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How Much Caffeine is in Sweet Tea? The Surprising Facts!

sweet tea with ice

Do you ever wonder how much caffeine is in your sweet tea? If you are looking to increase or decrease your caffeine intake, this is important to know. Not only that, but how does sweet tea compare to other similar beverages? Does it have more than iced tea? What about coffee? These are all good tea questions that deserve good tea answers.

To come right to the point, sweet tea has 2.56 mg of caffeine per fluid ounce. That equals about 41 mg per 16 fluid ounces which is a single serving of your favorite sweet beverage.

Since many readers are interested in how sweet tea measures up on the caffeine scale, we took a deep dive into some comparisons that you will likely find helpful. Not only will you find out where sweet tea falls on the wide-awake meter, but we also share the difference between it and iced tea, plus we share a good ole’ Southern recipe.

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The Caffeine in Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is an American beverage that is believed to have originated in the Southern states. Served either hot or cold, sweet tea is typically served chilled and is consumed throughout the year.

Traditionally made with black tea leaves (bags), sweet tea contains its share of caffeine. As we mentioned above, there is 2.56 mg in each fluid once. This equates to about 20 mg per 8 ounces and almost 41 mg per 16 fluid ounces; it is considered a moderate amount. Keep in mind, that the typical single-serving bottle of soda is 16 fluid ounces. Most tall glasses also have the same capacity.

Before we dive into direct competitors, let’s look at how sweet tea measures up to other caffeinated drinks you can find on store shelves:

Brand Type of Beverage Caffeine per 16 fl oz
Redline Xtreme (Bang Energy) Energy shot 316 mg
Dunkin Donuts Cold Brew Coffee 260 mg
5 Hr Energy Energy Shot 230 mg
Starbucks Triple Shot Energy Coffee 220 mg
Monster Energy Drink 160 mg
Red Bull Energy Drink 80 mg
Single Espresso Shot Coffee 64 mg
Sweet Tea Tea 41 mg
Green Tea Tea 29 mg
Chai Tea Tea 26 mg
Chocolate Candy 12 mg per oz
Coffee Ice Cream Ice Cream 5-8 mg per cup
pouring sweet tea in a clear glass
Image Credit: Matt Hoffman, Unsplash

Sweet Tea vs Coffee

Tea, or black tea in this case, are leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Coffee comes from a flowering plant called Coffea that produces fruit. When the fruit is ripe, it is harvested for the inner seeds which we call coffee beans.

Both coffee and tea have naturally occurring caffeine. How each beverage is prepared makes a difference in the amount of caffeine as shown in the chart above. That being said, the average cup of coffee has about 90 mg of caffeine whereas sweet tea only has 41 mg.

Interestingly enough, tea leaves contain 47 mg of caffeine while a coffee bean only has 6 mg. On the same token, one tablespoon of ground coffee contains between 60 and 110 mg of caffeine whereas a teabag has 47 mg.

Looking at it from that perspective, tea holds more caffeine than coffee, yet tea is the less caffeinated beverage. The answer to this riddle is simple. Coffee is far more concentrated than tea.

Home Brewed Sweet Tea vs Take Out Sweet Tea

Another popular question is how much caffeine is in McDonald’s sweet tea and Chick Fil A’s sweet teas versus home brewed. As we mentioned, home-brewed sweet tea has 2.56 mg per fluid ounce. McDonald’s has 3.12 mg per fluid ounce while Chick Fil A has 3.88 mg per fluid ounce.

Chick Fil A is the clear winner, but how does it work out per an average serving of 16 fluid ounces? Let’s look:

Sweet Tea: 41 mg per 16 fl oz
McDonald’s Sweet Tea: 50 mg per 16 fl oz
Chick Fil A Sweet Tea: 62 mg per 16 fl oz

While Chick Fil A’s recipe gives you the most caffeine, both restaurants offer different-sized portions. Take another look at your possible caffeine intake.

McDonald’s Large Size: 32 fl oz = 100 mg Caffeine
Chick Fil A Large Size: 22.5 fl oz = 87 mg Caffeine

Although Chick Fil A has more caffeine per fluid ounce, you get the most from a single McDonalds serving as it provides more sweet tea per fluid ounce.

a glass of sweet tea on wooden table
Image Credit: Anshu A, Unsplash

Iced Tea vs Sweet Tea

While some people confuse sweet tea with iced tea, others swear by one and won’t touch the other. As previously mentioned, sweet tea is thought to have been invented in the Southern United States. Iced tea, on the other hand, is thought to have originated at the World’s fair in the Northern states.

Iced tea is a popular drink in the United States, generally served over ice in the summertime. Unfortunately, the concrete evidence to determine where each drink came from is lost to history. One thing is clear, though, they are both popular in their respective locations.


Both drinks have their own features, yet they are essentially the same thing. The main difference is how they are made, and how they are consumed. Sweet tea, for example, is made by brewing black tea bags for an extended period. Once the tea has fully steeped, sugar and more water are added. It can be served hot or cold, though usually cold.

Iced tea is brewed hot, chilled, and served over ice. Traditionally, sugar is not added (though many people add some type of sweetener). Instead, iced tea often comes with added ingredients such as lemon, peach, mango, etc. This provides natural sweetness.

Sweet tea and iced tea are typically made with black tea; Lipton being the most popular. As far as caffeine, iced tea has a bit more at about 46 mg per fluid ounce. This is likely due to the way the tea steeps and brews. Furthermore, sweet tea calls for more water than iced tea.

Keep in mind, iced tea can be made with other varieties of tea like green, chai, and herbal which can change the caffeine capacity. Black tea has the most, so other types would typically be lower, however.

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sweet tea with ice

Home Made Sweet Tea Recipe

Not only can you get take-out sweet tea but there are endless options available on store shelves. If you want the true sweet tea experience, there is nothing like the original, however. Take a look below at our authentic (and favorite) Southern sweet tea recipe.
5 star average
Prep Time 10 minutes
Steeping Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American


  • Medium saucepan


  • 6 Lipton tea bags
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda


  • First, bring four cups of water to a boil in your saucepan. Remove from heat.
  • Add all six tea bags and allow to steep for 15 to 20 minutes dunking several times. Remove tea bags and squeeze out extra liquid.
  • Stir in sugar and baking soda until both are 100% dissolved. Add the remaining water stirring as you go.
  • Served chilled or hot.
Keyword homemade sweet tea recipe

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On the spectrum of caffeinated beverages, sweet tea falls on the lower to moderate end. While it will give you a boost, it’s not as evasive as energy drinks or espresso shots. Sweet tea is loved by many, and the recipe has been adapted to different parts of the world. While the original recipe is always best, decaffeinated tea is an option if you want the sweet home flavor without the added caffeination.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: S_Photo, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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