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How is drinking tea for energy better than drinking a cup of coffee?
Though both cups seem similar, it’s not a true apples-to-apples comparison because the caffeine in coffee is different from the caffeine in tea.
Caffeinated tea delivers the energy boost your long days demand and provides numerous health benefits a latte can’t claim. It also comes with fewer adverse side effects.
So as you’ll learn in this guide, certain teas may be a better alternative to your coffee or energy drink pick-me-ups. We’ll explain why before sharing our top 8 picks for the best tea for energy that lasts.
No matter where it comes from, caffeine is a stimulant that can help reduce fatigue and drowsiness to increase alertness (1). But the caffeine in tea edges out the effects of caffeine from coffee or other caffeinated energy drinks because:
Tea Offers Sustained, Focused Energy Levels (i.e., No Crash!)
The caffeine in coffee is a harsh stimulant for your system. Once consumed, you may experience a quick jolt of energy that makes you feel uncomfortable, jittery, or anxious. Then, after a few hours, you’ll find yourself crashing from this dose and more tired than before.
But the caffeine in tea is unique. Because it binds to catechins, or compounds with antioxidant properties, it becomes a larger compound that takes longer to break down in your system. Micro doses of caffeine work through your digestion over the course of four to six hours – rather than instantly.
So tea delivers sustained, time-released energy throughout your day instead of a short-lived burst followed by a crash.
Coffee Can Cause Jitters; Tea Provides Mellow Alertness
Drinking coffee releases the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. This is a significant reason why people experience higher heart rates, jitters, and fidgety feelings after one or a few cups of coffee.
However, tea leaves contain a calming amino acid known as l-theanine. This powerful ingredient has the opposite effect of caffeine: it calms your nervous system and supports reduced stress levels, lower heart rates, and healthy blood pressure.
When you combine l-theanine with the caffeine in tea, you get the best of both worlds: sustained focus, higher cognitive function, more positive moods, and better stress management.
According to the l-theanine effect in tea, increased alpha wave activity in your brain brings about a state of calm focus/alert relaxation while reducing the caffeine’s stimulant effects.
Tea Offers a Range of Options for Energy
The caffeine in coffee and espresso releases when you brew roasted coffee beans (usually from South America, Africa, and Asia). A single shot of espresso packs around 64mg of caffeine while a standard cup of Joe contains around 95mg. Those are really your only choices — and they’re not that far off from each other.
Caffeine-free tea (like chamomile tea, peppermint tea, ginger tea, rooibos, and other herbal tea blends) does not contain actual tea leaves. True teas come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Each type differs by how the tea leaves are grown, harvested, and sometimes fermented. These true tea leaves each contain different caffeine levels.
So unlike your limited options with coffee, tea gives you multiple choices for the perfect energy boost you need without going overboard.
Tea is More Hydrating
Another drawback to coffee that tea doesn’t have is that coffee is a diuretic. If you have to use the restroom more frequently when you drink coffee, this is why.
Diuretics can spell trouble for your body because as you’re flushing out the coffee, you’re also draining your body of essential nutrients, which can quickly cause dehydration. On the other hand, tea is hydrating and won’t deplete your system.
Tea Provides an Energy Boost to Athletic Performance
The synergistic combination of catechins (essentially antioxidants) and caffeine in tea has been shown to provide a legit energy boost. Researchers say this duo speeds up the conversion of nutrients necessary for metabolism so you gain more energy.
Plus, research has shown that teas can enhance energization, hydration, endurance, concentration, and recovery for athletes. All these reasons prove why teas are great to consume before and after your workouts.
With all these clear advantages, now it’s time to dive into the best teas for energy.
Yerba mate, matcha, and black tea take the spotlight when it comes to the best high-caffeine teas. But our top picks below prove they’re not the only types of tea to help raise your energy levels:
Need a small, mellow boost of energy? White tea provides a subtle hit of caffeine and usually contains just 13 milligrams of caffeine per 8 oz cup. So if you don’t tolerate caffeine well but still want a dose of productivity, this may be a good fit.
White tea also makes a fantastic option for alternating high-caffeine teas throughout your day. Start with a high-caffeine cup of tea, drop to a low-caffeine white tea, then have another high-caffeine cup after (and so on). You’ll have a steady stream of energy to tackle everything on your to-do list with laser focus.
Compared to other varieties, green tea is also lower on the caffeine scale and clocks in roughly 35mg of caffeine per cup. This means you can enjoy a few cups of green tea throughout the day without the risk of caffeine overload.
Green tea is often added to weight loss plans because sipping it all day may help give you a boost in energy, increase your water intake, help keep your metabolism awake, and support mental clarity.
Due to its dark color and bold taste, black tea is often compared to coffee. Though it contains less than half the caffeine of coffee (50mg of caffeine per cup versus 95mg), it can still energize your mind and body to help you power through your toughest days.
The rich flavor of black tea may help you transition out of your coffee habit (and the jittery, stressed feelings) and into a healthy tea routine. Choose a standard breakfast black tea or spice up your life with chai tea (a black tea with spices like cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, and ginger) or earl grey tea (a black tea blend with citrusy bergamot oil). Here’s our recommendation:
Pique Earl Grey
A swift, steady infusion of energy. Citrus bergamot to delight your senses and cells. Elevate your morning.
Oolong isn’t always the first option tea drinkers consider when it comes to caffeine, but it very well could be. The caffeine content in dark varieties of oolong tea can be compared to black tea, while lighter versions are similar to what you’ll find in green tea.
In one study of Japanese women, researchers noticed those drinking oolong tea performed better than those drinking green tea, despite oolong having half the caffeine as green tea (2). So while oolong tea may not be the highest in caffeine, it’s still an excellent tea for energy and provides just the right amount of pick-me-up.
Besides the killer caffeine boost, fermented foods offer the added benefit of probiotics. Drinking this type of fermented tea can help support healthy digestion and keep your gut balanced to help fortify your immune system. So instead of wreaking havoc on your stomach with harsh coffee, you can support it while getting an energy boost with pu’er.
If you need a hefty caffeine boost, matcha may become your favorite energy tea. Made from ground-up green tea leaves, matcha tea offers up 75mg of caffeine per cup. It’s also loaded with catechins and polyphenols.
So on top of the energy boost-sans-crash, studies highlighting the health benefits of matcha green tea show it may:
- Promote calm feelings
- Support a healthy stress response
- Enhance mood
- Aid focus
- Support cardiovascular health
- Assist with weight management and healthy metabolism
While each type of caffeinated tea works differently, they can all be used to satisfy your personal energy needs and preferences together throughout your day. Here’s our recommendation:
Pique Sun Goddess Matcha
The world’s purest matcha, crafted to the highest standards of the finest ceremonial grade matcha. Designed for mindfulness. A mug full of zen.
You may not think to drink herbal teas for energy but they can be just as effective at giving you a pick-me-up without the caffeine hit, making them perfect for anyone with a sensitivity to the stimulant.
Peppermint tea, for example, which happens to be one of the most widely consumed herbal teas, has an invigorating scent that’s often used in aromatherapy (3). You can reap these benefits by sipping on the tea and inhaling the aroma the next time you need a burst of energy.
The smell of ginger is another powerful scent that’ll awaken your senses and bring you a burst of energy, similar to inhaling a peppermint aroma. Ginger also has an added warming effect in the body and it supports healthy circulation. It’s these reasons that make ginger tea another great choice during those times in the day when you need a boost.
In the same way as peppermint, you’ll want to sip ginger tea slowly so that you can inhale the aromas and savor the light burst of energy.
We’ve just taken you through the details of our favorite 8 teas for energy (and how each one works), but maybe you just want a quick-and-dirty analysis of which tea will pack that highest caffeine punch.
That would be matcha, followed by black teas!
There are so many advantages to choosing tea for energy over coffee. And with so many different types of tea to choose from, you can base your decisions on flavor or how much energy you need at any given time.
If you need a quick drink to focus, skip the dusty tea bags and messy loose leaf tea varieties. Stash a pack of easy-to-use tea crystals, and you’ll never be more than a few minutes away from calm, clear thinking and focused productivity.
Which best tea for energy will you reach for first? We’d love to know!