Caffeine and tea: it’s complicated


Once in a while, I think I should cut back on my caffeine intake. The Food and Drug Administration recommends a limit of 400 milligrams per day. The problem for tea drinkers is the difficulty in determining how many milligrams of caffeine we consume. Counting the milligrams of caffeine in tea isn’t as simple as looking at a package label to count calories.

I drink black tea, hot and iced, throughout the day. I could count the number of cups on an average day, but translating that number into milligrams of caffeine is tricky. A cup of black tea can contain between 40 and 120 milligrams of caffeine, according to The amount varies depending on the variety and quality of the tea, the age of the tea leaves, where and how the tea was grown and processed, the steeping time and the temperature of the tea. the water. Also, I drink loose leaf tea, which releases caffeine more slowly than bagged tea, and reuse tea leaves. (More on that below.)

Considering that one tablespoon of loose black tea has an average of 50 milligrams of caffeine, and that’s all I add to the pot each day, it seems like I’m way below the recommended limit. The answer to whether I am overdosing on caffeine may be if I experience side effects. I can drink tea before bed and fall asleep easily. When I’m irritated or nervous, caffeine isn’t the reason.

Every time I’ve looked at the risks of caffeine, I’ve concluded there’s nothing to worry about. Still, I haven’t been able to get rid of the idea that it’s a bad habit. Caffeine is a stimulant, a drug, to which I am addicted. Don’t the healthiest people drink only herbal teas, fruit juices and water? The best I can tell myself is that it’s a vice that I don’t have to remove.

Maybe I could try to consider caffeine healthy. Some studies have found benefits beyond improved cognition and alertness and relief from fatigue. According to Medical News, these include protection against cataracts, kidney stones, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, strokes and certain types of cancers.

However, there are also arguments in favor of eliminating caffeine. Medical line lists more efficient absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, better balance of hormones and brain chemistry, healthier digestion, whiter, healthier teeth and better skin, as well as lower blood pressure, less anxiety and better sleep.

It’s a wash. I mixed some loose leaf herbal tea into some black tea, but I don’t expect to give up the caffeine completely.


Of course, caffeine isn’t just in tea. If you’re a coffee drinker, you probably consume more caffeine than a tea drinker. Caffeine is also present in chocolate, cola and a growing number of other products such as energy drinks and snacks.

American Scientist reported that the growing number of caffeinated products and the ever-increasing doses of caffeine in these products are causing the FDA to question whether it should regulate the drug.


I learned a few new things about tea in my latest look at caffeine:

• Loose tea leaves can be reused up to half a dozen times. I thought it was one of my stingy habits, but Asians have been reusing loose leaf tea for centuries, and restaurants are doing it. There are differences of opinion on reusing tea bags, but frequent tea drinkers who don’t let bags dry out should be able to use one bag two or three times.

• When all types of real tea (tea from the tea tree) are brewed under similar conditions, they generally extract similar amounts of caffeine. The reason green and white teas are believed to contain less caffeine than black is that ideally they are not steeped in boiling water like black tea.

• It’s largely a myth that you can decaffeinate tea by discarding the first brew after 30 seconds. This technique is particularly ineffective for loose leaf tea, which releases caffeine more slowly than bagged tea. Admittedly, there is less caffeine (and less flavor) with each brew, so each subsequent cup or pot should be steeped longer. I read the suggestion to steep the first pot five minutes and subsequent pots two to three minutes longer than the previous one, but as with all things tea, judge by your own taste preferences.

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