Does unsweet tea have any calories?

The Short Answer

Unsweet tea, also known as plain tea or straight tea, refers to brewed tea that does not have any added sugars, sweeteners, milk, or cream. By itself, unsweetened tea contains virtually no calories. However, the actual calorie content of unsweet tea can vary based on the brewing method and additions.

Calories in Plain Brewed Tea

Plain brewed tea that is unsweetened and unaltered contains virtually zero calories. The tea leaves themselves provide negligible calories.

According to the USDA, an 8 ounce cup of brewed black tea contains 2 calories and 0 grams of fat, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. The same serving size of green tea also contains 2 calories.

So without any additions, unsweetened brewed black tea and green tea are essentially calorie-free beverages.

Brewing Methods

The most common way to brew plain tea is with tea bags or loose leaf tea. Hot water is poured over the tea leaves or tea bags and allowed to steep. The tea leaves infuse the water with flavor, antioxidants, and negligible calories.

Here are the calorie contents for an 8 ounce serving of plain brewed tea by different methods:

– Tea bags: 2 calories
– Loose leaf tea: 2 calories
– Instant tea powder: 5 calories
– Bottled tea: 0-5 calories
– Iced tea: 2 calories

As you can see, the brewing method has little effect on calories when unsweetened.


While plain tea is very low in calories, what you add to the tea can increase the calorie content significantly. Some common additions to tea include:

– Sugar: 16 calories per teaspoon
– Honey: 21 calories per teaspoon
– Lemon juice: 4 calories per tablespoon
– Milk: 28 calories per ounce
– Cream: 50 calories per ounce

Adding just 1 teaspoon of sugar increases the calories in an 8 ounce cup of tea from 2 to 18 calories. A common Southern sweet tea recipe calls for at least 1/2 cup of sugar per quart of tea, which equates to over 160 calories per 8 ounce glass!

So while unsweetened tea is low in calories, sweet tea packed with sugar can end up fairly high in calories. Always check the recipe or ask about ingredients when ordering tea from a restaurant.

Reasons Unsweet Tea Has Virtually No Calories

There are two main reasons why plain unsweetened tea is very low in calories:

1. Tea leaves have very few calories
2. Water has zero calories

Tea Leaves are Negligible in Calories

The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) contains compounds like polyphenols, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates, fiber, caffeine, and trace amounts of minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

But the leaves contain very minimal macronutrients that provide calories – namely fat, protein, and carbohydrates. So the tea leaves themselves impart few calories to brewed tea. Even the carbohydrates in tea leaves do not significantly impact calories because of the very small quantities used when brewing.

Water Has Zero Calories

The other main ingredient in tea is water. Plain water contains zero calories, making it a healthy hydration choice. When you brew tea, hot water extracts the flavors and compounds from tea leaves. But the water itself has no calories, so it does not add anything to the calorie content.

So combined, the negligible calories from tea leaves plus zero calories from water make plain unsweetened tea virtually calorie-free.

Calorie Difference Between Hot and Iced Tea

What about enjoying tea cold? Is there a calorie difference between hot tea and iced tea?

Again, when unsweetened, both hot tea and iced tea are essentially zero calories.

Here is the calorie comparison for an 8 ounce serving:

– Hot tea: 2 calories
– Iced tea: 2 calories

The biggest distinction is that hot tea is usually brewed fresh, while iced tea is often prepared in larger batches and chilled. But when unsweetened, this small difference does not impact calories.

The added calories come from any sweeteners, lemon, milk products, etc. that are added. Without any additions, plain iced tea contains about the same number of calories as hot tea.

So an unsweetened glass of iced tea can be a refreshing zero calorie summer drink!

Calories in Tea from Coffee Shops

Tea shops and coffee shops often sell freshly brewed hot or iced tea. But be aware that the calorie content of these teas can vary greatly depending on preparation and additions.

Some tips for ordering lower calorie tea when out:

– Request unsweetened tea
– Opt for hot tea instead of presweetened iced tea
– Ask for tea with only lemon, not syrups or sweeteners
– Avoid milk tea, chai tea, and other creamy tea drinks
– Check nutritional info online or request nutrition facts

Ordering tea unsweetened and unaltered from a shop means the drink will provide 2 or less calories, just like plain homemade tea. But specialty tea beverages can rack up calories, sugar, and fat quickly.

For example, here are the calories found in 16 ounce cups of tea from popular coffee shops:

– Starbucks black iced tea unsweetened: 5 calories
– Starbucks green iced tea with classic syrup: 140 calories
– Dunkin boba milk tea: 349 calories
– David’s Tea mango white tea lemonade: 230 calories

As you can see, unsweetened plain tea keeps calories negligible even when ordering out. But many menu choices add significant calories through juices, milk, sweeteners, and other mix-ins. Check nutrition info and ask questions to get the healthiest lower calorie option when buying tea.

Does Caffeine Impact Calorie Content?

Both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties of tea contain around 2 calories per cup when unsweetened. Caffeine content does not influence calories.

Here are the calories for an 8 ounce serving of different types of tea:

– Black tea (caffeinated): 2 calories
– Green tea (caffeinated): 2 calories
– White tea (caffeinated): 2 calories
– Herbal tea (caffeine-free): 2 calories
– Decaf black tea (low caffeine): 2 calories

The negligible number of calories comes from the tea leaves. Whether those leaves contain caffeine or not does not change the calorie amount.

This means you can enjoy calorie-free unsweetened iced tea throughout the day without worrying about excess caffeine impacting calories. The calorie content remains consistent.

Tea Calories Compared to Other Drinks

Compared to many other popular beverages, unsweetened brewed tea is very low in calories. Enjoying calorie-free tea can help meet fluid needs without excess calorie intake.

Here is how the calories in 8 ounces of unsweetened tea compare to other drinks:

– Brewed tea: 2 calories
– Water: 0 calories
– Black coffee: 2 calories
– Soda: 100 calories
– Fruit juice: 120 calories
– Beer: 150 calories
– Sports drink: 50 calories
– Milk: 100 calories
– Wine: 120 calories

Water and unsweetened black coffee join tea as virtually zero calorie options. But drinks like soda, juice, and alcohol can all contain significant calories in an 8 ounce serving.

Choosing calorie-free tea instead of high calorie beverages can support weight management and healthy hydration. Just be sure to avoid adding calories back through sweeteners, cream, etc.

Tips for Enjoying Calorie-Free Tea

Here are some tips to keep your cup of tea guilt-free and low in calories:

– Brew tea using tea bags, loose leaves, or instant powder. Avoid bottled teas which are often pre-sweetened.
– Always opt for unsweetened tea over sweet tea, both at home and when ordering out.
– Skip adding sugar or honey to your tea. Try stevia or monk fruit if you need a touch of sweetness.
– Add fresh lemon slices or a dash of lemon juice instead of sugary lemonade.
– Avoid creamers and sweetened non-dairy options like vanilla almond milk. Plain unsweetened almond or soy milk are better options.
– Mix up the flavors with different tea varieties including black, green, herbal, and white tea.
– Make a large batch of unsweetened iced tea to have on hand for zero calorie hydration.
– Read nutrition labels and look up menu info when buying tea from coffee shops or restaurants.

Sticking to plain tea and skipping sweet add-ins keeps both hot and iced tea virtually calorie-free. Savor the antioxidants and hydration without the added calories and sugar.

Unsweet Tea Nutrition Facts

Here are the nutrition facts for an 8 ounce serving of plain unsweetened brewed tea:

Nutrition Facts Amount
Calories 2
Fat 0g
Carbohydrates 0g
Sugar 0g
Fiber 0g
Protein 0g
Caffeine 25mg (black tea)

As you can see, plain tea is virtually zero across the board for calories, fat, carbs, sugar, protein, and fiber. The only nutrient is a small amount of caffeine in certain tea varieties.

Compare this to sweet tea – a 12 ounce can of store-bought sweet tea contains about 130 calories, 32g of sugar, and 33g of carbohydrates. Quite a difference!

The Bottom Line

Enjoying unsweetened brewed tea, either hot or poured over ice, provides 2 or less calories per 8 ounce serving. Tea leaves themselves contain minimal calories, and the water used for brewing has zero. The calories only increase when you add sugar, honey, lemonade, milk, sweeteners, or other mix-ins to your tea.

So you can feel good about sipping on a refreshing glass of plain tea, hot or cold. Just be mindful of added ingredients if ordering tea out or making sweet tea.

Overall, unsweetened tea is an essentially calorie-free healthy beverage full of antioxidants and hydration. Ditch the sugary alternatives and stick to pure tea to reap the most benefits.

Leave a Comment