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Caffeine in Tea vs. Soda: The Complete Breakdown

tea vs soda

Caffeine is one of the most beloved pick-me-ups, with the majority of the U.S partaking in its use daily. Aside from coffee, tea and soda are some of the most popular caffeinated beverages. But how do they fare against one another as far as caffeine content? Let’s find out. The short answer is that it depends on which kind of soda and which kind of tea!

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Tea vs. Soda: Which Has More Caffeine?

It is hard to give a definitive answer because caffeine content widely varies depending on the brand of tea or soda. On average, however, most sodas have as much caffeine as a weaker cup of black tea.

Soda is precisely crafted, so every can of the same soda will have the same caffeine content. Tea, by contrast, depends on the leaves’ genetics as well as how strong it was brewed. As a result, estimating tea’s caffeine is tricky at best.

There are all types of soda, from decaf to highly caffeinated sodas and energy drinks. For instance, Coca-Cola contains 32 milligrams of caffeine in a 12-ounce can, while Mountain Dew has a jittery 54 milligrams per 12 ounces. A 16-ounce can of Monster energy drink has even more, with 160 milligrams.

Tea varies less in caffeine content, but it also depends on how strong you brew it. Darker tea leaves have more caffeine than lighter tea leaves. Black tea, for instance, can have between 40–70 milligrams per 8-ounce cup. Oolong tea, by comparison, has about 37–55 milligrams. As far as caffeine goes, black tea has the most among all teas.

To make it easier to understand, we’ll break it down in a handy list for both soda and tea. Keep in mind that the caffeine listed for tea is only an estimate, while the amounts for soda are more exact.

black tea
Image Credit: Wild0ne, Pixabay

Caffeine Content of Tea Per 8-Ounce Serving:

  • Black Tea: 40–70 milligrams
  • Green Tea: 35–45 milligrams
  • Oolong Tea: 37–55 milligrams
  • White Tea: 15–30 milligrams
Caffeine Content of Tea Per 12-Ounce Serving:
  • Coca-Cola: 32 milligrams
  • Pepsi: 38 milligrams
  • Pepper: 27 milligrams
  • Sunkist: 19 milligrams
  • Mountain Dew: 54 milligrams

Going by these numbers, strong black tea has more caffeine than any soda, while the sodas tend to have as much as a weaker cup of tea.

Is Tea or Soda Better for You?

Tea is much healthier than soda, but only if you brew it with low sugar or no sugar. If you drink sweet tea, it probably is not any healthier than drinking a soda.

While sodas contain all types of artificial ingredients, the main health risk is the exorbitant amounts of sugar. A typical soda has about 40 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can, which is roughly 12 teaspoons of sugar per can. All across the world, scientists have identified soda as a primary contributor to obesity.

Diet soda isn’t any safer. Commonly advertised as “healthier” than regular soda, diet sodas still have a lot of artificial ingredients and sweeteners that aren’t healthier than regular soda. In fact, people who drink diet soda daily have a 48% higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

Unsweetened tea is much healthier than soda, with a whole laundry list of practical health benefits. A few include reduced risk of stroke, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduced chance of cancer. Soda, by contrast, has no health benefits whatsoever.

Tea also has a chemical called L-theanine, which has a calming effect on the brain. This is why many people who turn to tea for their morning pick-me-up notice a simultaneous energizing and calming effect. While soda simply boosts you, tea gives you both energy and relaxes the jittery feeling from caffeine.

Barq's root beer soda pouring into glass
Image Credit: Mohamad Babayan, Unsplash

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Soda and tea are some of the most widely consumed beverages in the world and offer similar caffeine content. Where they vary is in sugar content, with soda containing astronomical amounts of sugar. Sweet tea can be just as sugary, but unsweetened tea offers numerous health benefits.

Featured Image Credit: Left – Tea (Andrei Mayatnik, Shutterstock) | Right – Soda (7303458, Pixabay)


Codee Chessher

Codee Chessher is a seasoned freelance writer with a love of coffee (and caffeine in general), travel, pop culture, and pets. When he's not mainlining espresso, his go-to brewing methods are pour over and the AeroPress. On the go, the Cafe de Olla is a favorite. He's fascinated by the wide range of flavor profiles and numerous brewing methods, and has made it a life goal to try coffee in as many ways as possible.

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