The 10 Best High Caffeine Teas
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in November of 2016. If you enjoy the energy and buzz that an espresso or fresh brew can provide, but can't stomach coffee drinks because they are too acidic or cause you jitters, try one of these high caffeine teas as an alternative. Formulated to give you a more gentle and sustained boost, they are available with a range of ingredients claiming to offer numerous health benefits, plus a kick to keep you going. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 20, 2020:
When updating this list, we focused on making sure that every offering can truly be considered higher-than-average in caffeine, compared to a typical cup of tea. For this reason, we removed Solstice Tea Traders Gunpowder, Shaklee 180, and IntegriTea Energize, as they are all green teas that have less caffeine per serving than black tea.
One green tea that does deserve a spot in this category is Celestial Seasonings Energy, which features tea extract in addition to the leafs and boasts 95mg of caffeine per serving.
For many tea lovers, pu-erh is the quintessential high-caffeine tea. Instead of being mixed with extracts, this type of tea is naturally more energizing as a result of its fermentation process, which also gives it a rich, earthy flavor. We added two pu-erhs: Numi Emperor's Pu-erh, which comes in bags, and Solstice Tuo Cha, which comes in single-serve tea cakes.
Tiesta Passion Berry Jolt is a sweet and fruity tea that's a good choice for those looking for strong flavors. On the other hand, Bigelow American Breakfast is a basic black that's better suited to people who want their beverage plain and simple.
Some selections come in bags, while others are loose leaf. Many tea drinkers prefer loose leaf because it makes it easy to customize your dose, and even mix different teas together. However, if you're looking for the most convenient way to make a mug of tea in the morning, it might make more sense to get a box of bagged tea.
May 21, 2019:
We considered the top reasons people switch from coffee to tea in making our selections, and one of those is that regular old joe can be quite tough on sensitive stomachs, with its high acidity content. So we made sure to include options that are gentle on the digestive tract, like Zest High Octane, which consumers with fragile stomachs tend to digest without issue. Meanwhile, IntegriTea Energize contains ginseng, which can specifically work to soothe an upset stomach, and Celestial Seasonings Morning Thunder has only two ingredients, so there won't be an surprise additives that may cause indigestion. We do understand that for some, that intense energy boost is non-negotiable, which is another reason Zest High Octane — boasting more caffeine per cup than coffee — caught our attention. Solstice Tea Traders Gunpowder is another one that will give you a kick, as it is a super-caffeinated green variety. We wanted our selection to also represent the many other benefits tea can offer, so we like Yogi Raspberry Passion Perfect because it has several healthful herbs and spices, and IntegriTea Energize stood out again for its lemon myrtle, which can fight cold and flu symptoms.
A Brief History Of Tea
By the early 1900s, India was the world's top tea producer, though it was recently surpassed by China once again.
The Yunnan Province in southwestern China is said to be the birthplace of tea. The oldest cultivated tea tree in the world, estimated to be around 3,200 years old, can be found there in the city of Lincang.
There are many legends surrounding the discovery of tea in China, but one of the most popular attributes it to the legendary Emperor Shennong, who lived about 4,500 years ago. As the story goes, at the time there was a decree that all water must be boiled before drinking. Shennong was preparing to sip from his bowl of freshly boiled water, but as it was cooling, a gust of wind blew leaves from a nearby tree into it. The leaves changed the color of the water and imparted it with a light and pleasant flavor. The Emperor immediately felt its restorative power, and shared his discovery with his subjects.
While the Emperor's story is compelling, it's probably a myth. Historians believe tea drinking comes from ancient, pre-Dynastic traditions in southwestern China. Whatever its roots are, there's no denying tea's importance in Chinese culture and its global impact.
By the end of the first millennium C.E., tea drinking had spread throughout Asia. Up until that point, leaves were usually compressed into dehydrated bricks for consumption. During the Chinese Song Dynasty, which lasted from 960 to 1279, loose-leaf styles that closely resembled those we drink today became popular. In the year 1391, the Ming court decreed loose tea was the only kind acceptable for tributes, further tipping the scales in favor of the full-leaf production style.
European explorers in Asia documented the consumption of tea throughout the 16th century. It wasn't until the following century, however, that the first tea leaves actually reached Europe, courtesy of the Dutch East India Company. By 1636, the drink had gained significant popularity in France. By 1689, caravans of hundreds of camels delivered tea by land to Russia on a regular basis.
While tea is often associated with Indian culture, it was actually introduced as a crop there by the British in the 19th century as a means of breaking up China's global monopoly. In a mission overseen by the British East India Company, tea plants were stolen from China and brought to Indian soil. The British used Chinese planting and cultivation techniques and offered free Indian land to any European willing to grow tea for export. By the early 1900s, India was the world's top tea producer, though it was recently surpassed by China once again. Long seen as a symbol of colonialism there, local consumption in India only took off in the 1950s, after a successful ad campaign by the India Tea Board.
Some Notes About Tea And Caffeine
Contrary to popular belief, tea is actually more caffeinated than coffee, at least by weight. However, it takes far fewer grams of tea leaves than it does of ground coffee to produce a single cup, so a mug of coffee does tend to contain more caffeine than the same amount of brewed tea.
Other factors including climate, time of harvest, soil nutrients, and rainfall have an impact on a given tea plant's caffeine levels.
While a cup of coffee usually contains around 100 mg of caffeine, only the blackest of teas extracted in the perfect conditions can come close to that mark. A cup of unadulterated black tea usually hovers in the 60 to 90 mg range. Green tea comes in second, with between 35 and 70 mg, while white tea typically has a bit less than that amount.
The body absorbs tea's caffeine more slowly than that of coffee, which means you might get more bang for your buck from the steeped stuff despite its lower content. The slow release also helps you avoid the jitters and crash often associated with coffee consumption. In addition, tea naturally contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which promotes calmness and relaxation and tends to produce a mindful alertness when combined with caffeine, as opposed to a wired feeling.
There are a host of other factors that can effect your tea buzz. Younger plants tend to contain higher quantities of caffeine — its naturally bitter taste renders the plants less desirable to potential predators, improving the young plant's chances of maturing to adulthood. Other factors including climate, time of harvest, soil nutrients, and rainfall have an impact on a given tea plant's caffeine levels. Once it's picked, the way it's prepared also changes the degree of pick-me-up you'll find in your cup. Water temperature, steeping time, and vessel choice (tea bag, strainer, or loose leaf), all have an effect.
Understanding The Different Types Of Tea
While there are seemingly endless types of tea on the market, you might be surprised to learn that it all comes from a single plant. Camellia sinensis is a small, shrublike, evergreen tree, known in English as the tea plant or tea tree, though it is not the source of tea tree oil, which actually has nothing to do with the tea plant.
Names like Darjeeling or Ceylon actually refer to the region where the tea is grown, not variations of the plant itself.
It's a common misconception that different varieties of tea are made from different plants. The names of some varieties, such as jasmine, simply indicate herbs or botanicals that are added to actual tea leaves. Names like Darjeeling or Ceylon actually refer to the region where the tea is grown, not variations of the plant itself. Still other classifications, such as oolong, indicate the way the leaves are cured or fermented after harvest.
While it might seem like black, green, and white tea would come from different plants, those designations actually have to do with time of harvest as well as how the leaves are dried and their levels of oxidation. White tea comes from the youngest clippings, which are fried or steamed before drying to halt the oxidation process. Green tea leaves are typically scalded after harvest, then rolled and dried. Black tea comes from the most mature leaves and is allowed to oxidize or ferment before drying, which helps embolden its flavor.
There are plenty of tea-like beverages that do not contain actual tea leaves, such as herbal teas and yerba maté. However, these are not truly tea, and the British tend to refer to them as "infusions" to avoid confusion.