Comparing the Caffeine Content: Tea vs. Coffee - How Much Caffeine is in Tea?

How much caffeine is in tea?

All tea, that is, the leaves of the plant camllia sinensis, naturally contain caffeine, but many factors affect the amount of caffeine in the tea–where it is grown, when the leaves are picked, how the tea is treated after the harvest. And then after all that, the amount of caffeine that winds up in that first, important, morning cup, is affected by the brewing process–whether more or less tea goes into the teapot, more or less water, longer or shorter brewing time, hotter or cooler water. It’s a long path from the tea plant growing on the sun-facing terrace on the side of a mountain in southern China to the steaming cup you hold in your hand, and at many points along the way, the potential caffeine content is affected.

Amount of caffeine in tea

Because of all those factors, it’s ridiculous that people will tell you which tea has more caffeine and which has less, and even more absurd that they will go so far as to quantify it. It is absolutely possible to identify the amount of caffeine in tea leaves, in fact that’s pretty much the only way (short of buying pre-brewed tea) to quantify caffeine levels. But to illustrate how silly the endeavor is, let’s take a look at our White Peony tea, and think about the issue of caffeine.  

Caffeine content in different types of tea

In general, for brewed tea, you can assume that white tea will have the least amount of caffeine, green teas perhaps twice as much, and the oolongs and black teas the most, at roughly three times the caffeine of white tea. And the most highly caffeinated teas have a bit less caffeine than the least caffeinated coffee, and a third as much as the most caffeinated coffee. See chart below.

Brewed Tea Caffeine Content (per cup) Rough estimate:

Camellia Flowers Practically 0
Our White Peony 10-20mg
Our Green Teas 25-30mg
Our Oolong Teas 40-50mg
Our Black Teas 50 mg

Does black tea have more caffeine than other types of tea?

In general, and on average - yes - brewed black tea has more caffeine than other teas, excepting perhaps oolong teas. 

Does the brewing process affect the caffeine content of tea?

Do bear in mind that the way tea is brewed has an enormous effect on the way it tastes, both in terms of strength and for some teas bitterness, and in the amount of caffeine that winds up in the cup. For instance, if you make a pot of white tea with a modest amount of tea, and steep it a relatively short time, then decant it and then pour it into a glass filled with ice (our White Peony makes an utterly splendid iced tea) the amount of caffeine is pretty trivial.  

Does tea have more caffeine than coffee?

No. Quite the opposite. On average, an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains 95-200 mg of caffeine, though the exact amount can vary greatly. Factors like the variety of coffee bean, roasting method, grind size, and brewing time impact the caffeine content. Beans from different regions contain different amounts of caffeine based on their genetics, origin, and processing. Light roasts tend to have slightly more caffeine than darker roasts. Finer grinds lead to more caffeine extraction since there is more surface area exposed to the water. Lastly, the longer the brew time, the more caffeine is extracted from the grounds. All these factors influence caffeine levels, meaning the amount can differ significantly between two seemingly similar cups of coffee. Generally though, an 8 oz cup of black coffee made from average beans contains around 100 mg of caffeine.  

So: depending on the coffee and on the tea, coffee's can have as little as just a tad more caffeine than a strong black tea, and as much as 10 times caffeine as a light white tea. 

Is decaffeinated tea completely caffeine-free?

Yes, but we don't have any - sorry! Why isn’t Little Red Cup Tea able to offer decaffeinated tea? Simple– we’re a small, family operated company, and low-volume decaffeination properly done is not economically feasible. 

Which type of tea has the least amount of caffeine?

White teas have the least amount of caffeine when brewed - though the most by dry weight. . For our customers who want organic and Fair Trade tea without caffeine, we offer Tea Flowers–which aren’t technically tea, but they do come from the tea plant itself, and are essentially caffeine free, coming in at one half of one percent by weight, the same as you would find in any commercial decaffeinated tea. 

Does tea contain other compounds that interact with caffeine?

Yes, tea contains several other compounds that interact with caffeine:

  • L-theanine - An amino acid found primarily in tea leaves. L-theanine is thought to work synergistically with caffeine by promoting alertness and reducing the jittery side effects that some people experience with caffeine. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine in tea may help improve focus and concentration.

  • EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) - The most abundant catechin and antioxidant in tea. EGCG is associated with health benefits like reducing inflammation and heart disease risk. EGCG may slightly inhibit the absorption of caffeine in tea, meaning tea provides a more moderate caffeine effect.

  • Theophylline - A compound structurally related to caffeine. Theophylline provides an additional stimulant effect in tea. It works together with caffeine to relax smooth muscles and stimulate the heart.

  • Polyphenols - Tea contains high levels of polyphenols, which are micronutrients with antioxidant effects. Polyphenols may contribute to the stimulant effect of tea by inhibiting enzymes that break down caffeine.

  • Tannins - These bitter plant compounds are found in high concentrations in tea. Tannins reduce the bioavailability of caffeine by binding to it, resulting in a slower release of caffeine over time.

Plus a slew of others. 

Are there any caffeine-free herbal teas?

Yes! We carry caffeine-free herbal tea flowers.

How does chamomile compare to other types of tea in terms of caffeine content?

Chamomile is a tisane and thus completely caffeine-free. We grow it in our garden, but do not carry it for sale. 

Wrapping up:

Let’s make this personal for a moment. I start drinking tea first thing in the morning and generally have up to 16 cups every day, rarely fewer than 12 cups. I stop drinking tea about 3:30 p.m. because if I don’t, I’ll have trouble falling asleep at night. All the tea I drink is naturally caffeinated. 

Now let’s poke around all that. People know that caffeine is a diuretic. This is technically true, but in practice, even drinking as much tea as I do, I have no dehydration, no weight loss. Perhaps if I drank exceptionally strong tea (which I don’t) or if I drank a lot more, there might be a diuretic effect, but drinking reasonably brewed tea in reasonable amounts does not cause a significant caffeine-driven diuretic effect.

Caffeine is a stimulant, and for most people increases not only mental focus but provides a bit of a physical boost as well. For me, that first cup of tea in the morning helps me with the otherwise disagreeable process of waking up. Prior to my tea, I am not noticeably capable of speech; afterward my verbal skills are significantly improved.

So is the world significantly improved by tea - well yes, of course.