With all of the different kinds of tea and the various ways it can be prepared, it’s hard to know just how much caffeine you’re consuming.
If you’re trying to avoid caffeine, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy tea. Or, if you’re looking for a boost of caffeine, there’s a tea that can give you the extra pep, too.
The caffeine content in tea boils down to two factors: The kind of tea are you brewing and how long are you steeping it. Caffeine levels range between 10 mg (white tea) to as much as 80 mg (matcha). Higher water temperatures will release caffeine more quickly, and longer steeping times can compound the effect.
There are many reasons that people drink tea. For some, it’s cultural, while others sip hot or cold tea for the health benefits. Then there are those of us who drink tea to stay awake.
If you’re interested in how much caffeine is in the tea you’re drinking, and this article is for you. Keep reading for a guide to the caffeine content in tea.
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Levels of Caffeine in Tea
Tea has plenty of health benefits, which is one reason why it’s been so popular for literally thousands of years. But, as we’re learning more about the effects of caffeine, it’s becoming apparent that it can do quite a number on the human body.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy tea and reap the benefits of your favorite tea drink, but it is essential to be mindful of how much caffeine you’re consuming. Here’s a super basic guide to which tea has the most caffeine.
Caffeine Levels in Tea
|Herbal & Rooibos||Low||0 mg|
Factors in Tea’s Caffeine Content
As you can see from the table, there are varying amounts of caffeine for each kind of tea. That’s because several different factors impact how much caffeine is in each cup that you brew.
The caffeine in tea absorbs more slowly than most beverages. This slow rate of absorption, due to its high level of antioxidants, provides a more measured increase and release of caffeine into the system.
Tea does not offer the jolt and crash of other caffeinated foods.
There is an amino acid, only found in tea, called L-theanine. This amino acid has a calming effect that helps balance out the nervousness associated with caffeine.
A fascinating symbiosis exists in tea leaves. When any plant grows, the youngest leaves live at the top. Young tea leaves contain the highest amount of caffeine and antioxidants.
The more caffeine a tea leaf produces, the greater the antioxidant to counteract its effects.
The Steeping Curve
In the steeping process, caffeine and antioxidants don’t release at the same rate. Antioxidants release from the leaves faster at the beginning of the steeping process. Caffeine releases gradually throughout the steeping process, so it’s essential to steep tea properly to get the right balance.
Processing Tea Leaves
The variations of teas are limitless, but what we specifically refer to as proper tea are the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The whole process of how tea is made produces the many different varieties of tea.
The five-steps for processing tea are plucking (picking the leaves), withering (letting the leaves wilt), rolling (squeezing out the liquid and shaping the leaves), oxidizing (allowing the leaves to turn brown), and firing (drying the leaves).
Some tea experts will use the term fermentation when referring to oxidation, but they’re different processes. Oxidation is a process in which oxygen interacts with the enzymes of a plant.
Oxidation is what causes your fruit to turn brown, and a cut or bruise accelerates it. Think about what happens after you slice an avocado: that’s oxidation.
Oxidation is a crucial element in creating different types of tea. All tea leaves start as roughly the same color. The level of oxidation turns tea leaves from green to brown to black.
Caffeine in Tea vs. Coffee
Tea and coffee, as the two most common beverages in the world, have deep cultural connections. While coffee is associated with the fast-paced lifestyle of America, tea assumes a more elegant reputation in the United Kingdom, China, and Japan.
The history of tea traces back as far as 2700 B.C. in China where legend has it; a leaf fell from a tree into a pot of boiling water. The first signs of coffee in history occur much later, around 900 A.D., but it wasn’t until the 1400s that roasted coffee beans led to the beverage we recognize as coffee today.
Tea is renowned as the drink of kings and emperors. Historical economies relied on the tea trade. The Amazon of its day, the British East India Company, was created to exploit the trade of tea in the 1600s and expanded to rule India in the 19th century.
Tea was the spark alighting the fire of several wars.
Coffee was discovered by shepherds and considered a working-class beverage. Due to its energetic and jittering effects, controversy surrounds the drinking of coffee in history. Catholics opposed and regarded it as the devil’s drink until Pope Clement VIII approved it in 1605.
Today, some religions abstain from drinking coffee due to its addictive properties.
Tea in America
A widely accepted opinion that Americans will never embrace tea is due to the jolt it provides a capitalistic and workaholic society. While that may be true, tea has a checkered history in the United States.
The passing of the Tea Act by Parliament in 1773 levied a hefty tax on British tea, leading to the Boston Tea Party and Revolutionary War.
Americans in today’s world may also associate Tea with China. Chinese products are viewed suspiciously by American consumers as possibly being contaminated. Fear of Chinese products is a growing concern in the American culture war.
The Caffeine Battle
There is a myth in the comparison of caffeine content between drinking tea and coffee. In contrast, tea indeed contains more caffeine by dry weight than coffee, but consumption is the most valid measurement.
On average, it takes five-times more coffee than tea to brew the same size cup. In certain teas, caffeine may be more concentrated than coffee, but the fact that one must use much more coffee to make a single cup, usually means that coffee will have more caffeine than a cup of tea.
How Tea Measures Up Against Other Favorite Drinks
Caffeine appears in products from beverages to chocolate and even weight loss pills. How does the caffeine content measure in comparison to some of these products? It’s good to know just how much caffeine is in your drink, whether you’re ordering a chai tea latte, or a breve coffee. The chart below is a sampling of the caffeine content in milligrams per 100 grams of each food or beverage.
Find a more expansive list at foodfactsandtips.com.
This table compares tea and some other popular caffeinated beverages:
|Drink||Size in oz (mL)||Caffeine (mg)|
|Brewed black tea||8 (237)||47|
|Brewed black tea, decaf||8 (237)||2|
|Brewed green tea||8 (237)||28|
|Bottled tea||8 (237)||19|
|Brewed coffee||8 (237)||96|
|Brewed coffee, decaf||8 (237)||2|
|Espresso, decaf||1 (30)||0|
|Instant coffee||8 (237)||62|
|Instant coffee, decaf||8 (237)||2|
|Energy drink||8 (237)||29|
|Energy shot||1 (30)||215|
Brewing Tea to Fit Your Caffeine Needs
Since the caffeine content in tea is dependent on the factors we mentioned above, you can customize your cup of tea to suit your caffeine needs. Whether you’re feeling sleepy and you need a caffeine pick-me-up, or you need a relaxing cup of tea before bed, consider modifying these tea components for your taste.
Choose a Kind of Tea
When standing in the grocery store aisle, the tea selection can be overwhelming. Four basic styles compose the hundreds of variations on the shelf. The basic teas are augmented with fruit, herbs, and spices to concoct a tea for every palate and occasion.
White tea may appear white, green, or brown. It gets its name from the cottony white fuzz on the surface of the buds. White tea is unprocessed since the leaves are plucked and left to air-dry. The taste is light and mildly fragrant.
Green tea production involves the heating of the withered leaves after plucking. This process prevents the leaves from oxidizing. An interesting aspect of Green Tea is that after rolling, each shape creates a unique flavor. Green tea may have a taste ranging from grass to steamed vegetables.
Oolong Tea is probably the most complex of teas. As you may have noticed, not every type of tea undergoes every step of processing. Oolong Tea employs the entire process and goes a step further by repeatedly rolling and oxidizing.
The extra processing takes much longer but results in a smoother, more layered tasting tea.
Black tea is the most popular tea in the Western world due greatly to its use in iced teas. Black tea has a strong flavor. Like fellow coffee drinkers, Black Tea enthusiasts often add milk and sugar. It gets the black color from the complete oxidation of the leaves.
Pu-erh tea is aged tea and fermented tea. Like wine, Pu Erh Tea is aged for months or sometimes years. Also, similar to wine, this tea takes on different flavor profiles based on the aging process.
Iced Tea: Making iced tea is very similar to hot tea but in greater volume. Traditional iced tea uses strong black tea, but any style will work.
To make any plant into tea, simply pour boiling water over it. If you think about it, coffee is technically a tea since we pour boiling water over ground-up beans.
The methods for brewing tea can be simple, like dropping a teabag into a cup of hot water or sophisticated by using specific temperatures based on the type of tea. Patience is a crucial ingredient for making tea.
Every cup of tea starts with water. Good, clean water is vital for making tea. If your tap water has an iron or fluoride taste, so will your tea. It’s not necessary to use bottled water, but filtering your water will produce a better tasting tea.
Use a fresh pot of water. Don’t use water boiled previously. Boiling water repeatedly reduces the oxygen content and the flavor of the tea.
How Much Tea to Use
Using the correct ratio of tea to water produces the best-tasting tea and helps control the caffeine content. Ideally, the ratio should be a teaspoon of tea per eight ounces of water. Keep in mind; all cups are not the same size.
Leaf size factors into the ratio. Some large-leafed teas require more than a teaspoon, while other powder-like teas require less. Determining the amount of tea to use is not an exact science, so adjust to the strength you prefer.
The Tea Kettle
Tea kettles come in different shapes and sizes, but they all boil water. The best tea kettle is the one you like. Sure, one may boil a bit more quickly, and another looks sleek and stylish, but the old kettle passed down from your grandmother is probably the best.
Electric tea kettles usually boil water more quickly. Higher-end models may allow you to preset the temperature and turn off automatically.
Using a microwave to heat the water should be a last resort. Tea kettles heat your water to an even 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Microwaves heat water unevenly, creating pockets of hot and cold.
That’s not steam coming off the top of your mug in the microwave. It’s moist vapor condensing into mist as it contacts cooler air like when you see your breath on a cold day.
Temperature and Steeping
Perfectly steeping tea is an art and the proper temperature is vital. Steeping at a high temperature for too long will produce a bitter tea. Steeping at a cooler temperature or for too short of a period will produce weak tea.
Use this guide from Tea Cottage Mysteries for proper steeping times and temperatures (Fahrenheit):
- White tea for 2-6 minutes at 158-167 degrees
- Green tea for 2-4 minutes at 167-176 degrees
- Oolong Tea for 1-3 minutes at 185-206 degrees
- Black tea for 3-5 minutes at 195-212 degrees
- Pu-erh tea for 3-5 minutes at 195-212 degrees
- Herbal tea for 4-8 minutes at 212 degrees
The longer steeping time creates a stronger tea. Use the high-end temperature to begin the steeping, and allow for cooling to remain in the acceptable range for best results. Boiling water, 212 degrees, will cool to approximately 180 degrees after five minutes off the heat.
When to Add Milk
If you’re a tea with milk drinker, when should you add the milk? The timing is a personal preference bearing in mind that milk will cool the water when added before steeping. You also may want to steep for longer because milk is denser than water.
Your tea will not be as healthy or flavorful if you add milk before the steeping process.
When it comes to making tea, there’s no shortage of equipment and gadgets. Some of these tools produce better tea, while others simplify and improve the process.
Your infuser needs to be large enough to allow room for this expansion. It also needs to be deep enough to completely submerge the tea in the water and not rest on top. The surface of the water cools first and will cause weak tea.
Pots and Kettles
Glass teapots offer the best of both worlds since an infuser is usually built-in and removable. The advantage of a glass teapot is the ability to monitor the steeping visually. Seeing the tea grow stronger will let you know when it’s ready.
Glass teapots are also microwaveable.
Stainless steel tea kettles are more of an all-purpose tool in your kitchen. These kettles usually come with a whistling spout to alert you when the water is boiling. The better models have a thermally conductive base that will boil water more quickly.
These kettles are simply the best way to boil water.
Cast iron kettles also have a built-in infuser and heat quickly but don’t whistle or provide visual confirmation of steeping. An advantage of cast iron is that it can improve water quality by adding iron ions and absorbing chloride ions. Cast iron will also retain heat much longer than glass.
Electric tea kettles are available in glass, ceramic, and stainless steel. Electric kettles will heat your water quickly and keep it at temperature. These types of kettle generally don’t have an infuser. The primary advantage of electric kettles is convenience.
An essential kitchen thermometer is all you need to monitor the water temperature. Essential features for your thermometer are a large, digital display and long probe to reach the water in the kettle.
If continually checking the water creates a hassle for you, consider buying a teapot with a built-in thermometer.
Store loose tea in an airtight container that keeps out light. Ceramic or metal are the recommendations over any plastic container for loose tea. Glass containers will work if storing in a dark area like a closet or drawer.
Teabags should be kept in their original box or a sealed plastic container. Usually, plastic is the most airtight, and the teabag protects the tea from any contamination. For teabags with a paper wrapper, a glass container works fine too—no need to keep it in the dark.
If you prefer options in your tea selection, a tea chest is a convenient way to showcase your collection.
Can You Have Too Much Caffeine in Tea?
Moderating consumption is the key to extracting tea’s most significant health benefits. Exceeding 3-4 cups per day may elicit unwanted side-effects. Here are a few of the possible side effects from a Healthline article.
- Nausea may occur due to the chemical compounds in Tea. Especially when drinking tea on an empty stomach, tannins in tea leaves can irritate the digestive system.
- Reduced iron absorption could accompany the excess tannins from tea. Depending on your diet, this may lead to an iron deficiency.
- Overconsumption of caffeine in tea can result in headaches, heartburn, and sleep disorders.
Tannins and caffeine are links to most of the adverse effects of tea. The tolerance for these compounds will vary by individual. If you experience any of these symptoms, reducing the amount or changing the type of tea may provide relief. If not, consult a physician.
You can buy tea that’s naturally or chemically decaffeinated, or you can try doing it yourself. Enjoying the positive antioxidant effects of tea without caffeine can be a healthy alternative to regular tea. Check out this post if you’re interested in how the process works: How is tea decaffeinated?
Herbal tea is an infusion of edible leaves, roots, fruits, or flowers. It’s not the leaf of the Camellia sinensis plant, so technically not tea. The ingredients of herbal tea don’t contain caffeine in nature, so they’re not caffeinated.
You’re probably familiar with many herbal teas on the market like chamomile, hibiscus, peppermint, and ginger. Teas sold as homeopathic remedies for various minor ailments are herbal.
The primary benefit of herbal teas is the range of antioxidants available from the selected plants.
Buying decaffeinated tea in the store usually means a chemical process altered its composition. To best identify chemically modified tea, look for the word decaffeinated. Decaffeinated implies the removal of naturally occurring caffeine.
Tea decaffeinated by soaking in Methylene Chloride is the method for retaining the flavor but also not the healthiest. Methylene Chloride is banned in many countries, as is the importation of tea using this method.
Ethyl Acetate is used similarly by soaking the tea and extracting the caffeine. Ethyl Acetate is a chemical found naturally in tea. The term naturally decaffeinated refers to this method. Its primary use is for bagged tea.
Another “natural” method is pressure cooking the leaves using Carbon Dioxide. Decaffeinating with Carbon Dioxide leaves the flavors intact due to the size of the molecules. This method is the most popular for decaffeinating loose tea.
Do It Yourself Decaf
This method should be called less-caf, not decaf. The idea is rinsing the leaves before using them to make tea. Rinsing tea leaves is akin to reusing a teabag. You should expect your tea to turn out weak.
While you probably poured most of the antioxidants down the drain, maybe 20 percent of the caffeine went with it.
What is Caffeine?
We concern ourselves with consuming the right amount of caffeine, whether we want to sleep or pull an all-nighter. Caffeine is an integral part of all types of food and every culture, but do we know what it is?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly associated with staying alert. It accomplishes this by blocking a neurotransmitter called adenosine. Adenosine accumulates during the day, making us feel tired and sleepy.
Due to the combination of blocking tiredness and increasing arousal, caffeine gets labeled as a psychoactive drug. According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, a daily dosage of fewer than 400 milligrams is considered safe for most adults.
Caffeine, taken in the proper dosage, has several health benefits other than staying awake. Some of the benefits are substantial and may drive you to reconsider reducing your consumption.
- Caffeine is heart-healthy. A German study determined that the caffeine contained in four cups of coffee per day supports the cell function of the heart.
- Caffeine may help you survive kidney disease. A study of 2,238 patients concludes that caffeine may protect against death from chronic kidney disease (CKD).
- Coffee drinking may prevent skin cancer. Coffee consumption decreases the risk of melanoma.
- Caffeine intake reduces the risk of suicide. A study of men and women resulted in an association between caffeine consumption and lower risk of suicide.
Studies link the benefits of caffeine to everything from preventing from eyelid spasms to erectile dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease. If you search deep enough, you could find a caffeine cure for whatever ails you.
It’s Always Teatime
There is much to discover about tea. This guide to the caffeine content in tea should help you in making a better-informed decision on a style of tea that works for you, whether you want more caffeine or less.
Whatever the desired result from a beverage, tea provides. Hot or cold, sleepy or awake, tea can take you there. It’s never the wrong time for tea. So brew up your favorite tea and carry on.