Does Herbal Tea Have Caffeine? A Quick Guide to Herbal Teas
There are many types of tea, from oolong tea to green tea to black tea. But herbal teas are in a category of their own, with endless herbal plants used, delicious tea blends to discover, and promising health benefits too.
At Zest, we're all about high-caffeine, plant-powered energy - see our Energy Tea Collection to find out why. But there's always time for a herbal tea at the end of the day. You might be surprised to find out that some herbal teas contain caffeine too!
What are Herbal Teas?
Many of the most popular (and caffeinated) teas are from the Camellia sinensis plant - this includes the two most popular tea types, black tea and green tea.
Herbal tea is not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. It's made from other plants, usually herbaceous ones, but infused with water in the same way. For example, infusing a mint leaf or two with hot water would create a herbal tea.
But the category of herbal teas, also called tisanes, doesn't just include herbs that you'd grow in a herb garden, and it's not just the leaves that are used either. Flowers, seeds, spices, roots, and even fruits can be brewed into an herbal beverage, either freshly picked or dried and packaged into teabags.
Often you'll find herbal tea blends and tisanes referred to as "infusions" as they aren't true, caffeinated teas made from the tea plant.
Origins of Herbal Types of Tea
Pinpointing a single origin of herbal teas is impossible. The practice of using herbs infused in water, or consumed as some kind of beverage for their health benefits, is found in some form or another in multiple ancient cultures around the world. Ancient China and Egypt are just examples of this.
Some specific herbal teas can also be traced back historically:
- Mountain Tea - records date back 2000 years to show this herbal tea consumed in the Balkans.
- Spicebush Tea - native to North America, this plant was made into tea and used to treat numerous ailments by the Native Americans.
- Holy Basil/Tulsi Tea - a widely-used herbal tea in Ayurvedic practices in India that has been used for centuries.
Even today, herbal teas and extracts are used to remedy all sorts of ailments, like consuming valerian and chamomile to soothe insomnia.
Almost All Herbal Teas are Caffeine-Free
The vast majority of herbal teas are caffeine-free, as they're made from infusing plants that don't have a caffeine content. Examples of popular herbal teas that are 100% caffeine free include:
- Mint (including peppermint and spearmint)
- Lemon balm
- Jasmine (not jasmine green tea)
If you find these ingredients in tea blends, make sure you check the ingredients list carefully. If the tea contains white tea, oolong tea or any other true tea alongside the herbs, it will likely contain small amounts of caffeine.
For example, Zest Sleep Tea is made with chamomile, lavender, L-Theanine and melatonin - but no caffeine!
But Watch Out For These Types of Tea…
While most herbal teas contain no caffeine, there are a few infusions that are not from the Camellia sinensis plant that still have a caffeine content.
Yerba Mate - pictured above, this South American natural tea is made from the leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. It has a herbal, woody and grassy flavor and can contain up to 80mg of caffeine per 8 fluid ounce serving, depending on how you brew it.
Coffee - no, really! Coffee is technically an infusion, as it's made by soaking the fruits of the coffee plant in water. Coffee bean tea is technically a caffeinated type of herbal tea. Coffee can contain up to 96mg of caffeine per 8oz serving.
Guarana - this herbal tea is popular in South America, like Yerba Mate. The seeds of the guarana plant can be infused with water to create an herbal tea. 1 gram of guarana seed contains 47mg of caffeine, which is roughly the same as a whole cup of black tea.
Citrus Flowers - the flowers of some citrus plants are commonly used in cooking and in herbal teas, like orange blossoms. But there can be trace amounts of caffeine found in some citrus plant flowers and leaves - between 6 and 50 ppm. Researchers have also found caffeine content in honey produced by honeybees that frequently visit flowers in orange plantations. However, these levels of caffeine are so low, you won't experience an energy boost from consuming them.
Caffeine Content in Traditional Tea Types
While herbal teas tend to be either caffeine-free or contain quite a high amount of caffeine, traditional teas have varying levels.
Green teas, for example, contain 28mg per 8oz serving on average, while your usual morning black tea contains 47mg. The caffeine content of white tea, oolong, pu-erh and other more obscure tea types fall around these levels too.
Then there are decaffeinated teas. The key difference between caffeine-free herbal teas and decaffeinated teas is that decaf teas still have caffeine! Even after the tea leaves have been decaffeinated, there's still a very small amount of caffeine left. This is usually only a milligram or two and not enough for you to feel the effects of caffeine.
To learn more about the amount of caffeine in different tea types, plus how this compares to Zest high caffeine tea and other energy drinks, read our Guide to The Best Tea for Caffeine.
3 Herbal Teas to Give You Energy
Even without caffeine, these three tea types can help you feel a little brighter, more active and ready to face the day.
Peppermint tea has a bright and uplifting aroma. If you need to freshen up your day, it's a great herbal tea choice. The menthol in mint tea is naturally refreshing and a good way to help you wake up in the morning - not unlike brushing your teeth.
The essential oils from the peppermint leaves can also increase alertness and enhance your memory. But if you need a little extra energy for your day, we recommend Pomegranate Mojito. This is one of our high energy green teas - a blend of peppermint, green tea, pomegranate, and lime.
Rooibos is an herbal tea that naturally tastes similar to black tea. It has a rich, slightly malty and rounded flavor with hints of tannins. So, if it takes a hot cup of black tea to wake you up in the morning, rooibos tea may do the trick for you, even without any caffeine.
Furthermore, rooibos tea can help contribute to your daily intake of manganese and zinc.
Our final caffeine-free energy boosting tea is licorice. Made from the root of the licorice plant, this tea is rich in a flavonoid called glabridin. As well as having anti-inflammatory effects, this flavonoid may also regulate energy metabolism to help you maintain energy throughout the day.
Be careful with your licorice tea consumption, however, as consuming too much can cause high blood pressure (hypertension) and low levels of potassium (hypokalemia).
3 Herbal Teas to Calm You Down
On the other end of the herbal tea spectrum, you'll find types of tea that calm you down. With relaxing, calming and soothing health benefits, try these three teas if you need to unwind at the end of the day.
Chamomile Lavender Tea
A cup of chamomile tea, made from the flowers from one of the chamomile plant varieties, is a super soothing tea to drink in the evenings. You'll often find it in natural sleep-aid blends, as chamomile can significantly improve sleep quality. There's also evidence that it can effectively reduce generalized anxiety disorder.
At Zest, we use chamomile in our Sleep Tea. Designed to help you relax and unwind for restful sleep, we use 15mg of plant-based L-Theanine and 2mg of melatonin to regulate your circadian rhythm too.
Ginger Lemon Honey Tea
This is another herbal tea made from the roots of a plant, like licorice. Ginger is typically a fiery ingredient, full of flavor and quite invigorating. We couldn't make our Spicy Masala Chai without it. But it's also a common remedy for a cold when brewed with lemon and honey.
It's a well-known fact that ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. Combined with vitamin C and antioxidants from lemon, plus the soothing taste of honey, ginger tea can be a very relaxing herbal remedy to try.
Lemon Balm Tea
Lemon balm is the final calming herbal tea that we recommend you try. With a grassy flavor that's not unlike green tea, lemon balm has some interesting health benefits. Lemon balm contains rosmarinic acid, which has antioxidant effects, and anti-stress effects too. A cup of natural lemon balm tea can improve your mood and cognitive performance during the day.
A Caffeinated Tea That Does It All
Herbal tea blends are great, as they provide hydration and some surprising health benefits. But traditional teas containing caffeine are good for you too.
In fact, the FDA recommends a limit of 400mg of caffeine per day. So, drinking a few cups of caffeinated oolong tea (or whatever your poison) is certainly not going to be detrimental to your health.
Furthermore, caffeine gets a bad rep for the jitters and restlessness it can cause when consumed in vast quantities. But actually, caffeine can have some great benefits for your mood and cognitive performance. The key is an amino acid called L-Theanine. This amino acid is found naturally in tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, but not in herbal teas or coffee.
You can go through the science in detail with our Caffeine in Tea vs Coffee article, but here's a recap:
- Caffeine and L-Theanine create a synergistic relationship,
- This slows the onset of your energy boost, for a smoother and jitter-free experience,
- L-Theanine promotes creativity and focus by enhancing alpha brain waves,
- The caffeine slowly wears off, rather than crashing all at once.
So, while herbal teas are great, Zest Teas can do it better. Our green and black tea blends can give you the focus and calmness as well as the energy and enthusiasm you need to get through the day.
Natural, Non-GMO Herbal Ingredients
Besides the plant-powered caffeine content and non-GMO tea leaves in our blends, you'll also find some familiar herbal ingredients. Here are some of the natural ingredients and flavors you'll find in Zest's energy tea:
- Blue Lady - cornflower petals, hibiscus, and orange peel.
- Pomegranate Mojito - peppermint.
- Cinnamon Apple - cinnamon chips and apple pieces.
- Spicy Masala Chai - cardamom seeds, ginger root, cinnamon chips and cloves.
We blend in natural, non-GMO certified ingredients in our green and black teas, using only natural flavorings and tea extract to provide energy and flavor.
If you're looking for the health benefits of herbal ingredients combined with the energy-boosting effects of caffeine, look no further than our energy tea. It's available as pyramid teabags or loose leaf.
Are all herbal teas caffeine free?
No, not all of them. There are some herbs and plants that produce caffeine when brewed. However, most herbal teas and herbal tea blends are caffeine-free and will be labeled as such when you buy them.
Do any herbal teas contain caffeine?
Most herbal teas are caffeine-free, but there are a few plants besides the Camellia sinensis plant that provide caffeine once brewed. Yerba mate is the most well-known herbal tea with a caffeine content.
Which herbal tea has the most caffeine?
Yerba mate is a herbal tea containing a high amount of caffeine. When brewed in the traditional style, loose leaf, this tea can contain up to 80mg of caffeine.
How can you tell if tea has caffeine?
If your tea is a traditional tea type, e.g. black tea or green tea, it will contain caffeine. Most teas without caffeine are labeled as caffeine-free. If you are unsure, check the label against our list of caffeine-containing herbal teas above.
Is herbal tea decaffeinated?
No, herbal tea is naturally caffeine-free. Decaffeinated drinks have had their caffeine content removed so only a few milligrams remain per serving.