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Which Has More Caffeine, Coffee or Tea?

A hot cup of tea next to a hot cup of brewed coffee

Coffee and tea both have a way of jolting our energy levels when we need a little pick-me-up, but how much caffeine do each of these drinks provide? Does one of them have more than the other?

Whether you like a cup of black coffee, a cup of black tea, or some variation thereof, part of the appeal is the little pick-me-up you get when you drink it—all thanks to the caffeine. But which one has more caffeine and why? Let’s dig into the history of the beloved beverages and how they are prepared to get to the bottom of it.

Tea Leaves vs. Coffee Beans

Two paper bags; one filled with tea leaves and the other filled with coffee beans.

If you were to study the caffeine content in tea leaves versus the amount of caffeine in coffee beans, you’d notice that tea leaves actually contain more.

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However, when you look at a single cup of hot tea or brewed coffee, the caffeine content is different and a cup of tea is less caffeinated. That’s because tea uses fewer leaves to make a single cup than the amount of coffee grounds needed to make a mug of coffee.

According to the FDA, an eight-ounce cup of black tea has 30-40 milligrams of caffeine, while an eight-ounce cup of coffee has about 90-100 milligrams of caffeine.

One study found that tea bags steeped for a long time in hotter water will make a stronger cup, as more caffeine is extracted that way. So, if you steep your tea for just a short time in cooler water, you’ll have a much weaker cup.

The same holds true for coffee beans. Hot water pulls more caffeine from the beans than cooler water. (Cold brew coffee is a bit of a confusing exception to that rule but it doesn’t have more caffeine because cold water extracts caffeine better, it has more caffeine because it’s more concentrated.)

Coffee and Tea Varieties, and Caffeine

A cup of Twinings tea next to a cinnamon roll on a plate.

The way coffee and tea are prepared, greatly impacts the caffeine content, but is there a difference between dark and light roasts? What about black versus green teas?

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Black, white, and green teas differ due to their varying degrees of oxidation. That’s why each has different amounts of caffeine. Again, the steep time also affects the caffeine content. If you want the strongest tasting cup, go for black tea.

Below are a few recommendations of each kind:

When it comes to coffee, dark roasts might taste more robust, but the caffeine content isn’t that different from the lighter roasts. When beans are roasted, they lose their mass, so the dark-roasted beans become less dense than lighter ones.

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Therefore, determining caffeine content really depends on how you measure your beans and not whether your beans are dark or light.

Espresso, which is a more concentrated form of coffee, is brewed differently than other types of coffee and packs a lot of caffeine.

Ounce for ounce, espresso has more caffeine than coffee, but most people drink more than one ounce of coffee. Espresso, though, is basically a morning gulp rather than a morning cup.

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If you were to compare the caffeine content of one ounce of espresso to one cup of coffee, the cup of coffee would actually have more.

Below are a few coffee bean recommendations:

It’s also important to note that tea and coffee labeled as “decaf” actually do contain minimal traces of caffeine, but these are small enough to be considered insignificant from a dietary standpoint—although people with caffeine sensitivity may find that even the trace amount of caffeine in decaf still bothers them. It’s kind of like how non- alcoholic beer actually has minimal amounts of alcohol, but not enough to be considered an alcoholic drink under law.


Both coffee and tea have a way of making you feel cozy, especially during the cool, crisp days of fall. Speaking of which, have you enjoyed a hot pumpkin spice latte recently? They’re not just for fall! Even if pumpkin isn’t your favorite, making lattes at home is a tasty way to get your daily dose of caffeine.

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