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Coffee and Tea Compared: Caffeine in Coffee Versus Tea

January 24, 2013 by Bethany Ramos

Coffee Vs. Tea

If you’re wondering how much caffeine is in your favorite drink, you can check out our handy caffeine comparison chart here. But before you do… Let’s consider the great debate that has been going on for centuries. No, we’re not talking about if you’re a cat or a dog person. We’re talking about the age-old battle between coffee and tea.

Are You a Coffee or a Tea Drinker?

While there’s no absolute rule that says you have to choose one over the other – and many people happily walk the line between the two – most caffeine addicts fall on one side of the fence.

According to Coffee Research, Live Science, and Coffee 4 Dummies, here are some important statistics that you need to know about coffee drinking in the US:

  • 54% of Americans over 18 drink coffee every day.
  • 35% of coffee drinkers prefer it black.
  • 65% of coffee is consumed at breakfast.
  • $4 billion is spent on importing coffee to the US each year.
  • The average US coffee drinker spends $164.71 on coffee a year.
  • 100 million people drink coffee in the US each day.
  • 24% of coffee drinkers sip 13 or more cups a week.

Now on to tea. Consider these tea consumption statistics from the World Tea Expo and The Tea Drinker:

  • 519 million pounds of tea are imported into the US every year.
  • 1.42 million pounds of tea are consumed in the US each day.
  • 2 billion people drink tea every morning.
  • $15 billion in US tea sales was estimated in 2012.

If you still haven’t chosen a camp in the coffee versus tea debate, it may help you to better understand the caffeine content of each beverage. While types of coffee and tea can vary greatly, we’re going to discuss which beverage has more caffeine on average in this article. But first-

How Do Caffeinated Coffee and Tea Affect Your Body Differently?

Caffeine is a legal drug in the US found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and some medications. If you’re wondering why so many people are drawn to coffee and tea, it often has to do with a much-needed caffeine boost to start the day.
Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system. This can quickly cause you to become more alert with an immediate burst in energy. When consumed in excess, caffeine can cause unpleasant side effects like anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping.

For this reason alone, most coffee and tea drinkers are concerned about balancing their caffeine intake. Sure, you want that pleasant buzz to help wake you up in the morning, but you also want to naturally come down by the end of the day so that you can get your beauty rest at night.

So where’s the sweet spot?

The chemical content of caffeine is the same in both coffee and tea. – tweet this

Although the beverages taste dramatically different and can be prepared in a number of styles, their caffeine qualities remain the same. However, the amount of caffeine in coffee and tea can vary considerably based on type, amount, and brew method.

Most caffeine drinkers are surprised to find that caffeine in tea may be absorbed by the body differently than caffeine in coffee. While the substance of caffeine remains unchanged, caffeine consumed from tea is likely to cause:

  • Gradual increase in energy levels.
  • Sustained energy boost.
  • Steady drop in energy throughout the day.

When you drink a cup of coffee, you’re more likely to feel a quick boost of energy that may often be followed by a crash later on in the day. What’s the reason for different caffeine uptake affects between the two? Most research points to tannins in tea that bind to caffeine compounds and make it more difficult for your body to break down caffeine.

Tea provides a more gradual energy high compared to both coffee and caffeinated soft drinks. – tweet this

What Has More Caffeine: Coffee or Tea?

Now back to the question at hand – the reason why you’re here. You’re probably trying to get to the bottom of the important question of which beverage has a higher caffeine content, coffee or tea.

On average, prepared coffee contains more caffeine per cup than prepared tea. Yet, as to be expected, research throws in a little twist to indicate that pound-for-pound dried coffee beans or granules actually contain less caffeine than dried tea leaves. What gives?

Let’s compare:

  • The average 8 ounce cup of brewed coffee has 85 mg of caffeine.
  • The average 8 ounce cup of brewed tea has 50 mg of caffeine.

But the amount of caffeine in your coffee or tea will depend directly on how long you brew the beverage. When coffee grounds are in contact with water for a longer period of time, there will be more caffeine in your cup of Joe. When you steep a teabag for longer, your cup of tea will have a higher caffeine content.

The complexities don’t stop there. Dark roasted coffee beans are known to have a lower caffeine content than light roasted coffee beans as caffeine is lost in the roasting process. Arabica coffee beans also have a lower caffeine content than Robusta coffee beans.

In the world of tea, the color of a cup of tea does not indicate its caffeine content. A dark-colored tea may not necessarily have more caffeine than a light-colored tea. A light-colored cup of green tea often has more caffeine than darker tea blends.

To provide a final perspective on the matter, here are the average caffeine contents that you can expect in both coffee and tea:

Coffee and Tea Caffeine

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If you’re still at a crossroads between the two, it may come down to a matter of preference. While tea was once considered the healthier beverage, coffee is making strides with more and more health research being published regularly support its many benefits.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Danijela January 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Nice article. 🙂


Fronzix Mason January 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

White tea has the most caffeine. Double check your research.


Bethany Ramos January 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Thanks for your comment! In fact, some white teas are high in caffeine, while others are low. The same can be said for the other varieties of tea. The results in our article are broad generalizations based on several sources. Here’s a great in-depth study:


hikingmike September 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm

That’s why it would be nice to have some ranges instead of single numbers to compare.


LittleLump March 7, 2015 at 7:18 pm

Actually it really varies between different types of white teas. There is no real rule. It just depends on when/ where the tea is from (ie. if they are full leaves, buds, younger full leaves etc)


b100m September 28, 2014 at 4:03 pm

i say boo


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