A huge energy boost on a cold and rainy Monday is all well and good, but do you have the focus to channel that energy? Are you pacing and shaking, or focused and productive? Having a good balance between energy and focus is essential if you want to do more with your day.
Whether it's a long day at the office or an intense workout, the right cup of tea can enhance both your energy levels and cognitive function.
In this article, we'll explain why tea is the best caffeinated beverage as opposed to coffee and energy drinks, then take you through the 10 best teas you can try.
Tea is made from infusing plant leaves into water - more specifically, traditional tea is made by infusing the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant in hot water. The plant naturally produces caffeine in its leaves, so infusing them into a cup results in a caffeinated beverage.
The amount of caffeine in your cup depends on how the plant was grown and its variety, as well as how you steep the leaves. Regardless, you can safely assume that more caffeine equals more energy for your day.
With the exception of Zest Tea (more on that below) most teas do not contain as much caffeine as coffee. We've even written a list of every tea type with their average caffeine content to demonstrate this.
However, that doesn't mean that coffee is superior to tea. You need to take the amino acids of tea into consideration too.
While caffeine provides energy, the amino acid L-Theanine provides focus. This amino acid is found naturally in tea leaves and is not present in coffee. It can stimulate your brain by:
The synergistic effect of caffeine and L-Theanine together is why tea is considered a great tool for boosting both energy and focus simultaneously.
These are the best teas for a productive day, with energy and focus to spare. Surprisingly, not all of these teas are caffeinated...
Black tea is one of the most popular and best teas for energy. Usually, a standard cup contains about half the amount of caffeine compared to coffee. However, it also provides the amino acid known as L-Theanine, that slows down the onset of caffeine and enhances focus. You can learn more about the science behind caffeine and L-Theanine.
Most black teas contain around 50mg of caffeine, however, Zest Black tea energy levels are boosted to 150mg per cup. We can do this by adding tea extract to our loose leaf tea blends. It's plant based, non-GMO and vegan friendly.
We've also made a range of energy drinks with black tea, so even if you don't usually opt for a hot beverage, you can still enjoy the energy and focus that tea provides.
If you're new to Zest Tea, we recommend trying:
Hot black energy tea: Blue Lady
Iced black tea energy drink: Blackberry Lime
Our green teas also provide a generous boost to your energy levels, with around 135mg of caffeine per cup. Green tea differs to black tea in flavor and composition, as the tea leaves haven't been oxidized. It contains both caffeine and L-Theanine, plus another highly beneficial amino acid known as EGCG. Learn more about green tea and energy in our article.
If drinking black tea for energy and focus doesn't suit your tastes, try:
Hot green energy tea: Superberry Samba
Iced green tea energy drink: Cucumber Melon
Yerba mate is a South American tea that's usually placed amongst the herbal teas. However, yerba mate tea is one of a few infusions not made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant that does provide caffeine. How much caffeine it provides greatly depends on how you prepare it. The traditional style in South America (loose leaf tea in a gourd) will result in much more caffeine than tea bags, for example.
This tea type is best for a quick energy boost. Yerba mate tea health benefits include boosting exercise performance, stimulating the central nervous system, and protecting the cardiovascular system, however there's no evidence that it supports calmness and focus like a traditional tea does.1
This is a great tea if you want to take a little more time to slow down and enjoy the tea making process. Matcha is made from powdered, shade-grown green tea that is whisked into water. Compared to other green teas (but not Zest), matcha provides more caffeine and L-Theanine, as you are consuming the leaves instead of simply infusing them.
Masala chai has great energy boosting properties. It's typically made with a black tea base, so you have a solid source of caffeine and essential amino acids for focus. Masala chai, meaning spiced tea, is made with aromatic spices. Ginger is a popular ingredient, along with cinnamon and cardamom.
We think that masala chai is the best morning tea for energy, as it's often consumed with plenty of milk and a sweetener. If you usually enjoy a milky cup of coffee, you'll find our Spicy Masala Chai just as tasty but with a smoother, more focused energy boost.
Pu-erh is a fermented tea type. At first glance, the loose leaf tea may appear to be the same as black tea. However, the flavor is deeper, earthier, and more intense. Pu-erh contains more caffeine than white, oolong, and green tea. It also provides amino acids including L-Theanine.
You can drink pu-erh tea for energy, although it's typically not as popular as other caffeinated drinks for energy consumption.
The caffeine content in an eight ounce serving of white tea really depends on the type and grade of white tea. Silver needle, for example, is a white tea made from the buds of the tea leaves rather than the larger leaves - thus providing more caffeine.
White teas also provide a source of that all-important amino acid, L-Theanine. They may also have a favourable anti-aggregative and neuroprotective effect against a toxic Alzheimer's protein, so it's beneficial for your brain health.4
Oolong teas aren't often thought of as the best teas for energy, however they are a source of caffeine and L-Theanine, just like black and green tea. Oolong tea can be heavily oxidized or lightly oxidized with a huge range of flavors as well as health benefits.
Read our guide to oolong tea to find out how it's caffeine content compared to other caffeinated teas and more.
This is a popular caffeine-free tea that's often made with fresh ingredients. Usually consumed to soothe a cold, this tea contains honey as a source of energy rather than caffeine. It also provides a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A through the lemon slice5 and anti-inflammatory properties from the ginger (read more about ginger tea health benefits).
Although it's caffeine-free, this could be a great energy boosting tea for anyone feeling under the weather.
Menthol in peppermint tea can help you improve performance and attention during demanding cognitive tasks, e.g. getting that coursework done the day before the deadline. It can also attenuate the increase in mental fatigue, so you can stay focused for longer.6
If you want to boost your energy levels further, try a green tea and peppermint blend like our Pomegranate Mojito.
Zest Black Tea provides up to 150mg of caffeine per serving, so it contains more caffeine than standard black tea. We achieve this by using additional tea extract for a plant-powered energizing effect.
Most energizing tea types made from the Camellia sinensis plant provide L-Theanine, which is great for focus and concentration. For a herbal tea that's good for focus, try peppermint tea. The menthol in peppermint tea can help you tackle demanding cognitive tasks and keep fatigue at bay.7
Coffee may be a popular choice for a morning energy boost, but tea is far better. A smooth, comforting black tea is a great choice for the morning, as drinking green tea or any astringent tea type on an empty stomach can cause some nausea.
Caffeinated tea made from the tea plant is a great source of antioxidants and amino acids, including L-Theanine which is great for brain function.8 Consuming a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals is also important, so you could also try tea blends that contain a range of natural ingredients. Superberry Samba, for example, contains both tea leaves and fruits.
Herbal teas with a calming effect are great for sleep. L-Theanine also improves sleep, however it's best to avoid consuming more caffeine before bed. Stick to a soothing tea with less caffeine, like green tea, or a herbal tea with no caffeine, like chamomile tea.