Does Steeping Tea Longer Increase the Caffeine?
You are halfway through the daily grind when the fatigue gets a bit too much. So, you reach for a cup of tea. To get the most energy from it as possible, should you steep the tea for longer?
In this short guide, we'll explain which variables impact the caffeine content of your tea (including a comparison of teabags and loose leaf) to help you boost your energy and do more with your day. Selecting the right tea and brewing method is essential.
If you don't have time to read our full guide, then jump straight to Zest's high energy tea. Spoiler: it's the most caffeinated tea available, so no matter how you decide to steep it, you'll get the energy boost you're looking for!
The Short Answer
All teas from the Camellia sinensis plant provide a source of caffeine, plus there are a handful of herbal teas that provide caffeine too. The exact caffeine content that ends up in your cup depends on:
- The variety of tea plant,
- The temperature of your water,
- Your brewing time,
- And to some extent, your brewing method (see matcha below).
So yes, the longer you steep your tea, the more caffeine will infuse from the tea leaves to your cup.
Each tea type provides a different amount of caffeine, so you should also consider selecting a tea with high caffeine levels if you are looking for that morning energy boost!
Black Tea Caffeine Levels
The average cup of black tea contains 47mg of caffeine. Black tea is made by oxidizing and wilting the tea leaves to turn them brown before drying and processing them.
While the oxidation process does little to impact the caffeine content of this tea type, black teas usually contain more caffeine than green teas due to the varieties of tea plant used.
Black tea is made with boiling water, rather than 80°C water, which can also draw out more caffeine than green tea. The longer the steeping time and higher the water temperature, the more caffeine should infuse into your cup. Adding milk and sugar won't affect the caffeine in this tea type.
There are two types of the tea plant that are used to create black tea. Camellia sinensis sinensis is grown in China, Japan, and Taiwan for example. The Camellia sinensis assamica variety is grown in India and numerous African countries. It's thought that the assamica plant cultivars contain more caffeine than the sinensis cultivars, although a more thorough study is needed to compare the two.
Green Tea Caffeine Levels
On average, green tea contains less caffeine than black tea. There are 28mg of caffeine in a cup of green tea.
These figures are averages, as many variables can impact the caffeine in your cup. For example, the recommended water temperature for brewing green tea is 80°C rather than 100°C. This ensures a smoother, less bitter brew, but it does mean that less caffeine is extracted.
Furthermore, the tea plant itself is a huge determining factor. If the tea was grown in the shade or partial shade, it will store more caffeine in its leaves but contain fewer catechins and antioxidants. Likewise, the buds (tips) and new leaves of the tea plant usually contain a higher concentration of caffeine than the older, lower leaves.
Matcha, however, plays by its own rules. To brew a cup of matcha tea, you whisk the powdered green leaves into water rather than steeping them and removing them. The levels of caffeine in matcha are approximately 70mg per scoop. No matter how you whisk it, it will always contain as much caffeine as the tea leaves can provide.
Caffeine Content of Other Tea Types
Different tea plant varieties provide different levels of caffeine, so different tea types tend to vary as well.
The teas with the most caffeine include:
- Yerba Mate,
- Black Tea.
Read more about which type of tea contains the most caffeine in our guide.
There is quite a bit of variation between tea grades and variations within each type. White tea, for example, contains 40mg of caffeine on average. But drinking silver needle white tea will contain a lot more caffeine than shoumei white tea, as silver needle is made entirely from the most tenderized buds of the plant and shoumei relies on the larger, lower leaves.
Decaffeinated tea also contains caffeine, albeit just a single milligram or two. The decaffeination process leaves trace amounts behind. These traces are too small to provide an energizing effect, even if you brewed the decaf tea for 5 minutes or more to ensure all the caffeine is extracted.
Herbal teas and fruit teas do not contain caffeine, so regardless of the amount of time you brew them for, they won't provide a boost of energy.
Loose Leaf vs Teabags
If you had a box of dried tea leaves and you separated them into two piles, leaving half as loose leaf and chopping the remaining leaves up to go in teabags, both piles would still contain the same amount of caffeine.
But the levels of caffeine that end up in your cuppa could be different. The smaller the leaves are chopped, the larger their overall surface area. This allows the tea to be brewed quicker. You could steep a tea bag for 3 minutes to get 50mg of caffeine, for example.
The loose leaf tea, on the other hand, may need to be steeped for longer to extract all the caffeine it contains. It could take 5 minutes to get 50mg of caffeine extract, for example.
Your chosen steeping time, tea leaf format, and water temperature will impact how much caffeine is released from the leaves. But whether the leaves are loose leaf or in teabags doesn't change the amount of caffeine contained within them.
Find both loose leaf and bagged tea in our Zest Energy Beverage Collection.
How to Get the Most Caffeine In Your Cup
If you want to get the most caffeine possible from your tea, regardless of the final flavor (it's going to be crazily strong), then follow these tips:
- Choose a tea type with a high caffeine content,
- Select teabags, so the tea can infuse as quickly as possible,
- Place your tea in a small cup, so there's a higher ratio of tea leaves to water,
- Pour over boiling hot water and ensure that it stays as hot as possible while it brews,
- Leave the tea to brew for as long as possible. 5 minutes should be the absolute minimum. The longer you steep, the stronger the flavor, tannins, antioxidants and caffeine.
This method will produce a very strong and bitter cup of tea. If you selected a green tea blend, it will be unbearably bitter. That's why lower temperatures are recommended for more delicate tea types such as green tea, white tea and oolong.
If you want a tea that can balance taste with energy, for a pleasant yet energizing drinking experience, then Zest Tea is a more suitable option:
- Select your favorite flavor - we recommend the smooth taste of Spicy Masala Chai or light citrusy sweetness of Blue Lady for those new to tea drinking,
- Choose either teabags or loose leaf. We use whole leaf in our spacious pyramid tea bags, which allows the leaves to expand and release all their caffeine the same as loose leaf,
- Place one teabag in your favorite mug with the tag hanging over the side, then pour over boiling water,
- Let the tea steep for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove it and discard it.
You can stir your tea as it brews, but avoid the temptation to "mash" it against the side of the cup. This releases a higher concentration of tannins, which can boost the bitterness in green and black teas. Just let your teabag float around - this is enough to ensure our flavorsome tea blends will infuse vibrantly.
Some tea blends work well with milk, such as our Earl Grey and Spicy Masala Chai flavors. However, we don't recommend adding any sugar to your tea. While a little sweetness can provide a small and immediate burst of energy, it can trigger a "crash" shortly afterward.
Zest Tea High Caffeine Energy
Our high caffeine teas are available in several different flavors, as loose leaf and pyramid teabags. Our black tea blends provide up to 150mg of caffeine per cup, while our green tea blends provide around 135mg.
We can boost our caffeine levels by adding additional tea extract to our teas, along with organic non-GMO ingredients to create tasty flavors. Our teas have been analysed to work out how much caffeine they provide per cup, as well as L-Theanine. You can learn more about L-Theanine and why it's just as important as caffeine for energy in our article Caffeine in Tea vs Coffee.
Brewing your Zest Tea lightly, or leaving it to steep for a longer time, can alter the caffeine that ends up in your cup. Regardless, Zest Tea is still the most highly caffeinated tea available. If you need a long-lasting, smooth energy boost from a drink that doesn't decimate your taste buds at the same time, a Zest Tea blend is perfect.
Does steeping tea longer make it stronger?
Yes, typically the longer you steep your tea in hot water, the stronger the flavor becomes.
How do I get more caffeine out of my tea?
First, select a high caffeine tea type, whether it's loose leaf or tea bags. This could be a tea made from the shade-grown buds of a highly-caffeinated tea variety, or more simply - a very high caffeine Zest Tea. Then steep the tea in very hot water, for longer than usual. This should draw out more caffeine (as well as flavor and nutrients) from the leaves. Be careful, however, that you don't make a cup that's too strong to drink!
Why you shouldn't steep tea too long?
Over-steeping your tea leaves in hot water draws out more flavour and caffeine. It can also increase the bitterness or astringency of the tea, by drawing out more tannins. Basically, you end up with an incredibly strong tea that doesn't taste great. A better option is to select tea leaves that naturally have a lot of caffeine to give, such as Zest Tea blends.
Does brewing coffee longer increase caffeine?
Yes, the longer you brew your coffee, the more caffeine will be drawn out of the beans. Just like you steep your tea, there is a limit on how much caffeine is contained within the beans to begin with. A standard cup of coffee usually contains 96mg.
Zest Tea has the most caffeine, with up to 150mg per cup of tea brewed with our loose leaf or tea bags.