How many calories does Sugar add to Tea?

Adding sugar to tea is a common practice around the world. The amount of sugar added can vary based on personal taste preferences and the size of the cup of tea. Some key questions when considering the calorie content of sugared tea include:

  • How much sugar is typically added to a cup of tea?
  • How many calories are in a teaspoon or packet of sugar?
  • How does the calorie content change with different amounts of added sugar?

Understanding how calories from added sugar can add up over time is important for monitoring sugar and calorie intake as part of a healthy diet. This article provides an in-depth look at how many calories sugar adds to tea.

How Much Sugar is Typically Added to Tea?

The amount of sugar added to tea varies around the world and based on personal preferences. Here is an overview of typical amounts:

  • In the United Kingdom, it is common to add one teaspoon of sugar to a typical cup of tea with milk. Some may add up to two teaspoons.
  • In the United States, adding one teaspoon or packet of sugar is also common for a mug of tea.
  • In South Asia, especially India and Pakistan, tea is usually brewed very strong with lots of milk and can have up to two full tablespoons of sugar added per cup.
  • In East Asian countries like China and Japan, tea is often brewed weaker and drunk plain without milk or sugar.
  • In Southern states in the US, sweet tea is ubiquitous and can have 1/4 cup or more of sugar added to a 16oz glass.

So while exact amounts vary, a common range is from one teaspoon to several tablespoons of sugar per cup of tea globally.

How Many Calories Are in a Teaspoon of Sugar?

To determine how many calories sugar adds to tea, we first need to know the calorie content of the added sugar itself.

  • One teaspoon of granulated white sugar contains approximately:
    • 16 calories
    • 4 grams of sugar
  • One teaspoon of honey or agave nectar contains approximately:
    • 20 calories
    • 5 grams of sugar
  • Packets of sugar often found at coffee shops and cafes typically contain 2-4 grams of sugar per packet.

So a single teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. Understanding that metric makes it easy to calculate how calories add up when adding sugar to tea.

Calories Per Teaspoon of Sugar Added

Using the information that a teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories, we can estimate the calorie content of tea based on how much sugar is added:

  • 1 teaspoon of sugar per cup of tea = 16 calories
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar per cup of tea = 32 calories
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar per cup of tea = 48 calories
  • 4 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon per cup of tea = 64 calories
  • 8 teaspoons or 2 tablespoons per cup of tea = 128 calories
  • 12 teaspoons or 3 tablespoons per cup of tea = 192 calories

As you can see, the calories add up quickly as more and more sugar is added to tea. Just two tablespoons of sugar nearly doubles the calorie content versus one teaspoon.

Calories in a Sweetened Iced Tea from a Restaurant

When consuming iced tea from a restaurant, fast food establishment, convenience store or gas station, significantly more sugar is often added. A typical 20oz or 591ml serving of presweetened iced tea can contain:

  • McDonald’s Sweet Tea = 70g of sugar = 280 calories from sugar
  • Chick-fil-A Sweet Tea = 44g of sugar = 176 calories from sugar
  • Wendy’s Sweet Tea = 42g of sugar = 168 calories from sugar
  • Dunkin Donuts Iced Tea = 36g of sugar = 144 calories from sugar
  • Brisk Raspberry Iced Tea = 44g of sugar = 176 calories from sugar
  • Lipton Sweetened Iced Tea = 32g of sugar = 128 calories from sugar
  • Snapple Sweet Tea = 31g of sugar = 124 calories from sugar

As you can see, a premade sweet tea from a restaurant can contain significantly more sugar and calories than just adding a teaspoon or two of sugar at home. Over 70g of sugar equates to approximately 18 teaspoons!

Daily Recommended Sugar Intake

Understanding the calories in sugared tea helps provide context around recommended daily sugar intake:

  • WHO: 25g or 6 teaspoons per day
  • AHA: 36g or 9 teaspoons per day for men, 25g or 6 teaspoons per day for women
  • US Dietary Guidelines: No more than 10% of total calories, or approximately 50g or 12 teaspoons per day in a 2000 calorie diet

As you can see, routinely adding 2-3 tablespoons of sugar to each cup of tea could nearly fulfill your daily recommended sugar maximum in just a few cups!

It’s important to pay attention to labels and total sugar content when consuming premade sweetened beverages as well. Drinking just 1-2 servings of a sweetened iced tea, soda or other beverage could exceed your daily sugar budget significantly.

Impact on Weight Loss

For those trying to manage their weight or lose weight, calories from beverages like sweet tea can really make an impact. Liquid calories don’t provide feelings of fullness like solid foods.

As an example, someone on a 2000 calorie per day weight loss diet would be consuming approximately:

  • 500 calories per meal = 1500 calories
  • 200 calories for snacks = 1700 calories total
  • 300 discretionary daily calories

Consuming just 1 sweet tea per day from a restaurant with 70g of sugar = 280 calories from sugar alone, nearly the total discretionary calorie allowance!

Adding a significant amount of sugar to tea or consuming sweetened teas and beverages can unwittingly lead to excess calorie intake and hinder weight loss over time.

Tips for Reducing Calories and Sugar

Here are some tips for enjoying tea while reducing unnecessary calories and sugar:

  • Gradually reduce the amount of sugar you add to tea over time to adjust taste preferences.
  • Switch from granulated white sugar to lower calorie sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit or erythritol.
  • For chilled tea, try unsweetened tea and add your own sugar or sweetener to control the amount.
  • Flavor tea with citrus slices, fresh mint, cinnamon or ginger instead of sugar.
  • Be mindful of sugar content and serving sizes when consuming bottled or premade tea.
  • Opt for unsweetened tea instead of sweet tea when dining out.
  • Drink plain tea or tea with milk but no added sweeteners.

Making small adjustments to your sweet tea habits can easily reduce your calorie and sugar intake significantly.


Adding sugar to tea can inadvertently contribute a significant amount of calories and impact blood sugar levels and weight management. Just a single teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories, so calories add up quickly if adding multiple teaspoons to each cup. Premade sweet teas from restaurants and bottled teas often contain even higher amounts of sugar and calories per serving.

Limiting added sugars, being mindful of portion sizes of sweetened beverages, and enjoying unsweetened tea more often are easy ways to enjoy tea while reducing sugar and calorie intake as part of a balanced diet. Gradually adjusting your taste preferences to enjoy tea with less sugar can also be beneficial. Knowing exactly how many calories sugar adds to tea provides the knowledge to make informed choices for your diet and hydration needs.

Sugar per Cup Calories
1 teaspoon (4g) 16 calories
2 teaspoons (8g) 32 calories
1 tablespoon (12g) 48 calories
2 tablespoons (24g) 96 calories
3 tablespoons (36g) 144 calories


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