The Biggest Health Questions About Tea, Answered


I drink tea because it tastes good and makes me feel good. Anything more specific is, at best, a reach.

How much caffeine is in tea compared to coffee?

After the health benefits talk, the next biggest topic in American tea talk is all about caffeine. People love caffeine! But they also love cutting back on it, and many coffee drinkers looking to do so opt for tea as their morning brew instead. (As for why these drinks are presented as binary options, where you can only be a Coffee Person or Tea Person…that’s above my pay grade.)

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day before vibrating to a plane of non-corporeal existence. Your typical 8 ounce cup of coffee contains about 96 mg, and a shot of espresso has about 64 mg. Those numbers can vary depending on the brewing method, water temperature, and even the duration of that brew; the roast level doesn’t matter, as light and dark roast coffees contain similar amounts of caffeine.

A cup of tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant contains anywhere between 28 and 48 mg of caffeine—a half to a third of a cup of coffee—so if you’re sensitive to caffeine or just looking to cut back, tea is a nifty alternative. The exact amount of caffeine in a given cup is influenced by all sorts of factors, including the processing methods, size of the leaves, and climate conditions where the tea was grown.

Do some types of tea contain more caffeine than others?

I’m not sure where this myth first originated, but to this day, reputable news sources parrot unsubstantiated claims about different types of tea containing more or less caffeine than others. Usually the line is that green tea is less caffeinated than black tea, because it’s “less processed” or contains a greater concentration of antioxidants.

While processing style can play a role in caffeine content, all types of tea—black, green, white, oolong, and post-fermented—have been shown, on average, to contain similar amounts of caffeine in lab tests. Sometimes, tea sellers will label a particular tea as containing high, moderate, or low amounts of caffeine. But unless they’ve sent that specific batch off to a lab to test it, they’re likely making it up.

Can I flush out the caffeine by tossing my first steep?

There is another stubborn caffeine myth in the tea world: that most caffeine in a tea gets released in the first minute of brewing, so if you steep for 60 seconds, dump your brew, and steep again, you can “decaffeinate” a tea yourself . In recent years, online publications have started debunking this claim, but it manages to persist in some tea shops and communities as wish fulfillment among drinkers and a sneaky marketing tactic among sellers.

Lab analysis has shown that, just like with coffee, the longer you steep your tea, the more caffeine will be released into your cup. Higher temperature water will draw out more caffeine as well.

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