Best Tea to Replace Coffee
Although it's the morning drink of choice for so many Americans, there's a growing number of people moving away from coffee altogether. While coffee is delicious - even tea drinkers can appreciate that - it comes with some jittery side effects that are not so pleasant. Tea, on the other hand, is smoother, calmer, and yet still provides that energy boost you are craving.
This article will help you find the best types of caffeinated tea to replace your morning cup of coffee, from black tea to more unusual varieties like yerba mate, and our best-selling hot and iced energy teas.
Coffee versus Tea
Your morning coffee provides one big energy boost. In an espresso shot, there's 64mg of caffeine, and in a standard cup of drip coffee, you can get around 96mg of caffeine.1 Your typical cup of coffee also comes with some health benefits, including reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease.2
A standard cup of tea, on the other hand, provides just what you need to get the day started - caffeine and L-Theanine. Both the tea plant and coffee plant provide a source of caffeine. When consumed, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and blocks adenosine from binding to neurotransmitters in your brain (effectively blocking the feeling of fatigue). But tea leaves also contain the amino acid L-Theanine.
In a nutshell, caffeine from coffee comes in one big rush, gives you a huge boost of energy, then suddenly wears off and leaves you sleepy and grouchy. Meanwhile, caffeine from black tea or any of the other true teas from the Camellia sinensis plant, comes on slower, smoother, and tapers off gently thanks to the interaction of L-Theanine - a key ingredient in our Focus Beverages.
Furthermore, unlike coffee, tea can stimulate creativity, enhance cognitive function, and enable you to focus your energy more effectively.
You can learn more about coffee vs tea, and why we are cheerleaders for Team Tea, in our article Switching from Coffee to Tea - 5 Things You Should Know.
Exploring Caffeinated Teas
While coffee tends to be more or less the same flavor, no matter which variety and source you choose from, loose leaf teas are much more varied. Tea drinkers have such a wide choice when it comes to caffeinated tea, so don't feel disheartened if the first tea you try doesn't quite tickle your taste-buds.
There's a world of difference between a hearty black tea like our Earl Grey and a fruity green tea like our Superberry Samba.
Drinking tea, whether it's made from tea bags or loose leaf, provides caffeine. Many teas also come with unique health benefits, additional antioxidants and amino acids besides L-Theanine.
Below, we'll take you through the 10 best teas for coffee drinkers and uncover what the caffeine content is for each.
10 Teas to Replace Coffee
When choosing tea to replace coffee, it may take a few cups for you to appreciate the flavor! If the energy boost is the most important element for you, then make sure you only consider "true teas". These are teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant, which contains both caffeine and L-Theanine.
Most other teas are caffeine-free and often referred to as herbal teas or tisanes.
1 - Zest Black Tea
Even the most passionate coffee lover will be tempted by our high caffeine tea. Our range of black teas provide an energy boost of 150mg of caffeine and a smooth, full-bodied flavor.
- Blue Lady
- Earl Grey
- Cinnamon Apple
- Spicy Masala Chai
- A range of ready-to-drink iced black teas
Black tea is often considered the best alternative to coffee thanks to the flavor, however a standard cup is quite low in caffeine. That's why Zest black tea is more comparable to a cup of coffee - we use additional tea extract to naturally boost the caffeine levels in each serving.
We've found that our Spicy Masala Chai tea is the most popular with ex coffee drinkers, as it has that rich quality that goes so well with creamer or steamed milk (if you can't shake that latte craving).
2 - Zest Green Tea
Not everyone can drink green tea and immediately love it. Green tea leaves have a refreshing, grassy and bright flavor that's the complete opposite of black tea and coffee. Although both black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and the other traditional types of tea are all made from the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea is barely processed at all. This is what creates that revitalizing flavor.
Traditionally, green tea is even lower in caffeine than most caffeine-rich teas. But at Zest, we know a trick to boost the caffeine with even more plant-powered energy. Each delicious blend provides up to 135mg of caffeine, which is still more than the average cup of coffee!
- Superberry Samba
- Pomegranate Mojito
- Discover our new teas that are iced and ready to go
3 - Yerba Mate
Yerba mate contains more caffeine than coffee, but it is an unusual morning pick-me-up because of the flavor. Made from the Ilex paraguariensis plant, this tea contains caffeine but no L-Theanine. It is also incredibly strong with a pungent earthy and grassy flavor.
A single 150ml serving of mate provides around 78mg of caffeine, but if you prepare it in the traditional South American style, it can be boosted up to 260mg per 500ml serving.3
If you want to drink tea for a sudden, uncontrollable energy burst, then mate may be worth considering.
4 - Matcha Green Tea Powder
Matcha is a Japanese type of powdered green tea, made by crushing shade-grown tea leaves into a fine powder then whisked with water. Like standard green tea, it has a grassy and green flavor - but with more astringency and richness.
As you consume the entire tea leaf with matcha, rather than just brewing it and removing it, you consume more caffeine and enjoy all the antioxidant properties that tea has. There's approximately 70mg of caffeine in 1 scoop of matcha powder.4
Matcha is one of the most popular caffeinated teas for weight loss, as it enhances fat oxidation during exercise.5 If you usually like to do a workout in the morning, then matcha is a good choice.
5 - Black Teas
The most popular morning drink besides coffee and orange juice has to be black tea. Whether you brew loose leaf tea or tea bags, a cup of standard black tea contains approximately 47mg of caffeine.6 This caffeine content is far below the levels you'd find in coffee, but drinking tea black or with milk is a great way to replicate the rich, warming and satisfying flavor.
To make black teas, the tea leaves are oxidized to intensify the flavors - much like pu-erh tea. Learn more in our quick guide to black tea.
Popular black loose leaf teas include chai tea, English Breakfast tea, and Earl Grey.
6 - Green Teas
Although the flavor of green teas are very different to coffee, they can be a source of caffeine so they are a viable alternative. A standard cup has a caffeine content of around 28mg, which is a very small energy boost. If you are accustomed to the not-so-gentle kick of coffee, then it may be too little for you.
Nonetheless, it is a very refreshing way to start the day. If you usually drink your coffee iced, then you may enjoy the revitalizing quality it has.
If you find that green tea has a bitter taste, try using hot water instead of boiling water or explore one of our high-caffeine tea blends instead!
7 - White Tea (Tips)
White teas are not as well-known as green and black varieties. So, if you're looking for new teas to try instead of coffee, it might capture your interest! White tea is more often found available as whole leaf than tea bags and is a good tea to develop your tea-tasting palate. It has fruity, mellow and sweet flavors.
In terms of caffeine, the levels in white tea varies depending on the type. Generally, there's more caffeine in the young leaves and new buds of the tea plant, so opt for white teas made of the silvery tips - Silver Needle tea.
8 - Oolong Tea
Although oolong tea has way less caffeine than coffee beans, it makes for a more interesting and vibrant morning cup. Oolong tea is the most diverse tea type! While green varieties are unoxidized and black varieties are totally oxidized, oolong can fall anywhere in-between.
This means you can have lightly oxidized oolong that tastes similar to green tea, or heavily oxidized oolong that has malty rich flavors instead.
In terms of caffeine, it really depends. In our article Which Tea Has the Most Caffeine? we discovered that on average, a cup of oolong tea contains 37mg of caffeine.
9 - Pu-erh Tea
Compared to other teas, pu-erh tea is even more of an acquired taste. This is because pu-erh tea is fermented and aged to develop much deeper flavors. It can be earthy and savory, even like a meaty broth. There's anywhere from 30 to 100mg of caffeine in a cup of pu-erh tea, depending on the variety and age.
There are also many health benefits that come with pu-erh tea. It may be able to boost liver health and reduce cholesterol, while other studies have noted its potential as a cancer treatment.7
It would be an unusual choice for a morning beverage, but you can't deny that it will provide a moderate energy boost!
10 - Rooibos Teas
Rooibos tea, also known as red tea or red bush, is the odd one out on our list. Unlike most teas mentioned, rooibos is caffeine-free. It's the best coffee alternative if you need to avoid caffeine completely.
Rooibos is a herbal tea made from the needle-like leaves of a shrub that grows in South Africa. It's a popular breakfast tea because it has a rich, warm and slightly nutty flavor, with hints of tannins that make it taste very similar to traditional Camellia sinensis black tea.
There's no caffeine in rooibos tea, but the flavor alone may be appealing if you enjoy the nutty and sweet flavors of coffee.
Why No Herbal Teas Made the List
With the exception of rooibos, there are no naturally caffeine-free teas on our list. Herbal tea just doesn't make the best breakfast tea if you are desperate for that high caffeine content. While we love our natural ingredients and flavors at Zest - we couldn't make our delicious blends without them - they don't provide you with caffeine or L-Theanine, so you won't benefit from additional energy and focus.
For herbal infusions, the best time to brew tea bags or loose leaf tea is usually in the evenings. Without caffeine, they won't keep you up at night. Furthermore, they may have some interesting health benefits to boost the immune system.
What are the best teas to replace coffee with?
Zest high caffeine tea is best if you need your morning energy boost. Standard black tea and rooibos are also good options if you want a flavor that has similarities to coffee.
What can I drink to wake up instead of coffee?
Caffeinated tea is the best option. Energy drinks and sodas can also contain caffeine to wake you up, but they typically contain sugar too. Besides, we prefer a nice hot drink in the morning.
Is there a tea as strong as coffee?
Yes, Zest Tea! We use additional tea extract to create plant-powered blends that have more caffeine than coffee. They also contain L-Theanine, so the energy boost will be more focused and last longer compared to coffee.
How much caffeine is in coffee?
In a shot of espresso, there's approximately 64mg of caffeine - meaning there's 128mg in the double shot used to create your latte. Adding milk doesn't increase or decrease the total caffeine content. In a standard brewed cup of coffee or instant coffee, there's around 96mg of caffeine.
How much caffeine is in Zest Tea?
For our hot teas, the caffeine ranges from 135mg to 150mg of caffeine. Our ready-to-drink range provides 120mg to 150mg of caffeine per serving. Finally our hydrating electrolyte mixes contain up to 250mg of caffeine per serving.