In times of stress and angst, my mother always prescribed a deep calming breath and a Nice Cup of Tea.  In times of big stress and angst, however, too many of those Nice Cups of Tea can send your over-caffeinated nerves a-jangling and tank your coping skills all the more.

So, how much caffeine is in a cup of regular black tea?

In part, it depends on how strongly your tea is brewed, how many tea bags or spoonfuls of tea laves in relation to how much water, and how long you let it steep before drinking.

(My grandmother used to let tea stew on the back of the stove for half the day, adding another splash of water or handful of tea leaves from time to time so the pot never ran dry. Her tea could bring a strong man to his knees.)

Health Canada’s recommendation is a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 300mg, or a little over two 8-oz (237 ml) cups of coffee, for women of childbearing age; and no more than 400mg for other healthy adults. As a general rule of thumb, you can figure that, for each cup of coffee, you could have 2 -3 cups of black tea, or 6-8 cups of green tea as the caffeine equivalent.

Not too bad… and tea in moderation has all kinds of health benefits that you’ve probably heard way too much about already.

But we’re talking about caffeine here, and whether our bodies can handle it when we’r ein crisis mode. We know that too much caffeine can keep you on edge and make you irritable, interrupt your sleep, and make your heart race the same way anxiety does. And now the medical types are telling us that caffeine will mess with your blood sugar levels, too.

Luckily, it’s not the caffeine that makes us turn to tea in a crisis, or when we’re pausing for recovery from a crisis. The comfort factor of the proverbial Nice Cup of Tea comes in large part from the heat of the liquid — iced tea just doesn’t have quite the same effect. Too, it’s the reassuring familiarity of the tea-brewing ritual, and even just cradling that warm mug in your hand.

Lemon Ginger herbal tea - StashSo I’ve been expanding my supply of caffeine-free herbal teas.

I’ve mentioned Stash Tea and their wonderful Lemon-Ginger tea before, I believe, as my first choice for soothing a sore throat and unstuffing a stuffy nose. But it does a good job of settling a nervous stomach, too. In fact any kind of ginger tea (or licorice, if you’re into that flavour) will calm an upset stomach that’s tied in nervous knots.

Chamomile tea is soothing beyond belief, but it tastes like boiled straw. Or, at least, as I imagine boiled straw would taste — that’s certainly not a beverage I’ve tried! It’s a lot more potable when blended with other herbs, like peppermint. And peppermint’s another herb that is traditionally used to treat insomnia, as well as a host of other complaints. Refreshing and calming, both at the same time!

Besides the symptoms of tension, headaches, upset stomach, nervousness and insomnia, we know that stress can also really take a toll on your immune system. Any little germ that’s going around, the stressed-out person will catch it! Hibiscus flower, rosehip or citrus-based herbal teas rich in vitamin C can help to fight back. Echinacea tea, too, of course — and Celestial Seasonings makes a pretty good Complete Care Wellness Tea that I can recommend trying: an echinacea blend with a lovely hint of mint.

For those small stressful events, by all means have a nice pick-me-up cup of regular black or green tea. They’re both said to be brimming with health-giving antioxidants, after all. But when life throws you a whole big series of major curves, do dial back on the caffeinated teas and give the caffeine-free herbal teas a try.

Image credit: Tea cup by  sahua

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. HowToMe

    As always, your writing is a pleasure to read. Hoping all is well for you and yours.

  2. domestika

    p.s. DJ phoned the other night to tell me he’d heard a CBC radio story about a new study on caffeine. It seems that caffeine, like a cup of coffee with your breakfast, can make your blood sugar level spike — so diabetics really need to hit the herbal tea or decaf instead.

    It’s quite alarming, actually. Apparently, if you have a cup of coffee and a nice healthy bran-fiber type cereal, the coffee makes your blood sugar act the way it would if you have a whopping bowl of Sugar Crack Cereal (sorry, that’s what the man called it) instead of the virtuous breakfast. Scary, no?

  3. domestika

    @Ann, you’re right – there are all kinds of health studies coming out about tea these days. Not just herbals, either: black and green tea have all sorts of antioxidants going on, and good things like that. Don’t you love it when something that’s good is also good for you? (In moderation, of course.)

    @Mary Emma, that’s a lovely story. You and I have talked before about the importance of ritual and tradition in life, and especially in a relationship where Alzheimer’s disease has entered… now you’ve got me thinking about how “tea parties” can go a long way to bridge cognitive differences, awkward social moments, generation gaps, etc. Maybe the politicians of the world need to sit down more often, together, with a nice cup of tea?

    @Anne Maybus, you’d feel right at home here. :) Maybe it’s a ‘colonial’ thing, in part – Australians and Canadians do seem to have an enduring addiction to tea. Not that we don’t adore our coffee, too…

    @Claudia, oh goodie – a new tea to try! Thanks! I’m thinking – tea must still be fairly big in New England states (home of the Boston Tea Party and subsequent revolution!)? But I do wonder if it’s dying out in the Starbucks generation: my cousins in Maine and New Hampshire still like their cup of tea in the afternoon, but the oldest of their kids are all about the mocha latte grande thing.

  4. Claudia

    My favorite tea (I’m addicted to tea) is the MateVana blend found at If you love tea, you need to try it. It’s incredible.

  5. Anne Maybus

    Mary Emma Allen, your family sounds like mine. The universal cry is ‘Put the kettle on” and there is always a stampede to the table when the call goes out “tea is made’! A good cup of tea is like home to me. I quite like the herbal teas but the old faithful will always be number one.

  6. Mary Emma Allen

    A cup of tea has long been a sign of hospitality in my family. “Have a cup of tea” rather than coffee often was the invitation when guests visited. My grandmother enjoyed her tea at 3 PM every afternoon. She had tea while my two aunts drank their coffee.

    When I visited my mom in her home, before I had to move her with me as she developed Alzheimer’s, she’d insist we sit and chat over tea when I first arrived. (We lived 275 miles apart.) While she lived with me, we’d have our afternoon tea and reminisce how my grandmother enjoyed this custom.

    As Mother needed more care and moved to a nursing home, we had our tea parties there. My grandchildren (her great grands) thought it fun to have tea with her. They would eat their snacks while Grandma and I enjoyed tea and muffins or cookies. (The children liked the goodies, too!) Those are memories we have today, even though my mom and grandmother are gone.

  7. Ann

    Oh yes…a good cup of tea is a great comfort drink. I sometimes feel it has some healing effects too. I love the green and white tea from Stash. Simply soothing.

  8. domestika

    @Sharon, I hear you! As for a tang in the taste, that’s why I like Stash (and honestly, these guys should send me a free case of the stuff for raving about them all the time :D) — the ginger’s got some ginger to it! There’s an organic ginger tea I get sometimes (not lemon, just plain ginger — and the name escapes me now) but I always have to steep it longer or use two teabags to get that lovely tangy taste.

  9. Thanks for this, Jen. The nice cup of tea is a British institution, too. In fact, there’s almost no problem that it cannot solve. I love ginger tea; the tangier the better.

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