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different types of coffee and foods caffeine levels

Caffeine in tea vs. coffee

23 Nov 2022 • 3 min read

Lots of us rely on a caffeine boost to kick-start our morning routines, wake us up and give us that extra bit of oomph we need to get going every day.

More often than not, most of us tend to get these caffeine fixes by reaching out for a steaming cup (or two) of coffee or tea.

On average in the UK, us Brits drink almost 123 million cups of tea and 90 million cups of coffee every single day!1

Other than tasting great – you may be a tea or a coffee lover or partial to enjoying both – these two drinks also have something else in common, they contain caffeine. Even if they happen to be decaf…(more on this below).

Once consumed, caffeine stimulates our central nervous system. This means that by the time it’s reached our brain, we’re feeling more alert, i.e. more awake and less tired.2

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages that are sent from our brain to our body.

You can find it in the seeds, nuts and leaves of plants, such as Coffea Arabica (which is used for coffee), Thea Sinensis (which is used for tea), Cola Acuminata (which is used as a nut and in tea and soft drinks), Theobroma Cacao (which is used in cocoa and chocolate) and Paullinia Cupana (which is used in snack bars and energy drinks).3

Is caffeine good for you?

Good question… we may crave it, and be conscious about how much caffeine we consume. But is it something we should worry about? Can caffeine impact our health at all?

There’s lots of research out there on this topic.

Moderate levels of tea and coffee are reportedly said to not damage our health.

Studies also suggest three to four cups of tea and coffee are deemed safe to drink, and may even play a potentially beneficial role in fighting heart disease and diabetes.

For more details on if caffeine is good for you, check out this article.

Summary

  • Caffeine is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages between our brain and body
  • Moderate levels of tea and coffee are reportedly said to not damage our health
  • Studies also suggest three to four cups of tea and coffee are safe to drink

Reasons to go caffeine-free

As with most things in life, there are positives and negatives.

We’ve mentioned some of the caffeine positives above, but what about the negatives? Why is it that people may choose to give caffeine a miss?

First up, some people may not like the taste of caffeine food or drink, simple as that.

Meanwhile, others may find they experience side effects from consuming caffeine. For instance, as well as making you feel more alert, it can leave you feeling:4

  • Restless, excitable and dizzy
  • Anxious and irritable
  • Dehydrated and needing to urinate more often

It can also potentially lead to:

  • A higher body temperature
  • Faster breathing and heart rate
  • Headaches and lack of concentration
  • Stomach pains

Drinking more than four cups of coffee over a long period time may also cause:5

  • Sleeping issues
  • Ulcers
  • Osteoporosis in post-menopausal women
  • Dizziness and ringing in the ears
  • Muscle tremor
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Poor appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Irregular heart rate or rhythm
  • Low blood pressure with faintness or falls

Summary

  • Caffeine can trigger symptoms, such as feeling restless and dizzy, anxious and irritable
  • It can make you dehydrated and needing to urinate more often
  • Regularly drinking more than four cups of coffee may cause more serious side effects, including muscle tremors, low blood pressure and ulcers

The caffeine content in a cup of coffee

So, how much caffeine is there in a cup of Joe?

Answer – it depends on the type of coffee you’re drinking. To give you an idea:6

  • Brewed coffee (8oz/237ml) contains 95 to 200mg of caffeine
  • Decaffeinated brewed coffee (8oz/237ml) contains 2 to 12mg of caffeine
  • Espresso coffee (1oz/30ml) contains 47 to 75mg of caffeine
  • Decaffeinated espresso coffee (1oz/30ml) contains 0 to 15mg of caffeine
  • Instant coffee (8oz/237ml) contains 27 to 173mg of caffeine
  • Decaffeinated instant coffee (8oz/237ml) contains 27 to 173mg of caffeine
  • Latte coffee (8oz/237ml) contains 63 to 175mg of caffeine

Caffeine in a cup of tea

And what about tea? How do its caffeine levels stack up?

  • Black tea with milk contains around 47mg of caffeine7
  • Green tea contains less caffeine than black tea, with an average of 33mg per cup
  • Matcha green tea contains around 35mg per half a teaspoon
  • Herbal teas that don’t come from the Camellia Sinensis plant (or tea plant) are caffeine-free
  • But if you buy herbal tea that has green or black tea added, it will contain caffeine. For example, green tea and jasmine or green tea and ginger.

Caffeine in coffee vs tea

Ah, the million dollar question…how does the caffeine content compare in coffee versus tea?

Generally speaking, a cup of coffee contains around double the amount of caffeine compared to black tea, which contains an average of 95mg of caffeine per cup.

Like tea, several factors can influence the caffeine content of coffee. These factors include the type of coffee beans, the roasting process and the type of coffee.8

For example, a shot of espresso contains about 63mg of caffeine and a cup of instant coffee contains anywhere between 30 and 90mg of caffeine.

Summary

  • Brewed coffee (8oz/237ml) contains 95 to 200mg of caffeine
  • Black tea with milk contains around 47mg of caffeine
  • The type of tea leaves and coffee beans, brewing and decaffeination processes are among the factors that can influence caffeine levels

Does decaf coffee contain caffeine?

Yes, it does, but not as much as a ‘normal’ cup of coffee. According to the US National Library of Medicine, a regular 8oz cup of coffee contains around 95 to 200mg of caffeine.9

In contrast, the caffeine in decaf coffee is around 2 to 15mg per 8oz serving, according to the FDA.

However, the caffeine levels do fluctuate, depending on factors, such as the type of beans that have been used and the manufacturer’s decaffeination processes, as well as brewing method and strength.

Interestingly, there aren’t any regulations specifying the maximum amount of caffeine coffee can contain in order to be classed as decaffeinated.

As a general rule of thumb, the FDA says the term ‘decaffeinated’ can be used on coffee in which at least 97% of the original caffeine has been removed.

Does decaf tea contain caffeine?

Ok, so…. we know that an average 8oz cup of decaf coffee contains up to 7mg of caffeine. In comparison, a cup of regular coffee provides 70 to 140mg.10

So what’s the deal with caffeine in decaf tea? Well, the same can be said for decaf tea (in that decaf tea contains less caffeine than regular tea).

By law, tea that’s been labelled as being decaffeinated should contain less than 2.5% of its original caffeine level, which usually equates to less than 2mg per cup.11

We’re not sure about you, but this has got us thinking about caffeine on a much wider scale.

In particular, other than tea and coffee – the two main go-to caffeine boosters we instinctively tend to reach out for – what other food and drink products contain caffeine? And how much caffeine do they contain?

Other food and drink that contains caffeine

Here's a list of common food and drinks that contain caffeine:12,13,14,15,16

Food/drink Caffeine level 
Regular coffee (black) 95mg
Espresso - 1 shot 63mg
Instant coffee 63mg
Latte or mocha 63-126mg
Decaf coffee 2mg
Energy drinks 91mg
Green tea 28mg
Sugar-free caffeinated soft drinks 41mg
Kombucha 10-15mg

 

Some surprising things that contain caffeine

  • Chocolate – this is because caffeine’s naturally found in cocoa beans, so most chocolate contains at least some of the energy-boosting compound. Rule of thumb – the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it’s likely to contain17
  • Ice cream and frozen yoghurt – who’d have thought it, hey, that caffeine can be found in ice and frozen yoghurt?! Most popular brands are said to contain up to 45mg of the stuff
  • Breakfast cereals – we all know certain cereals can contain iron and sugar, but some can also contain caffeine too, especially the chocolate-flavoured varieties
  • Desserts - (especially if they contain chocolate!)
  • Hot cocoa – if you’ve ever found yourself wondering, ‘does hot chocolate have caffeine in it?’ Yes is does – usually between 0 and 2mg

As for if there’s caffeine in peppermint tea, if it’s pure – i.e. made from nothing, but pure peppermint leaves, then it won’t contain any caffeine.

So, if you like mint and are looking for a 100% caffeine-free alternative, then peppermint tea may well be your ideal drink of choice going forward.

Summary

  • Both decaf coffee and tea contain caffeine
  • So do certain soft drinks, kombucha, ice cream, certain desserts, breakfast cereals, hot cocoa and chocolate

Is decaf tea and coffee good for you?

Is decaf tea good for you? And is decaffeinated coffee good for you?

Decaf coffee contains lots of antioxidants and nutrients, which includes magnesium, potassium and B vitamins.

As a result, drinking regular and decaf coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and liver protection.18

As for decaffeinated tea, it’s also said to contain antioxidants that are capable of helping reduce inflammation and protecting cells from damage caused by ageing and disease.

10 caffeine free hot drinks

Quite like the idea of switching to caffeine-free hot drinks or mixing things up a bit by drinking your usual coffee or tea interspersed with some sans caffeine options?

These 10 caffeine free hot drinks are an excellent starting point:

  1. Chamomile tea.
  2. Turmeric milk.
  3. Rooibos tea.
  4. Mint tea.
  5. Barley, rye and chicory cereal drink.
  6. Lemon and ginger tea.
  7. Nettle tea.
  8. Lemon water.
  9. Peppermint tea.
  10. Rose tea.

Summary

  • Both decaffeinated tea and coffee happen to contain antioxidants and nutrients that can help protect the body from disease and ageing, among many other things
  • There are lots of caffeine free hot drinks available other than regular tea and coffee. They range from peppermint and chamomile tea, to turmeric milk and barley, rye and chicory cereal drink

To conclude…

Are you feeling more clued up about caffeine now?

If anything, we hope this article has helped open your eyes to the fact that caffeine isn’t just present in the usual suspects – tea and coffee – it can be found in plenty of other food and drink items too, even ice cream and breakfast cereals.

From boosting our energy levels to affecting how our bodies absorb vitamins and minerals, caffeine works in many wonderful ways.

For more on the link between caffeine and mineral absorption levels, take a look at this article, ‘Does caffeine affect the absorption of vitamins and minerals?’

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 8 July 2021

bhupesh-panchal

Bhupesh Panchal

Author

Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: April 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
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