Coffee may be our year-long love, but when fall rolls around, we can’t help but think of a nice cup of tea. The problem is, we still need the energy that a good cup of Joe can give, and most teas simply don’t quite measure up. But what if you could enjoy a nice, honey and milk-infused cup and still get that much needed jolt?
Introducing high-caffeine tea, a relatively new and expanding category that tea enthusiasts can add to their collections. Caffeinated teas generally include black teas, which contain more caffeine naturally, combined with other herbs and ingredients, to raise the caffeine content to roughly equal to or above that of the average coffee cup.
Some companies specializing in caffeinated teas also have high-energy versions of less caffeinated strains, like green or white. But for this taste test, we decided to focus on some of the most common black teas available by brands touting high-caffeine content. Out of five tested varieties, here are our rankings, from best to worst.
Tiesta Tea Energizer in Passion Berry Jolt ($9.99 per 4 oz tin)
Maybe it’s just us, but loose leaf tea always seems superior to bags or paper discs. And this loose leaf is particularly pretty, with visible chunks of pineapple, raspberry, cornflower, and marigold. The black tea taste comes through more strongly on this tea than on some of the others we included in this taste test, but the fruit is still pleasantly vibrant.
Our biggest complaint is that, despite marketing itself as a “high-caffeine tea,” the packaging does not make clear how many milligrams of caffeine to expect per cup. That information isn’t readily available on website either, as far as we can tell, so proceed with caution if taking in too much caffeine is a concern. Unfortunately, this was common among several of the brands we tested. Hopefully manufacturers will learn to make this information clearer in the future.
Elevate Tea’s Orange Cinnamon Black Tea ($11.70 per 3 oz bag)
Elevate’s Orange Cinnamon Black Tea tastes just like Christmas, so it’s a great choice on fall afternoons when you need to pull yourself out of a midday slump. As with Tiesta Tea’s variety, it’s also loose leaf, so you can more clearly see the ingredients making up its flavor profile. The one downside is that this tea includes huge chunks of cinnamon, which might be hard to fit inside some tea infusers. Elevate’s packaging also doesn’t clearly list the estimated caffeine content, so it might be hard for caffeine sensitive adults to stick to exact dosing. But if you want a seasonal taste along with some extra energy, then this brand is a great choice.
Bigelow American Breakfast Black Tea with Extra Caffeine ($2.77 per box of 20 bags)
It’s surprisingly hard, in the high-caffeine tea world, to find a plain black breakfast tea that doesn’t have some added fruit or spice twist. So if plain tea is what you’re looking for, Bigelow has your back. The stalwart budget brand makes a very good cup of American breakfast-style tea that delivers a steady boost without too much buzz. While the caffeine content isn’t clearly listed on the box, Bigelow’s website estimates that each cup contains close to the same amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee — between 60 and 90 milligrams. And since it’s inexpensive, this high-caffeine variety can easily become a tea stash staple which can stretch out more expensive brands.
Not Our First Picks
The Republic of Tea’s HiCAF Pom-Berry Black Tea ($16.25 per tin of 50 discs)
This tea definitely delivers a powerful pomegranate taste, to the point that we’d almost question the black tea designation if it weren’t for the slightly bitter aftertaste. Add a bit of honey in, though, and that unpleasant note disappears altogether. This particular tea delivers 130 milligrams of caffeine in each cup, so it’s a bit more potent than the average cup of coffee. Keep that in mind before you brew a second cup.
Zest Tea in Blue Lady ($12.95 for 20 sachets)
The pleasant aroma on opening Zest Tea’s Blue Lady variety is promising, and the blueberry taste, once the brew is ready, is delightful. That being said, we're not huge fans of the unnecessary nylon tea bag packaging, which is not as environmentally friendly as other tea-carrying options. Among all the brands tested, Zest Tea does provides the most powerful caffeine punch — an estimated 155 milligrams per cup. But given that the tea is more expensive than some of its competitors, it still might be worth going with a different brand.
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