Tea and Caffeine... How much caffeine is in tea, and can it be removed?

Here are some common questions about tea and caffeine... Does all tea have caffeine? How much caffeine is in my favorite cup of tea? Is removing caffeine from tea really possible?

All 'real' tea (meaning all tea from the Camellia sinensis tea bush, including black, green, pu-erh, oolong, and white teas) naturally contains caffeine.

And, since caffeine is water soluble, the caffeine is drawn from the teabag or leaves when you brew your delicious cup, mug, or pot of tea.

"Decaffeinated" teas have been chemically processed to remove most of their inherent caffeine, while herbal teas or tisanes (like Rooiboscinnamon, and dandelion) are naturally caffeine free (with the exception of yerba mate).

Healthcare providers recommend we monitor our caffeine consumption to avoid caffeine side effects (like insomnia, the 'caffeine blues,' and headaches). So, if you tend to drink a lot of tea during the day, or if you are especially sensitive to caffeine, you may want to keep an eye on caffeine levels in the tea you are drinking.

Tea and caffeine

A Tea Caffeine Chart

So... exactly how much caffeine is there in tea?

Even though you may have heard that choosing a certain type of tea - like white or green, for example - can help you keep your caffeine intake down, it's not quite that simple. Actually, a variety of factors affect the caffeine content in tea, and it can be tricky to figure out exactly how much caffeine you're ingesting as you happily sip your favorite brew.

In general, though, here are caffeine amounts for tea and herbal tisanes:

The range of caffeine levels for "Tea" in the chart above reflects the many variables that affect caffeine amounts in tea - such as the tea plant type, propagation method, fertilization, growing season, brewing time, and more.

This means that caffeine levels can vary widely within each individual tea type (whether black, oolong, pu-erh, green, or white). And, research has found that caffeine levels between the types tend to be fairly similar. Click here if you'd like to read some interesting articles about caffeine in tea.

As a general rule, drinking no more than three or four cups of tea daily should keep you well within the recommended 200 - 400 mg caffeine per day. Be sure to note the serving sizes indicated in the caffeine chart above - our society loves its 'grande' and 'venti' drinks, and we often lose sight of how much we are really consuming!

Removing Caffeine from Tea

If you're an avid tea drinker, you've probably heard that removing most of the caffeine from tea is as easy as pouring out the first 30-second infusion and brewing the teabag or leaves again.

But... can extraction of caffeine really be that simple? Let's take a look at some of the research about removing caffeine from tea.

  • A 2008 study at Asbury College targeting eight different teas (including white, green, oolong, and black) found that a three-minute brewing removed 46 - 70% of the caffeine in the tea. Second and third infusions removed additional caffeine. Click here to read more about this study.
Enjoying tea
  • Another study published in 1996 in Food Research International (Vol. 29, Nos. 3-4, pp. 325-330) indicated that, for six different teas (including black, oolong, and green, with three loose and three bagged teas), a three-minute steeping removed 48% of caffeine. When the brewing time was increased to 15 minutes, 100% of caffeine was removed. Read a summary of the research here.

So, if you are trying (or need) to reduce caffeine in your diet, you might consider pouring out that first brewing, and then add fresh boiling (or hot) water for a cup of tea with somewhat less caffeine. However, if you decide that you are pouring flavor down the drain along with caffeine when you infuse the teabag or loose tea multiple times, you may need to decide how much taste you are willing to sacrifice for less caffeine.

Contrary to popular opinion...

The tea variety (such as black, green, or white) is not a good indicator of how much caffeine is in your teacup! Click here for more information about the factors that actually do affect caffeine amounts in tea.

Or, you could just thoroughly enjoy your cup of black or green tea... and follow it up with Rooibos or another caffeine-free tisane if your body tells you that you've had enough caffeine for the day.

All tea contains caffeine, but the caffeine levels for individual teas can vary widely due to many factors. Be sure you are knowledgeable not only about recommended maximum caffeine amounts, but about caffeine side effects, as well, to ensure you can recognize when you've had enough tea and caffeine!

Tea and caffeine... What are the risks?

Caffeine affects each of us in different ways. While some of us hardly even notice high amounts of caffeine, others may experience caffeine side effects after just one or two cups of tea. For good health, be sure you know where hidden sources of caffeine (or high levels) of caffeine are, and understand your body's reaction to caffeine.

About caffeine

If you'd like to learn more about caffeine and safe caffeine amounts for you and your family, visit our Caffeine Facts page!

If you are concerned about your reaction to caffeine, or if you are expecting and wondering about safe amounts of caffeine for you and your baby, visit your healthcare provider for guidance and more information about tea and caffeine.

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