivalent to a dark chocolate bar. And high caffeine would be a kind of cola.

Marika de Vienne 40:48

I feel like we should change the graphic on our packaging. To be like this tea is a milk chocolate bar. This tea is a dark chocolate bar and this is just straight up cola. I feel like I would understand that on a daily intake level much better than I currently do. Thank you Nadia for explaining it to me like I’m 5. Because I really feel like the visual is so much clearer in my mind than saying, you know, 20 milligrams, 50 milligrams. I'm not going to remember this halfway through the day, I have a life, I have responsibilities, those are details, but the milk chocolate dark chocolate soda? I am taking that for the next 10 years. That is amazing. Well, ladies, I cannot thank you enough, I do worry that we haven't simplified anything. You know what I mean? I think I did say that, you know, caffeine is seemingly simple, when in fact, it's an ever evolving field of research. It will affect everyone independent of each other very, very differently. There are several horticulture factors that come into play, there are certain steeping factors that come into play. And that literally will make every single cup slightly different from the next and how you react to it slightly different than the last time you had it.

Celia Aceae 42:08

I think if we take one thing away from this, it's that we can't make generalisations. I think that's the most important thing that, you know, I could spend a week researching caffeine and still not know even the tip of the iceberg. And I think that, you know, we can't make generalisations about tea types, about coffee, about tea, anywhere in there, that everything is so specific, and that there are, you know, our bodies are impacted by every little thing around us. And plants are impacted by everything little thing around them. And the interaction between both is always going to change.

Nadia De La Vega 42:41

And that's why we're so passionate about tea.

Marika de Vienne 42:44

Yeah, that's why we like the research and the drinking of the tea and the talking about it. There's just so much.

Celia

We love it.

Nadia De La Vega 42:51

And the experience, because like you're saying it can change drastically. So then I love to experience it to be like, Okay, what is it that I like? What is it that works for me?

Celia Aceae 43:02

Be curious.

Marika de Vienne 43:04

I cannot thank both of you enough, because you've not only taught me so much live in this podcast, but also about caffeine when we were researching it. I know you're gonna continue to teach me so much more in the future. You're just amazing and delightful and I thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.

Celia Aceae 43:23

Thanks for having us!

Marika de Vienne 43:24

Any time, and thank you for listening to today's mini episode. If you would like to reach us with comments, questions or topics for another mini episode you can do so at steeping.together@davidstea.com or through our website davidstea.com. Have a great week, happy steeping everyone.

nadia de la vega

nadia de la vega

about the guest

Nadia De La Vega’s tea journey has been anything but linear. Growing up in Mexico, tea was not a common beverage... but luckily for Nadia, her mother would brew black loose leaf tea every morning. She completed her science degree in Montreal, where she developed an affinity for food pairing and recipe development. Joining the DAVIDsTEA family in 2012 (and we are SO glad she did!), she put her superpowers to use to help develop tea-based recipes. As the Director of Tea Sustainability and Content at DAVIDsTEA, Nadia and her team primarily oversee sustainability initiatives and tea knowledge across the brand while ensuring all tea information is authentic, fun and relatable. You can normally find her drinking a cup of Orange Pekoe or Organic Jasmine Black Pearls, while working on impact initiatives and indulging in some serious tea talk!

celia aceae

celia aceae

about the guest

Celia’s obsession with tea began as soon as she could sip. Motivated by her love of plants (and insatiable curiosity), Celia studied conservation and natural resource compliance at Lethbridge College in Alberta. She went on to obtain a Red Seal in horticulture from the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, and currently works as a Tea, Herb & Sustainability Specialist at DAVIDsTEA. But we’re not done yet! Celia has also completed an additional bachelor’s degree of Science in Horticulture, basically proving that her love of tea and plants is no passing fancy. With an encyclopedic knowledge of plants and their various impacts on individuals as well as the planet, Celia has committed most of her time to the proliferation of tea and plant knowledge. As a trained Tea Sommelier, she brings joy to those around her by sharing a cup of tea with anyone and everyone, at any time. Fun fact: she lived in Japan for three months studying matcha production and the Japanese tea ceremony, so quiz her, she loves it!

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Marika De Vienne
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