For years, the tea industry categorized caffeine levels by tea type - white, green, oolong, black, dark. For example, “black tea has the most caffeine and white tea has hardly any.” In recent years and with further research, that notion has changed markedly.
A Much Better Caffeine
Ok, so caffeine is caffeine. But, it actually interacts with other elements in tea that aren't as prevalent in coffee. The caffeine in tea combines with the tannins to provide a slow release of caffeine. That means a calm, focused buzz instead of the jittery up and down from coffee. In addition to that better caffeine experience, you are getting the additional benefits of a health-packed beverage full of antioxidants.
Ways You Can Control Caffeine in Your Tea
If you are looking for more caffeine, go naked. If you are looking for less caffeine, go blend. And if you're looking for no caffeine, go with herbal infusions, also known as tisanes.
"Tea" is specifically an infusion that contains Camellia sinensis leaves, and is always caffeinated unless it has gone through a decaffeination process. "Naked" teas will always give you more caffeine then a "blend", since blends typically use other non-caffeinated ingredients like herbs, flowers, spices, and fruit to add flavor.
Caffeine releases slowly over the course of the steep. Even a second infusion could have just as much caffeine as the first. So if you are looking for a low or no caffeine option, reach for a tea blend or herbal infusion. Alternatively, if you are looking for more caffeine, the flipside of this theory is the longer you steep, the more caffeine you will release. Of course, if you do this you risk your tea becoming bitter. Another option to increase the caffeine in your brew is to simply use more tea leaves when steeping.
At the end of the day, however, the amount of caffeine present in tea will almost always be less than coffee. Contrary to what people expect, however, is the similar wide variation of caffeine levels in coffee, as with tea.
Typical Caffeine Range (mg)/cup
80 - 125
30 - 75
20 - 50
What Affects Caffeine Levels
In short, quite a bit.
There are many variables that affect the amount of caffeine in your cup of tea, and the tea industry is still learning exactly what affects those caffeine levels. Even tea from the same farm can vary in caffeine levels across seasons. A few of the factors believed to affect caffeine levels include:
PLANT What was the varietal of the Camellia sinensis plant that the leaves came from? Was the tea plant grown from a seed or was it a cloned plant? What was the age of the plant and the leaves when plucked? Which leaves were plucked?
GROWING CONDITIONS What was the chemical composition of the soil that the plant grew in? Were any fertilizers applied to the soil and if so, what type? How much direct sun did the leaves receive before they were plucked? In what season were the leaves harvested?
MANUFACTURING How long the tea was withered? How much oxidation occurred? Was the tea fired or fermented after it was manufactured?
BREWING How long did you steep your tea leaves? What water temperature did you use?
The truth is, however, you cannot truly know how much caffeine is in your tea unless you scientifically test each tea in your cupboard. This involves chemically analyzing the brewed tea in a lab. In fact, some in the industry have done just that.
In one of the Tea Sip team's favorite books, Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties, they did a biochemical analysis of 35 Teas with surprising results. Black teas tested were for the most part in the mid range of caffeine levels, and green teas topped the caffeine chart. But even still, tea types were a bit all over the place and they acknowledged that they couldn't claim any real consistency in caffeine levels by tea type.
How Much Caffeine is in Green Tea?
Ok, so you really want to know how much caffeine in green tea to expect, even after all that inconsistency by tea type speech. In that biochemical analysis I mentioned earlier, the 25 tested green teas had caffeine levels that ranged from 7 mg all the way to 61 mg of caffeine.
Despite the wide range, the caffeine levels skewed high with more than half above 45 mg of caffeine. So what does this mean for you? If you base your choices off of this one analysis, you likely have a 50-50 chance of getting a green tea that really packs a caffeine punch.
Until more research is done, the best way to find a good green tea with a legit caffeine buzz is the old fashioned way: to try a few types (which is one reason we have a Try It size in almost every tea we carry).
How Much Caffeine is in Matcha?
Matcha is a specific green tea that has been ground into a fine powder. Rather than steeping it like with most teas, it's whisked into water and then drunk. In this case, the tea drink includes the entire leaf instead of just the leaf-steeped water.
With the entire leaf in the mix (literally!), just how much caffeine is in matcha? A lot.
It's a pretty safe bet to assume that matcha is going to have the most caffeine of all teas (and antioxidants, for that matter). Matcha has clocked in with caffeine levels over 100 mg. However, typical recordings are usually more in the 70 mg range. For icing on the cake, the incredible levels of antioxidants may help maintain a smoother and less jittery energy.
Moral of the story is if you definitely need caffeine, go with matcha.
|CEREMONIAL GRADE MATCHA|
How Much Caffeine is in Chai?
We get this question a lot. If you're hoping for a jolt of energy, you might want to check out the Dalgona Matcha (it's similar to a Matcha latte), instead of reaching for a Chai latte. Chai isn't going to have much caffeine, which makes it a great afternoon or evening sipper.
Chai does contain black tea, but as we've discussed, that doesn't necessarily mean lots of caffeine. In addition to the big question mark on caffeine levels in black tea, chai tea has a mega amount of spices that don't contain any caffeine. Plus, most chai teas are served with milk in one form or another.
Depending on the ratio of spices and milk to black tea, you may be getting very little caffeine. However, the benefit of the added spices is that little spicy boost your senses will get. Something that the caffeine free crowd frequently looks for in herbs and spices like ginger or peppermint.
So the next time that you are wondering how much caffeine is in your cuppa, just know that you will get a great little caffeine buzz with some health benefits, no matter which tea you chose to brew.
Are you a coffee drinker trying to get into tea? Looking for something with a similar flavor profile? Check out one of our favorite tea recommendations for you!