Does Tea Have More Caffeine Than Coffee?
Maybe you're sensitive to caffeine. Or you might just be curious about trying the wide variety of teas that are available. If you need that morning pick-me-up, you may wonder does tea have more caffeine than coffee?
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant that is found in a variety of plant-based products including tea and coffee. It acts on the entire body through the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. They help to prepare the body for fight-or-flight situations so that you can respond quickly.
The result is that your body has more oxygen and energy readily available to act. Mentally, you'll feel more focused with better coordination. That's why it's such a great drink to have in the morning when you need a boost to get going. But there's more to it than that.
Caffeine also stimulates the release of dopamine. That is the neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure center of your brain which makes drinking coffee so pleasurable. Over 50 percent of Americans drink coffee every day to enjoy its taste and health benefits.
All coffees come from a single plant. There are two main types of coffee, Robusta and Arabica. Both are grown worldwide. You'll most likely drink Arabica beans since they're more common and have a richer flavor profile. Regions contribute to the coffee's taste not unlike a wine's terroir.
The health benefits of drinking coffee lie with its caffeine content. Some evidence suggests it may improve athletic performance because of its effects on mental alertness. It may also help memory and reduce the risk of developing gallbladder disease.
Coffee contains anywhere between 95 and 165 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup. The content varies with the type, processing, and preparation of this beverage. Roast, however, is not an important factor since light and dark varieties are comparable in their caffeine concentration.
The Story of Tea
People have been drinking tea for centuries not only for its great taste but the benefits that it may provide as well. The United States alone imports almost 600 million pounds of tea each year. Like coffee, teas come from the leaves of a single plant, Camellia sinensis.
The differences between the types lie with the processing of the tea leaves. With coffee, it's a matter of roasting the beans to varying degrees. With teas, there are other processes which produce unique products that make them seem like different beverages altogether.
You'll find white, green, and black teas. Other varieties include oolong tea and pu-erh tea. The answer to the question is there caffeine in tea is yes. Regardless of type, all contain caffeine. Additional processing is necessary to remove it to make decaffeinated varieties.
Each one has its unique flavor. Generally, the darker the tea, the more caffeine and stronger taste. Like coffee, you'll find a variety of flavors which typically don't affect the amount of caffeine.
Green tea probably gets the most press regarding its health benefits because of its antioxidant properties. Some studies have found associations between a reduced risk of cancer with consumption of green tea. However, more research is needed.
This type of tea is made by steaming the tea leaves. This process gives it its light color and delicate flavor. You'll find many additional flavors to complement its herbaceous flavor profile and perhaps provide more benefits.
You're probably most familiar with black tea which is a tasty alternative to coffee with a similar rich flavor. Unlike green tea, this kind is fermented or oxidized. This process concentrates caffeine in the leaves giving black tea a higher content per serving.
It has the strongest taste of the teas. It will last longer than unfermented varieties like green tea. Black tea also has a longer history of use in the United States than other types that retains its popularity to this day.
There are several varieties of black tea that have varying degrees of richness and flavors. They include familiar kinds like Earl Grey tea and English breakfast tea.
White tea is this drink in its purest form which is not fermented or cured. It is a mild tea with a delicate flavor. Oolong lies in the middle between the other types as a partially fermented beverage. And finally, pu-erh tea has the most processing as a fermented and aged drink.
Of all the types, these are newer to the Western market than black tea. And like other teas, preliminary evidence suggests that they too offer health benefits.
Reach for a cup of coffee if you want the drink with the highest caffeine content. One of the reasons for tea's popularity is the fact that it has a lower concentration. Black tea has between 25 and 48 mg of caffeine for an 8 oz serving, or less than half the amount that coffee has.
The other types have even less. Green tea comes in at between 25 and 29 mg. Decaffeinated varieties have about the same as decaf coffee at 2 to 5 mg per serving. For these beverages, it comes down to a matter of taste.
The differences in caffeine content lie with the natural concentrations found in each one. But it's also a matter of form. Brewing coffee requires a medium coarse grind whereas tea uses leaves. The difference means more surface area comes in contact with water in coffee.
That means you can extract more caffeine from coffee than tea. The amount used is also more per serving with coffee than tea which contributes to the higher content.
Cautions About Caffeine
No matter how you get your caffeine buzz, you should enjoy it in moderation. In large doses, it can cause insomnia and an irregular heartbeat. It can worsen an existing condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure. You should limit your consumption to less than 400 mg a day.
Some people may be sensitive to caffeine even at the lower concentrations found in tea. In those cases, decaf varieties offer good alternatives.
The Bottom Line About the Caffeine Question
Coffee is the leader of the pack when it comes down to caffeine in tea vs coffee. Black tea has the highest content of the different types but still is less than half of the amount of coffee. Both beverages have a wide range of typical concentrations. It boils down to a matter of preparation.
You can get the most caffeine out of either one by increasing the amount you use and the time you steep it. However, if you need to limit your caffeine consumption in the afternoon, tea in any variety makes a delicious alternative.