High Caffeine Teas

by cazort

The amount of caffeine tea is highly variable; this page gives listings of some teas that tend to be naturally highest in caffeine.

Tea is almost always less caffeinated than coffee, but the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea is highly variable. This is true even among classes of the same type (or "color") of tea: among green teas, black teas, or even white teas, you can find examples that are high in caffeine and those that are low.

In addition to caffeine, the other chemical components of tea, including theanine, vary too. Theanine in particular affects the mind's response to caffeine, allowing smaller amounts of caffeine to provide a greater boost to alertness.

Strong Black Breakfast Teas

English / Irish Breakfast, or Assam, Yunnan, or Kenya Black Teas

Whether you're a coffee drinker who has switched (or wants to switch) to tea, or you just like bold flavors, strong black teas, the so-called breakfast teas, can be a great option if you're looking for a wake-me-up.

These teas include blends like English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast, and less commonly, Scottish Breakfast, or other teas marketed in this way, like Tazo Awake.  One of my favorites is Rishi Tea's China Breakfast.  If you buy blends marketed as breakfast teas, you're pretty sure to get a good caffeine kick from your purchase, in large part because these blends are chosen to have a high caffeine content.

Strong single-origin teas of similar character:

If you want to buy single-origin teas or single-region teas with a similar character, I recommend checking out Assam, Yunnan (Dian Hong), or Kenya black teas, although some Ceylon teas are also similarly strong.  To make sure you get a good caffeine kick, I recommend seeking out tippy teas.  Tippy teas are labelled "tippy" or given a grade with T in it, such as TGFOP or FTGFOP.

A Typical Strong Black Tea
A Typical Strong Black Tea
Tippy Yunnan, Loose tea by the Pound

The highlands of Yunnan are the birthplace of tea. This black tea is a big leaf with golden flecks and has a spicy, peppery taste that is very enjoyable.

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Ahmad Tea of London : Ceylon Tea (loose tea) 500ge/17.6 oz.

Ahmad 500 gram loose Ceylon tea is from the finest high grown teas from the Sri Lankan hillsides. The tea has a beautiful golden color and memorable character. Try serving Ahmad...

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Caffeinated But Mild, Light, or Low-Tannin Black Teas

Darjeeling tea, especially first flush, and Yunnan pure gold and golden monkey

Not everyone likes the stronger-flavored black teas like English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast.  The good news is that you can still get just as much of a caffeine content in a milder cup of black tea.  These milder teas are often "low tannin", and some people find them easier to drink and milder on the stomach.

Darjeeling black tea tends to be the lightest of widely available black teas.   Although most Darjeelings tend to be lighter than average, Darjeeling first flush, harvested in the spring, tends to be lighest of all.  High grades of Darjeeling will tend to be strongly caffeinated.  Teas from surrounding regions, including Nepal, Sikkim, and Jalpaiguri, tend to be similar.

In China, Yunnan Pure Gold, and Golden Monkey (from Fujian) are two golden-colored black teas that tend to be lower tannin and milder in flavor, but high in caffeine, due to consisting mostly or exclusively from leaf tips.

If you want a recommendation, I'd point to the Darjeeling first flush teas sold by Happy Earth Tea for very light, low-tannin, high-caffeine teas.

Darjeeling First Flush Loose Leaf Black Tea, 8 ounce

From the Makaibari Estate, this first flush has is exceptional with the body and aroma that is Darjeeling. Medium bodied with gentle fruit tones and obvious astringency, this ha...

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Adagio - Black Tea Golden Yunnan - 15 Tea Pyramid(s)

Black tea from the Yunnan region of China. Yunnan tea is easily identified by its luscious soft leaves, and a unique peppery taste. Our 'Yunnan Gold' as the name implies is an e...

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Highly-Caffeinated Green and White Teas

Green and white teas are not always low in caffeine! Here are some counterexamples.

There is a widespread myth in our culture that green tea is lower in caffeine than black tea.  This is simply not true: the caffeine content varies widely from one tea to the next.  My page on White Tea and Caffeine: Myths and Reality explains this further.  Below are some examples of green teas, both Chinese and Japanese in origin, which have a higher caffeine content:

  • Gyokuro Green Tea - Gyokuro is one of the highest-grade Japanese teas, which often has a vegetal aroma and flavor, almost suggestive of spinach.  It has a very involved production process which involves shading the leaves for several weeks before harvest.  Gyokuro tends to be quite high in caffeine, and also is among the teas highest in L-theanine, a chemical that makes the same levels of caffeine provide a greater boost to alertness.  This tea is pricey, but it provides one of the biggest boosts to alertness and concentration that you can find in a green tea.  I like Harney and Sons' Gyokuro.
  • Silver Needle White Tea - Silver needle, or bai hao yinzhen, is a highest grade of Chinese white tea, made exclusively from tips or leaf buds.  The dry leaf has a fuzzy, silvery appearance, and it produces a very mild flavored cup that has a sweet flavor and an aroma suggestive of melon and flowers.  Because the tips are highest in caffeine, this tea tends to be very high in caffeine--stronger than even most breakfast teas.  One of my favorite silver needle teas is actually produced in Tanzania; you can buy it from Teas Etc.
Bai Hao Yinzhen, Silver needle White Tea
Bai Hao Yinzhen, Silver needle White Tea
These high-caffeine, light-flavored teas tend to be expensive.
Teavana Gyokuro Imperial Loose-Leaf Green Tea, 2oz

The finest of Japanese teas, Gyokuro bushes are covered in shade two weeks before harvesting, which creates a light but very complex blend and a luscious deep, dark green color....

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Teavana Silver Needle, Downy Loose-Leaf White Tea, 2oz

Rarity and fame cloak our legendary Silver Needle white tea downy buds. The leaves are uniquely beautiful and silver tipped exuding royalty and an exceptional soft, smooth, swee...

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More on Caffeine and Tea

Sources, references, and further reading, especially about caffeine

For citations and a more thorough explanation of why these teas have so much caffeine, and what influences the caffeine content of tea in general, I recommend visiting an article I maintain on RateTea on the caffeine content of tea.

For general info on caffeine, I also recommend caffeine on Wikipedia and the NIH page on caffeine.

Read More About Tea

More of my articles about tea, with an emphasis on high-quality artisan tea
RateTea is a social and community website where anyone can rate and review teas.
All about tea: types of tea, tea companies and places to buy tea, how to select the best tea, etc.
Teas that are naturally low in caffeine, including green tea, black tea, oolong, white tea, and naturally caffeine-free herbal teas.
Updated: 09/20/2014, cazort
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cazort on 11/16/2014

Thank you! It's definitely good to be aware of the caffeine level of teas, if you have blood pressure issues, as caffeine is one factor influencing blood pressure.

frankbeswick on 11/16/2014

Great article. Much needed by those of us with blood pressure issues.

Rose on 11/16/2013

I prefer black tears to green teas, and love Darjeeling - it's light enough to drink without adding milk.

cazort on 07/02/2013

Yeah! There is a lot of misinformation circulating on the web. When I first started seeing it, I became curious because I saw a lot of websites (including reputable ones like a USDA site) making claims about black tea being high in caffeine, green tea lower, and white tea even lower, but I didn't see a single study cited. It also didn't fit with my experience of drinking many teas--some black teas seemed more caffeinated than others, and the same for green or white teas.

I finally did some research on my own and when I found an actual study, I was rather shocked--and found that basically all of the mainstream information out there is wrong, and that companies and websites had just been passing on misinformation. The actual question of how much caffeine is in a particular tea is really complex and I think it's best to just go by the individual tea itself. There are still a lot of people out there who think white tea is really low in caffeine--and last time I checked Teavana was still saying that on their site. It upsets me a bit...I even emailed them about it but they never did anything about it.

I care a lot about truthfulness of information though. It may not be an issue for all people but some people have medical sensitivities to caffeine so it can be a health or safety issue too. So I'm cautious about what I claim! You can always find citations to the studies themselves on RateTea's article too.

jptanabe on 07/02/2013

I do enjoy my breakfast teas, and Darjeeling on occasion, yes it's milder. I did not know about those green and white teas having high caffeine content though.

cazort on 07/01/2013

That makes sense, if you're looking for more caffeine, because coffee can get much more caffeinated than any tea!

Digby_Adams on 07/01/2013

I love the strong black breakfast tea for an afternoon pick-me-up. No tea will ever replace my morning coffee.

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