Tea Contains Less Caffeine Than Coffee

July 13, 2010 at 5:00 am 16 comments

By Chad Upton

This is one of those things that a lot of people know and a lot people get wrong.

Most coffee has 60-100 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Here’s a list of the most popular coffees and their caffeine content:

Coffee (16oz) Caffeine (mg)
Starbucks 330
Caffè Americano (Espresso) 225
Tim Hortons 160
McDonald’s 145
Store Brand (Drip) 145
Dunkin Donuts 143
Store Brand (Brewed) 108
Decaf 2-5

As you can see, Starbucks coffee is the strongest with 330 mg of caffeine in a 16oz serving. It is followed by Starbucks Caffè Americano, which has three shots of espresso in it and more than 100 mg less caffeine in the same size serving. Most of the other brands have about 110-160 mg in a 16oz serving..

So, how does that compare to tea? Let’s have a look:

Tea (16oz) Caffeine (mg)
Starbucks Tazo Chai 94
Black 90
Green 40
White 30
Starbucks Tazo Red 0

As we can see, Tea generally has much less caffeine than coffee.

Of course, there are always exceptions. There are some coffees that have less caffeine than most teas, particularly decaf coffee. That might be an unfair comparison since decaf is a man-made product. Although, it might not be that way forever. Caffeine free coffee beans have been discovered, although they’re too bitter for most people’s taste buds.

There are also some black teas that have up to 140 mg of caffeine per 16 oz, which is more than the same size coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts (or Dunkin’ Coffee as they call it in Spain).

Dunkin Donuts - Barcelona, Spain

There are many other caffeinated beverages that are popular, how do those stack up?

Product Serving (oz) Caffeine (mg)
Jolt Energy 24 280
Red Bull 8 80
Mountain Dew 12 55
Mountain Dew Code Red 12 54
Diet Coke 12 45
Coca-Cola Classic 12 35
Sprite 12 0
7-Up 12 0

Caffeine is found in many other foods, such as chocolate. It is also found in guarana beans, which are very similar to coffee beans according to Brett’s Energy Drinks. So, be careful of those guarana filled energy drinks, caffeine is a hell of a drug.

Thanks to Kristen for suggesting this one and Ian for adding front lines insight.

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Sources: Mayo Clinic, Brett’s Energy Drinks, Energy Fiend,

Entry filed under: Demystified, Food and Drink. Tags: , , , , , .

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ian  |  July 13, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I think it’s odd you didn’t mention espresso, because having worked at Starbucks, I came across a lot of people who were confused about caffeine in espresso versus coffee. A shot of espresso only has 89 mg of caffeine, therefore if a grande latte has 2 shots it would only be 178 mg versus 330 for a grande coffee. People still come in all the time and just want coffee because, “espresso will keep me up all night,” “espresso is hardcore,” or “espresso has too much caffeine.”

    Reply
    • 2. Chad Upton  |  July 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

      Great point Ian, I added espresso to the comparison.

      Reply
    • 3. Adam Snider  |  November 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      Actually, espresso is generally more concentrated that coffee. If you server them in equal sizes, the espresso would be stronger.

      It’s because espresso is served by the shot, rather than by the cup, that it ends up being “weaker” than coffee.

      Reply
  • 4. thebackroadslesstraveled  |  July 13, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Great information. Thanks.

    Reply
  • 5. Elbyron  |  July 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Thanks for including Tim Hortons in the coffee comparison! I know you don’t have them in many parts of the U.S. yet, but they’re the #1 coffee seller in Canada.

    I think if you’re going to show the caffiene for Coke, you should also show Pepsi so people can see how they rank. Per 12oz, regular Pepsi has 37.5mg, while Diet is slightly less at 36mg. However, Pepsi One (which we don’t have in Canada) has a whopping 55.5mg making it the highest of the non-energy drinks!

    Reply
  • 6. jdurley  |  July 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Very informative! I didn’t realize about Espresso. I’ve seen the Dunkin’ Coffee establishments in Spain. I was afraid to go in, in case they dunked me in a large vat of coffee. Heh. Actually, I found it challenging to get coffee in Spain. Unlike Paris, where any bakery will make you a wee cup of espresso for 1E, the bakeries in Barcelona just shook their heads at me. You have to go into bars for that. Luckily the bars were generally open in the morning!

    Reply
  • 7. Alain Roy  |  July 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks–very interesting!

    One small suggestion: you should consider normalizing your serving amounts, to make them directly comparable. I had to do a wee bit of math to compare the caffeine in black tea to that in Mountain Dew.

    Reply
  • 8. Theron  |  July 19, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Can you cite your source for this information?

    Reply
    • 9. Chad Upton  |  July 19, 2010 at 8:29 am

      Yes. You can find the sources at the bottom of the post (above the related posts and horizontal rule).

      Reply
  • 10. Joyce Melton  |  July 20, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Besides caffeine (named after coffee) tea has another stimulant, theophylline (from Greek roots meaning tea leaves). Theophylline is a more potent stimulant than caffeine and is sometimes used as an asthma drug. Fortunately, a cup of tea has only a milligram or two of this stuff.

    Cocoa has theophylline also plus theobromine, a compound that can be both a stimulant and a relaxant. The chemical difference between these three is small, all three are methylated xanthines.

    The kola nut has all three.

    Reply
  • 11. Starbucks Drink ID Codes « Broken Secrets  |  July 24, 2010 at 9:22 am

    […] of caffeine. If you want to spike it, each additional shot of espresso adds 75mg of caffeine. Yes, espresso has less caffeine than coffee […]

    Reply
  • 12. smAlbany Small Business Day 2010 |  |  November 19, 2010 at 2:43 am

    […] I started my day remembering a blog I’d read the night prior.  Tea Contains Less Caffeine Than Coffee on the Broken Secrets blog.  I couldn’t get my caffeine soon enough!  I rarely drink […]

    Reply
  • 13. Joe Zimmerman  |  December 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I have been drinking coffee, expresso coffee, since 1965, started in Spain, where I lived a total of 6 yrs. I have done a lot of research on coffee, go to Europe every year for 1 – 3 months, & I have tried starbucks coffee. Like myself, the Spanish (Spain) people I know & the Italians as well who come here LAUGH at Starbucks Expresso. It is a joke. I doubt seriously that it has 30 grams of of caffeine, let alone 330. At most Starbucks I have seen, they hide behind these tall machines, like a wall, so you can not usually see how much coffee actually goes into their milk, sugar & other flavors the put in it. I have managed to peek & see a very small watery amount of coffee
    added to there expresso. The 330mg probably came from Starbucks themselves. Not only that their coffee does not even smell like real coffee. In Europe they most of there coffee from Africa. Go over & try some, come back & have a good laugh.

    Reply
  • 14. Yahoo! Answers » Blog Archive » Starbucks Drink ID Codes  |  September 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    […] of caffeine. If you want to spike it, each additional shot of espresso adds 75mg of caffeine. Yes, espresso has less caffeine than coffee […]

    Reply
  • 15. Martin  |  October 2, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Ready for some maths? One shot of Espresso is (according to Italian Espresso standards) 25ml which is roughly 0.85 fl. oz. (US) and the amount of caffeine must be below 100mg per shot. If we take the 75mg of caffeine per shot as stated above and calculate volumes 16 fl.oz. of Starbuck coffee is the the equivalent of roughly 19 shots of Espresso. 19 shots of Espresso (= 16 fl oz) contain then 1425 mg of Caffeine. That means Espresso has more than 4 times the Caffeine than Starbucks coffee at equal volumes.

    Reply
  • 16. peter  |  November 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    this. /thread

    Reply

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