Which tea has the most caffeine?

Quick Answer

Black tea generally contains the most caffeine of all the common tea types. Specifically, Assam black tea from India and Ceylon black tea from Sri Lanka tend to have the highest caffeine content. A typical 8oz cup of black tea contains around 40-60mg of caffeine, compared to 25-45mg in green tea and 30-50mg in oolong tea. White tea has the least caffeine, with just 15-30mg per cup.

Caffeine Content by Tea Type

Here is an overview of the typical caffeine content in different tea types, measured in milligrams (mg) of caffeine per 8oz serving:

Tea Type Caffeine Content
Black tea 40-60mg
Green tea 25-45mg
Oolong tea 30-50mg
White tea 15-30mg
Pu-erh tea 30-40mg
Herbal tea 0-12mg

As you can see, black tea clearly contains the most caffeine compared to other tea types. Green tea and oolong tea have moderate caffeine levels, while white tea and herbal tea have the least caffeine.

Factors That Affect Caffeine Levels in Tea

While tea type is the biggest factor influencing caffeine content, there are several other things that can alter the caffeine levels in a cup of tea:

Tea Leaf Size

Smaller tea leaves have a higher surface area compared to larger leaves. This allows for more thorough extraction of caffeine and other components from the leaves. So teas processed into smaller pieces like broken orange pekoe (BOP) and fannings have slightly higher caffeine levels.

Steeping Time

The longer tea is steeped, the more caffeine will be extracted from the leaves. A 1 minute steep will have noticeably less caffeine than a 5 minute steep.

Water Temperature

Hotter water can extract more caffeine from tea leaves than cooler water. The ideal steeping temperatures range from 160-212°F depending on the tea type, allowing thorough extraction of caffeine as well as flavor compounds.

Multiple Infusions

With whole leaf teas, the tea leaves can usually be brewed multiple times. The first infusion will have the highest concentration of caffeine. Subsequent infusions using the same leaves will have lower levels of caffeine.

Tea Plant Variety

Certain tea plant cultivars and hybrids have been developed that naturally contain higher or lower levels of caffeine based on their genetics. For example, the tea plant variety Assamica is naturally very high in caffeine.

Growing Conditions

Factors like elevation, climate, and soil chemistry where the tea plant is grown can impact caffeine levels to some degree. However, this is not a major influence compared to the tea plant genetics.

Processing Method

The steps used to process harvested tea leaves can affect the caffeine level. For example, black tea is exposed to more oxidation which may slightly elevate caffeine concentration compared to less oxidized oolong and green teas.

Black Tea Caffeine Content

We’ve established that black tea generally contains the most caffeine compared to all other tea types. But caffeine can vary widely among different black teas. Here are some common black teas and their typical caffeine levels:

Assam Black Tea

– Origin: Assam region of India
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 70mg

Assam black tea grows in the Assam region of India. This tea is known for its robust, malty flavor and deep reddish-brown color. Assam tea naturally contains very high levels of caffeine due to the large leaves and branching pattern of the Assamica cultivar.

Ceylon Black Tea

– Origin: Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 60mg

Ceylon black tea comes from Sri Lanka. The tea grows at very high elevations in rich volcanic soil, which lends to its brisk, citrusy flavor. Ceylon black tea typically has slightly less caffeine than Assam black tea, but more than most other black tea varieties.

English Breakfast Tea

– Origin: India/Sri Lanka blend
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 50mg

English Breakfast tea is a popular blended breakfast tea containing Assam black tea and Ceylon black tea. The blend usually has more Assam than Ceylon, giving it a robust strength and intensity. Due to the Assam content, English Breakfast tea has moderately high caffeine levels but less than pure Assam.

Kenyan Black Tea

– Origin: Kenya
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 30-60mg

Kenyan black tea can range widely in caffeine content based on the cultivar and growing conditions. Kenyan teas made from the Assam plant typically contain the most caffeine. Other Kenyan black teas like those from Nandi and Kericho may be lower.

Darjeeling Black Tea

– Origin: Darjeeling, India
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 40mg

Darjeeling black tea grows in the Darjeeling district of India. Its delicate floral and muscatel flavor comes from smaller leaves and cooler growing conditions. Due to the small leaf size, Darjeeling black tea has a moderately high caffeine level but less than Assam black tea.

Green Tea Caffeine Content

Green tea has less caffeine than black tea, but more than white or herbal tea. Like black tea, the caffeine content in green tea can vary based on specific tea leaf characteristics:

Sencha Green Tea

– Origin: Japan
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 35mg

Sencha is the most common Japanese green tea. It has a fresh, grassy, sometimes vegetal flavor. The caffeine content of sencha can range from 30-50mg per cup.

Matcha Green Tea

– Origin: Japan
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 70mg

Matcha is a powdered Japanese green tea made from finely ground tea leaves. Since you ingest the whole leaf with matcha rather than steeping and discarding the leaves, it contains much more caffeine than regular green tea – about 70mg per cup.

Gunpowder Green Tea

– Origin: China
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 35mg

Gunpowder green tea is a Chinese green tea rolled into tiny pellets that unfurl in hot water. Its caffeine content is similar to other Chinese green teas like sencha at around 35mg per cup.

Oolong Tea Caffeine Content

Oolong tea falls in the middle of the caffeine spectrum with more caffeine than white and green teas but less than black tea. Here are some examples:

Tieguanyin Oolong Tea

– Origin: Fujian province, China
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 37mg

Tieguanyin is the most famous Chinese oolong tea. It has a fragrant, orchid-like aroma and light, honey-like taste. Tieguanyin contains around 37mg caffeine per 8oz cup on average.

Da Hong Pao Oolong Tea

– Origin: Fujian province, China
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 30-40mg

Da Hong Pao is an oxidized cliff tea grown in the Wuyi Mountains. Like other oolong teas, it delivers a caffeine kick in the range of 30-40mg per cup.

Taiwanese Oolong Tea

– Origin: Taiwan
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 40-55mg

Oolong tea from Taiwan, especially dark varieties like Oriental Beauty, tend to be higher in caffeine than Chinese oolongs – closer to the level in some green and black teas.

White Tea Caffeine Content

White tea has the lowest caffeine content of any true tea, but it can still vary depending on the specific type:

Silver Needle White Tea

– Origin: Fujian province, China
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 25mg

Silver Needle is made from delicate unopened tea buds picked early in the season. The caffeine level is low at around 25mg per cup.

White Peony Tea

– Origin: Fujian province, China
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 28mg

White Peony incorporates younger leaves and buds with more caffeine than Silver Needle, reaching about 28mg per cup.

Shou Mei Tea

– Origin: Fujian province, China
– Caffeine per 8oz cup: 40mg

Shou Mei is a late season white tea made with more mature leaves and higher caffeine around 40mg per cup.

Herbal Tea Caffeine Content

Herbal teas contain no actual tea leaves and therefore do not contain significant caffeine:

Chamomile Tea

– Origin: Europe/Western Asia
– Caffeine content: 0mg

Chamomile is an herbal tea made from chamomile flowers. It contains no caffeine.

Peppermint Tea

– Origin: Europe
– Caffeine content: 0mg

Peppermint tea is caffeine-free and made from only peppermint leaves.

Rooibos Tea

– Origin: South Africa
– Caffeine content: 0mg

Rooibos or red tea is a South African herbal tea that does not contain caffeine.

Factors That Affect Caffeine Levels in Coffee

Like tea, several factors can influence the caffeine content when brewing coffee:

Bean Type

Coffee beans have varying natural caffeine levels based on their variety and origin. Beans naturally high in caffeine include:

– Coffee Arabica: 1.2% caffeine
– Coffee Robusta: 2.2% caffeine
– Coffee Liberica: 2.5% caffeine

Robusta has almost twice as much caffeine as Arabica due to its genetics.

Roast Type

Light roasts retain more caffeine from the raw bean than darker roasts. Roasting causes some of the caffeine to break down or evaporate.

– Light roast: up to 20% more caffeine than dark roast

Grind Size

Finer grinds lead to more thorough extraction and higher caffeine content. Coarse grinds extract less efficiently.

Brewing Method

Percolated coffee actually has lower caffeine than other methods because some is filtered out through a paper filter. Methods like espresso and French press fully extract caffeine and oils from the grounds.

Serving Size

The more ground coffee used per cup and the longer the brew time, the higher the caffeine concentration in the final drink.


To summarize key points:

– Black tea has the most caffeine of any tea type, especially Ceylon and Assam.
– Assam black tea from India is the single tea highest in caffeine.
– Factors like tea leaf size, steeping methods, and multiple infusions influence caffeine levels.
– Coffee has more caffeine than tea for a typical serving size.
– Opt for black tea or coffee if you desire a strong caffeine boost from your beverage.

So if seeking the absolute highest caffeine kick from tea, try brewing a cup of bold Assam black tea using about 2 grams of loose leaf tea per 6oz of water. Steep for 5 full minutes to fully extract caffeine and flavor. Drink black teas within the first 1-2 infusions for max caffeine intake. And you can always opt for brewed coffee if you need an even stronger caffeine fix.

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