Tea and coffee are both wonderful drinks. Some people like to call themselves a tea enthusiast or a coffee connoisseur and then there’s the middle folk who enjoy both. Coffee is the processed, roasted, and ground-up seed of the coffee plant whereas tea is the dried-out leave of the tea plant but the one thing they have in common (apart from being delicious!) is they both brew caffeinated beverages.
Caffeine is a wonderful thing if you need a pick me up but it can quickly become a nightmare if you’re not careful with it. If you’re watching your caffeine intake for either reason then you may be wondering how much caffeine is in tea vs coffee.
The quick answer is a cup of tea has 47mg of caffeine and a cup of coffee has 96mg (fresh) or 62mg (instant).
The long answer is, there’s a lot more to the story than this. To really understand a caffeine-laden latte vs a cup of English breakfast blend then read on!
How Much Caffeine in Tea vs Coffee
The amount of caffeine in a cup of tea vs a cup of coffee is actually surprisingly difficult to define. It depends on the kind of tea or coffee you’re drinking, the brew method or steeping time, as well as the size of the cup. To help narrow down the vast array of possibilities, we’ll start by comparing caffeine in 100ml of black tea vs 100ml fresh-brewed coffee vs 100ml instant coffee.
Black tea (tea bags or tea leaves) has around 13-36 mg of caffeine, fresh drip coffee has 64-80mg, and instant coffee has anywhere between 28-54mg.
The values are given as a range as the exact values do vary on the type of tea and coffee used, the brew time as well as the brew strength. For example, a teabag removed after 2 minutes will produce a cup of tea that’s much lower in caffeine compared to one that’s left in the cup for 5 minutes.
What’s The Recommended Daily Caffeine Intake?
Caffeine content is an important thing to monitor as too much caffeine is detrimental to your health. The U.S. FDA recommends that a healthy adult should consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. For pregnant women, this value is cut to around 200 milligrams of caffeine per day.
It’s important to consider all the caffeinated beverages you consumed per day when calculating how much you’re taking in as it’s not just tea and coffee to blame. Energy drinks, green tea, matcha, dark chocolate, yerba mate, and coca-cola are just some examples of drinks that contain caffeine. Sports and performance supplements and some medications can also contain caffeine as an active ingredient so should also be considered.
How Does Caffeine Work
Caffeine is a small molecule that moves into many areas of the body to create an overall energy boost. It works in your central nervous system, heart, muscles, and blood pressure control systems. It makes you feel awake and alert as well as directs blood to your muscles and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. This is ideal before exercise or to help you focus on work or a test coming up.
As with most things in life, caffeine has its benefits but it also comes with side effects.
Health Benefits of Caffeine
Caffeine has been shown to help relax smooth muscle in the lungs and open up the bronchioles. This is beneficial for people who suffer from asthma as it can alleviate symptoms. This study showed that < 5mg of caffeine per kg body weight was enough to improve lung function for up to two hours after consumption.
Caffeine may provide a protective effect against Parkinson’s’ Disease as demonstrated in this meta-analysis study. It shows a link between those that consume higher levels of caffeine and a lower risk of developing the disease as well as a slower progression of Parkinson’s.
Caffeine may have a beneficial effect on liver health by preventing scarring of the liver (fibrosis) and well as being linked with a lower risk of liver cancer. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of gallstones.
Alongside just generally feeling more alert, awake, and ready to move these health benefits can make high caffeine consumption seem like a great idea. It’s worth balancing this with the knowledge that alongside the good can also come side effects.
Caffeine Side Effects
Caffeine side effects vary from person to person as some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Side effects can show for some from a single dose of caffeine or for others when caffeine levels are just too high. Another reason for side effects can be the combination of caffeine with other drugs or supplements.
A very common side effect of caffeine is an interrupted sleep pattern. Caffeine interrupts the adenosine receptor in the brain which helps you to stay alert and awake but this receptor is also essential for deep sleep. A lot of people find that too much caffeine, even early in the afternoon can lead to restlessness at night as well as difficulty falling asleep.
The increase in alertness, as well as heart rate that you get from drinking tea, coffee, or any other caffeinated drink, is very similar to your body’s physical reactions when you’re feeling anxious. If you suffer from an anxiety or panic disorder the caffeine can set this off.
High levels of caffeine in the blood of a pregnant woman will cause the drug to pass into the unborn fetus. If the levels remain high then this can decrease fetal blood flow and this increases the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. 200mg of caffeine per day or less is generally considered a safe amount for pregnant women to consume.
Other, more vague side effects of caffeine include headaches, irritability, nervousness, muscle tremors, and frequent urination or inability to control urination.
If you experience any of these side effects after drinking tea or coffee it is a good idea to switch to a decaffeinated version.
Caffeine Levels in Tea Drinks
A cup of black tea comes from taking the leaves of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis), drying them out, and then adding them to hot water in the form of loose-leaf or tea bags. The caffeine levels can vary depending on the species of tea as well as the infusion time but your average cup has around 47mg of caffeine.
Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea that sits somewhere between black and green tea. It has a diverse body and flavor and the caffeine content of a typical cup falls between 37 and 55mg.
White tea is a very delicate variety of tea and it undergoes the least processing of all tea varieties. It has less caffeine compared to black tea with only 15 to 30 mg per cup.
Herbal tea is the infusion of different kinds of aromatic herbs and spices to give a delicious drink, often with associated health benefits. It’s naturally caffeine free and the perfect option if you are caffeine sensitive.
Green tea is known for its extremely high levels of antioxidants and is relatively low in caffeine compared to coffee. An 8 oz serving contains around 28 mg of caffeine according to the Mayo Clinic.
Earl grey is a blend of black tea, bergamot, and sometimes lemon. It can be a bit lower in caffeine compared to regular black tea and a cup holds somewhere between 25-47 mg depending on the brand.
Caffeine In Coffee Drinks
Fresh Coffee Beans
Fresh coffee beans brewed in a drip machine gives you a cup of coffee that contains around 96 mg of caffeine per 8 oz serving. This is similar for other types of coffee brewers like french press and pour-over.
Instant coffee drinkers often say they don’t enjoy fresh coffee because it’s ‘too strong’. This is because instant powder has less caffeine compared to fresh coffee at around 62mg per 8 oz serving.
A shot of espresso is often labeled as being very high in caffeine and although the coffee itself is very strong because the volume is only 1 ounce per shot, the actual caffeine you consume is lower than drip coffee. A shot of espresso is around 64mg of caffeine so that’s 128mg for a double shot.
Contrary to popular belief decaf coffee isn’t actually caffeine free. An 8 oz serving of decaf has a tiny 2mg of caffeine in it.
Tea has less caffeine compared to coffee which could be a plus or a minus, depending on which way you look at it. Caffeine has several health benefits associated with it but some people experience too many unpleasant side effects that can arise. If you’re looking for a big buzz of energy before a workout or for studying, a cup of fresh coffee or black tea is ideal. If you need a soothing drink to enjoy in the evening, consider decaf coffee or herbal tea.