Does tea have more caffeine than coffee? The short answer is yes.
Measuring per gram and in its unbrewed state, tea leaves generally contain more caffeine than coffee beans.
But the brewing process tends to extract more caffeine from coffee beans. So a cup of coffee will have more caffeine than a cup of tea.
This is because there are several key factors that impact caffeine extraction, which also affects how much caffeine we end up drinking.
This article will explore all the factors that help determine how much caffeine actually exists in each drink and what that can mean for your health.
If we look at a single tea leaf compared to a single coffee bean, a tea leaf contains 3.5% of caffeine, while coffee beans contain 1.1–2.2%.
However, more caffeine is extracted from coffee beans during the brewing process.
This means that caffeine content is actually higher in a cup of coffee compared to a brewed cup of tea.
We also generally use more coffee per cup than we do tea. This also contributes to why we end up consuming more caffeine through coffee.
So if you’re looking to reduce your caffeine intake, one simple way to do so would be to switch from coffee to tea.
It can be tricky to draw a direct comparison between tea and coffee caffeine levels.
This is because varying levels of caffeine can be found across the variety of coffee drinks available on the market.
For example, an espresso packs an impressive 2.1 mg of caffeine per ml, while a latte has just 0.36 mg of caffeine per ml.
On the surface, it would seem lattes are the perfect choice when trying to lower your caffeine intake.
However, espressos are only available in 30 ml servings whereas lattes are typically served in cups of 240 ml or more.
This means that one espresso shot can give you a maximum of 64 mg of caffeine, while a latte would give you as much as 86.4 mg of caffeine or more!
We’ve developed a comprehensive guide to coffee drink caffeine levels in case you want to run similar comparisons.
Just remember that both the coffee beverage type and size can drastically alter the caffeine content.
The majority of coffee makers and machines use pressurised hot water to extract coffee.
The higher the water pressure and temperature, the more flavour (and caffeine) get extracted too.
While brewing tea is not as “forceful” of a process, the amount of time you allow your tea leaves or tea bag to steep directly affects the level of caffeine that’s extracted as well.
For example, one study found that a mug of Earl Grey rose from 40 mg of caffeine to 59 mg after 3 minutes of steeping in hot water.
They also found a similar increase in caffeine in herbal teas, where a green tea’s caffeine content more than doubled after 3 minutes of steeping.
Factors like water pressure, water temperature, and time all affect how much caffeine is extracted.
Hence why a cappuccino brewed in one café can have more or less caffeine than a cappuccino brewed in a separate one.
This means there may be times where a strongly brewed tea contains more caffeine than a diluted coffee.
So be sure to keep that in mind when looking to reduce your caffeine intake.
Another important factor to consider is the kind of tea or coffee being brewed.
Black tea has higher caffeine amounts than white tea and green tea. So herbal teas generally tend to have significantly less caffeine than coffee beverages.
And distinctions in caffeine levels are also evident even between coffee beans.
For example, Robusta coffee has much more caffeine than the more popular Arabica coffee bean.
Combine these differences with the differences in the brewing process we discussed earlier, and it becomes ever more challenging to compare tea and coffee caffeine levels.
There are advantages to drinking either of them. So it all boils down to which benefits you personally prioritise. Let’s take a look at them!
1. Loaded with antioxidants (primarily polyphenols)
However, current research into whether antioxidants can prevent cancer or aid in its treatment is inconclusive. So beware of exaggerated claims!
2. Rich in L-Theanine
L-Theanine is an amino acid with soothing and calming properties linked to reducing anxiety, stress and boosting immunity.
Unlike caffeine, L-theanine still stimulates the brain but without raising its cortisol (“stress hormone”) levels. So you get a harmless alertness bonus in addition to the caffeine!
3. Helpful for gut health
Tea has been found to promote good bacteria in the gut. This leads to an overall healthier and stronger gut in the long run.
Herbal teas—like green tea and peppermint—are especially potent when it comes to supporting the digestive system.
However, your regular English breakfast tea still contains thearubigins, which have proven useful in preventing bone loss.
It also contains theaflavins, which are antioxidants known for their anti-inflammatory properties as well as for preventing stomach ulcers.
1. Lowers heart failure and stroke risk
While it’s true that too much caffeine can trigger palpitations, three large heart disease studies found that drinking a healthy amount of coffee (1-3 cups) was linked with decreased heart failure risk.
Research has also uncovered similar findings for stroke risk reduction when coffee is consumed regularly but moderately.
2. Enhances mood and performance
While drinking too much can overstimulate your mind and cause you to crash, caffeine is actually really beneficial for focus and performance.
Caffeine increases dopamine levels—that is, the hormone linked to positive feelings.
It also blocks adenosine receptors, which in turn leads to increased alertness.
But of course, too much caffeine can also negatively affect one’s sleep cycle. So balance is the key!
3. Linked to weight loss
Coffee has been linked to weight loss primarily because it’s believed to boost your metabolism and cardiovascular functions.
Certain studies found a link to weight loss and caffeine when evidence showed that chlorogenic acid (found in coffee) aided weight loss in mice.
Other research even discovered increased fat burning by as much as 10% in obese individuals and 29% in lean people.
However, once you add milk and sugar to your coffee, the calories you consume may outnumber the calories the caffeine helps you burn.
If this concerns you, then check out our breakdown of the caloric content of popular coffee drinks.
In a nutshell, caffeine is a natural stimulant drug.
When ingested, it blocks our neuroreceptors from reacting to adenosine neurotransmitters—which act as “depressants” that signal our brains to start falling asleep.
The Food and Drink Administration (FDA) recommends that the average adult consumes a maximum of 400 mg (roughly 4 cups) of caffeine per day.
With that said, even though caffeine is helpful, our bodies do not have a nutritional need for it. So it is certainly safe to completely cut it from your diet if needed.
You’re probably quite confident in your knowledge of caffeine—and with good reason! We’ve covered a lot in this article.
You now know that even though tea leaves technically contain more caffeine, we still generally end up consuming more caffeine through coffee beverages rather than tea.