Caffeine in Tea... Which tea has the most caffeine?

Wondering about the amount of caffeine in tea? Here are some tips to help you figure out just how much caffeine is in your cup of tea. (It's not as simple as you think!)

Does all tea have caffeine?

All teas from the Camellia sinensis tea plant (this includes black, green, pu-erh, oolong, and white teas) naturally have caffeine.

A "decaffeinated" tea has been chemically processed to remove most of its naturally occurring caffeine. And, herbal teas or tisanes (Rooibos, cinnamon, peppermint, and chamomile, for example) are naturally caffeine free (with the exception of yerba mate).

Tea Caffeine Amounts

According to current research, the tea variety or type - black, green, pu-erh, oolong, or white - doesn't clearly indicate how much caffeine your cup of tea will have. Caffeine levels within each type vary, and caffeine levels between the different tea types are actually very similar.

So, if you think you're safe in choosing white or green tea instead of black to limit your caffeine intake... you may be wrong.

Caffeine in Tea

In general, an 8 oz. (240 ml) cup of tea typically contains somewhere between 15 and 70 mg caffeine. And, a cup of decaffeinated tea will still have trace amounts of caffeine - usually less than 12 mg. Click here to view a caffeine chart with caffeine amounts for some common beverages and foods.

Even though tea caffeine amounts aren't clearly indicated by the variety of tea, other factors do affect how much caffeine an individual tea will have. According to Nigel Melican, founder and Managing Director of Teacraft Ltd. (from his comments in the Cha Dao blog), the following factors can affect a tea's caffeine levels:

  • The type of tea plant - Camellia assamica tea plants have more caffeine, so Assam tea typically has more caffeine than China tea.
  • Fertilization method - If the tea plant was fertilized with nitrogen, caffeine levels are greater.
  • Clonal or seed propagation - A clonal tea plant has more caffeine than a seedling tea plant.
Caffeine in Tea
  • The harvest season - Caffeine levels are highest during the fast (hot) growing seasons.
  • Whether the tea is from leaves, buds, or a combination of these - Caffeine percentages are highest in the tea plant's bud and then the young first leaf, and become progressively less as you move away from the bud on the stem of the tea plant. And this holds true whether the tea is black, green, pu-erh, oolong, or white. So, for example, a tea that is made entirely from buds (such as Silver Needle white tea) will have higher caffeine content than a tea consisting primarily of third and fourth leaves.
  • Tea processing - Withering during processing also affects caffeine in tea, with a slower withering at a moderate temperature resulting in higher levels of caffeine. And, any oxidation during processing will reduce the caffeine in tea. (Keep in mind, not every type of tea is withered and/or oxidized.)

Brewing time will also affect caffeine in tea (a longer steeping time increases caffeine concentration).

The amount of caffeine in tea is affected by many factors, so a range of caffeine levels can exist within each tea variety. Even so, if you are concerned about caffeine in tea, rest assured that your tea has less caffeine than coffee, most soft drinks, and energy drinks, and it will provide you with a host of health benefits, as well!

And, of course, it's soothing and delicious.

Can caffeine in tea be removed?

You're heard that most of the caffeine in tea can be removed just by pouring out the first brew... Myth or reality? Visit our Tea and Caffeine page to learn more...

Your body will let you know if you are consuming too much caffeine - listen to it and to your healthcare provider, as well, for your good health.

Why not try...

  • If caffeine just doesn't agree with you or if you're trying to cut back, why not consider a caffeine alternative, instead? Rather than black, green, or white tea, try a delicious herbal tisane - like Rooibos, which is naturally sweet and has a ton of health benefits, too!

Caffeine Articles

Here are some interesting reads about caffeine myths and realities, and just how much caffeine may really be in your favorite cup of tea!

  • Here is an extremely informative article about caffeine in tea by Nigel Melican called "Caffeine and Tea: Myth and Reality" (from the Cha Dao blog).
  • A 2008 study regarding caffeine in brewed teas found that caffeine amounts ranged from 14 to 61 mg in a 6 - 8 oz serving in 20 different black, green, and white tea products - with no distinct trend by tea variety. The steeping time did, however, affect the caffeine concentration in the teas. Click here to read the abstract.

What is caffeine?

Not sure exactly what caffeine is? Click here for a quick overview about caffeine and how much is safe to consume.

  • At Asbury College in 2008, eight teas were brewed to discern caffeine amounts in the first, second, and third infusions. Especially if you are considering reducing your daily caffeine intake, you'll want to read more about this interesting study!
  • In 2005, this study targeted the caffeine content of 77 different teas and discovered a wide range of caffeine levels across all teas. If you would like to read the research abstract, you can find it here.

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Each of us reacts differently to caffeine, so caffeine levels that are fine for one person can be far too much for someone else. Even though caffeine can provide certain physical, mental, and emotional benefits, if you consume too much caffeine for you, you may experience some caffeine side effects, such as insomnia, depression, or a headache.

Please be sure to check with your healthcare provider for guidance and more information, especially if you are pregnant or think you may have a caffeine allergy.

More about Caffeine

Caffeine Facts - All about caffeine! What it is, how much caffeine is in your favorite tea, information about safe amounts of caffeine, and much more.

Caffeine Benefits - We hear so much about the potential risks of caffeine, but caffeine can be good for us in many ways, too! Learn more on our Caffeine Benefits pages.

Caffeine Risks - Some of the ways high levels of caffeine can affect us physically and mentally, and some contraindications for excessive caffeine use, too.

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