Energy - it’s always so elusive when you need it, right? That’s why so many of us reach for a hot mug of black tea or coffee when the Monday blues hit or the mid-afternoon slump takes us by surprise. And that is exactly why finding the best tea for energy is worth looking into.
The best teas for energy provide a great energy boost to get you through the day, with some other unique benefits you won’t find in coffee, soda, or those sugar-loaded energy drinks.
In this helpful article, find out what tea gives you an energy boost and how to find the most powerful tea blends around!
By tea, we’re talking about any drink made from the Camellia sinensis plant, so that includes black tea and green tea, but not herbal teas like chamomile and peppermint tea.
(Photo by Timothy Newman on Unsplash)
What makes tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant so special, is a little thing called caffeine. As a natural source of caffeine, these teas provide a natural energy boost to get you through the day.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase energy levels by blocking neurotransmitters in your brain. When caffeine binds to the adenosine neurotransmitter, you’re blocking those calming, sleepy, lethargic feelings. As a result, you feel more energized and ready to have the best morning ever.
At this point, you’re wondering why you would choose tea for energy over coffee.
And sure, coffee does in general have more caffeine than tea, but it’s missing one key component that makes all the difference to how the energy boost makes you feel.
Tea offers us an amino acid called L-Theanine, which passes through the blood brain barrier alongside the caffeine. Instead of energizing, however, this amino acid has a calming effect. It increases levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine which promote feelings of calmness, alertness, and help you regulate your mood.
L-Theanine can also enhance alpha brain waves, which promotes both relaxation and creativity without making you feel drowsy. The synergistic combination of calming L-Theanine and energizing caffeine is why tea is the best drink for energy and productivity.
“The best teas for energy are those that provide high levels of caffeine, contain low or no sugar, and have a good amount of L-Theanine”
Caffeine doesn’t last forever, or we’d never get any sleep. But it has a habit of wearing off at the wrong moment, leaving us with what has been dubbed the ‘caffeine crash’.
When the effects of caffeine wear off and it’s no longer blocking the adenosine neurotransmitter, a flood of lethargic adenosine binds to your brain causing this ‘crash’ sensation. This is where L-Theanine steps in (again) as it can actually regulate caffeine, slowing down its release and smoothing its effects. So, instead of falling off the edge of the world when the caffeine wears off, you’ll gently glide back down to normal energy levels.
Below is a graph showcasing this difference between caffeine from coffee and caffeine from tea (with L-Theanine) on energy levels over time. One can see a visual representation of coffee’s “caffeine crash” that quickly comes after its sharp peak of energy levels compared to the more steady, prolonged boost of energy that comes with Zest Tea and its L-Theanine.
When we compare caffeine levels, tea doesn’t always come out on top. Coffee tends to have more caffeine in both espresso shots and normal, office drip coffee. Likewise, pumped-up energy drinks also contain more caffeine than tea… but they also provide a ton of energy through sugar, which has a nasty crash of its own, not to mention how unhealthy drinking it is.
Soda and soft drinks can also contain small amounts of caffeine, but they focus more on providing energy through sugar instead.
The best teas for energy are those that provide high levels of caffeine, contain low or no sugar, and have a good amount of L-Theanine to help you channel that energy into a productive morning.
If you’re looking for the tea that can really boost energy, here’s a list of the top 5 highest caffeine tea types. And if you’re curious about where other blends sit, we have a full list of every tea type and the caffeine each tea contains in our guide to High Caffeine Tea.
Yerba Mate - a popular tea in South America made from the Ilex paraguariensis plant, yerba mate packs in 85 milligrams of caffeine per 8oz cup.
Matcha - one half teaspoon scoop of matcha powder contains 35 milligrams of caffeine, making one hot frothy cup of matcha green tea around 70 milligrams total.
Black Tea - an average mug of black tea (with or without milk) contains just 47 milligrams of caffeine.
White Tea - a cup of white tea contains on average 40 milligrams of caffeine, depending on what part of the tea plant it contains.
Green Tea - excluding matcha, a normal cup of green tea contains only 28 milligrams of caffeine!
There are actually quite a few factors that go into determining how much caffeine ends up in your cup, so it’s important to note these figures are only estimates.
Zest Tea is unique in that both our black and green tea blends actually sit at the top of this list with 135-150mg of caffeine per cup of tea.
First of all, the amount of caffeine in the tea itself depends on the tea plant variety and how it was grown. Shade-grown tea plants tend to have more caffeine than those grown in direct sunlight, for example. The part of the tea plant matters too. The new buds of the tea plant contain more caffeine than the larger leaves lower down on the plant.
Despite what you may have heard, there’s no difference between the levels of caffeine in tea bags vs loose leaf tea. The only difference is, the more the tea leaves are broken into smaller pieces, the quicker they will infuse flavor (and caffeine) into your cup. In general, using very hot water draws out more caffeine and the longer you brew your tea, the more caffeine will end up in your cup too.
It’s not an exact science, but luckily there is a way to know for sure how much caffeine (and L-Theanine) you’re getting from every serving, and that is by opting for high energy teas.
High energy teas, also known as high caffeine teas, contain much higher caffeine content than tea or a cup of coffee. At Zest, we can calculate exactly how much caffeine is in each serving of our high caffeine teas, by using natural tea extract to bump those milligrams up to boost energy.
Herbal teas do not contain caffeine, which is the primary source of energy we look for in teas. But, there is some evidence that a few herbal teas could provide energy in other ways.
Peppermint tea, for example, naturally contains Mentha piperita oils which one study found reduced mental fatigue from extended cognitive tasks. So while peppermint tea doesn’t provide energy, it may keep you pepped up and improve alertness.
Other herbal tea types, like ginger tea, can help your energy levels too. One study into ginger’s effects on people with type 2 diabetes found that it may help you control blood sugar levels, preventing extreme highs and lows for calmer energy levels.
It’s no coincidence that Zest has created some of the best tea blends for energy and focus! We set out to create high energy teas that provide a great energy boost, without the jitters and crash you get with a cup of coffee or energy drink. Available in sparkling, pyramid tea sachets and loose leaf tea, our 6 healthy flavor blends all provide the calm, focused energy boost you’re looking for.
Drinking tea is a great way to boost your energy and focus. But there’s more. These studies have shown promising evidence that links several health benefits to regularly consuming a healthy cuppa.
It’s not just calming chamomile tea and green tea that are great for relaxing with. Scientists at University College London found that black tea may help soothe stress by dropping cortisol levels.
Caffeine levels aren't the only element that determine how much tea will help you focus during a busy morning. According to this study, there's "reliable evidence showing that L-theanine and caffeine have clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction."
Several observational studies have found that regularly drinking green tea lowers the risk of death from heart attack and stroke. Furthermore, EGCG is a polyphenol found in green tea which is linked to maintaining good cardiovascular health - but more research is needed to find out if EGCG can become a good treatment or preventative measure for heart disease.
Some studies have found that half a cup of green or oolong tea per day can lower the risk of high blood pressure by 50%. There are several herbal teas that are effective for reducing blood pressure too, including caffeine-free nettle tea and chamomile tea.
Green tea has been shown to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol concentrations (that’s the “bad” type) but has no effect on the HDL cholesterol (the “good” type) in this study. Interestingly, ginger tea has also shown that it can reduce LDL and increase HDL. Green tea with a slice of ginger has some brilliant health benefits!
The antioxidant effects of green tea can have anti-inflammatory properties, according to this study. It’s good news for inflammatory conditions like arthritis and may even help calm the symptoms of a cold. For a caffeine-free tea alternative, several small studies have found that turmeric tea may help inflammation too.
Polyphenols in tea leaves (particularly green tea) may be able to prevent cancer, as some studies have found that EGCG can inhibit tumor cell growth. It’s looking promising, but much more research is needed.
Potential health benefits aside, tea is an excellent drink to boost energy, promote productivity, and help you do more with your day. Check out our high energy tea range to find the best teas for energy around.
How caffeine gives you energy https://www.livestrong.com/article/433642-does-coffee-really-give-you-energy/
How l-theanine works in the brain https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201708/what-you-need-know-about-l-theanine
Caffeine levels, taken from other article https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Wi--5mHJTubE266Pc9Ie-DI4x3BuJ3ohlO6lk6XelDE/edit#
Factors that influence the amount of caffeine that ends up in your cup https://www.thespruceeats.com/factors-influencing-caffeine-levels-in-tea-765275