Pu Erh Tea Vs Coffee: Which Will Get You Up In The Morning?


This post compares Pu Erh tea and coffee in detail. Many people need some help to properly wake up in the morning. Pu Erh tea, especially raw Pu Erh tea, is an effective stimulant and perhaps a good alternative to coffee.

To decide whether you want to drink Pu Erh tea or coffee for your daily dose of caffeine, you would need information on the contents in both beverages. Furthermore, the taste and effects of Pu Erh tea are different to those of coffee. 

Pu Erh Tea VS Coffee

SHORT ANSWER – Comparing Pu Erh Tea And Coffee

The caffeine content of Pu Erh tea and coffee are anywhere between 50 and 95 mg for a regular cup serving of 8 oz (235 mL). But depending on the leaves, beans and the way you make the beverage, there can be further differences in the stimulating effects, taste profiles and stomach issues.

Pu Erh Tea Caffeine Levels

In general, the caffeine levels will be somewhere between 60 and 80 mg of caffeine per cup of 8 oz (235 mL) for Pu Erh tea and 60 to 95 mg of caffeine per cup for coffee. The brewing methods have a heavy influence on the caffeine content of the resulting beverage. This very simple comparison does not work with espresso or aged Pu Erh teas.

To get a complete picture of the caffeine contents of the different beverages and brewing methods, I have gathered information on each of these and why their contents vary.

Raw Pu Erh Tea

The caffeine content of Pu Erh tea varies extremely depending on the water temperature and steeping time. With higher temperatures and longer steeping, more caffeine is dissolved in the water.

Raw Pu Erh tea contains caffeine between 70 and 80 mg per 8 oz cup (235 mL). For harsher brewing parameters, this can be estimated to be higher. A bitter taste will indicate higher caffeine content.

Young raw Pu Erh tea will contain more caffeine when compared to aged raw Pu Erh tea. Caffeine is a compound that is created within the living plant and will decay over time. Since no new caffeine is introduced to the leaves, the concentration of caffeine will slowly decrease.

Raw Pu Erh tea that is decades old may or may not contain any caffeine. This depends on the storage conditions, as caffeine molecules can and will be destroyed by oxidation, light or biological activity over time.

Cooked Pu Erh Tea

Cooked Pu Erh tea is rumored to not contain any caffeine by some people. I have even seen some vendors claim that this is the case. But that is not true. Cooked Pu Erh tea does contain caffeine and it is not even less than what you find with raw Pu Erh tea.

Cooked Pu Erh tea contains anywhere between 60 and 70 mg of caffeine per cup. The caffeine level of the resulting tea will depend on the material used, but the water temperature and steeping time are far more important.

Of course, with a very strong cup of Pu Erh tea, you should expect the caffeine level to be more than that. The reason for cooked Pu Erh tea containing different levels of caffeine when compared to raw Pu Erh tea is the fermentation process. 

Microbial activity will decompose catechins and other molecules over time but leave caffeine in the tea leaves. This makes caffeine one of the primary constituents of cooked pu erh tea. (Source)

Influence Of Age And Storage

Through the aging process, compounds in the Pu Erh tea are decomposed. Over time this will lower the caffeine level. This process is slow and will take time, but with Pu Erh teas that are more than one or two decades old, you will notice the difference.

Caffeine Content Of Coffee

Filter Coffee

Regular filter coffee will contain an average of 95 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup (235 mL). This is more than proper sources claim that Pu Erh tea will have. Filter coffee is what most people drink in the morning and it will work for you.

Espresso And Other Variations

One shot of espresso contains an average of 64 mg of caffeine. Espresso is essentially highly concentrated flavor and does contain more caffeine per cup, but is normally not served in a cup, is it?

For many households, the use of instant coffee is the primary source of caffeine. One packet of instant coffee will provide you with an average of 63 mg of caffeine. 

Differences In The Effect 

Any of the mentioned beverages will get you up in the morning and keep you from falling asleep on your commute to work or whatever your morning routine includes.

However, there are differences in the effect of Pu Erh tea and coffee. I can remember being told that caffeine is for the body and tea is for the mind. This phrase is not so far off the truth.

Caffeine is essentially what keeps you from feeling tired. So what is the difference between the caffeine of coffee and the caffeine of Pu Erh tea? 

The answer to the difference between coffee and Pu Erh tea lies in the other compounds of the tea and coffee and not in the caffeine content itself. I suspect that this is related to other compounds of the Pu Erh tea.

Differences In The Taste

There are obvious differences in taste between Pu Erh tea and coffee. Both Pu Erh tea and coffee have a tendency to taste bitter and many cultures around the world have decided that adding milk is a good idea to counteract the bitterness.

The flavor of Pu Erh tea can have floral and grassy notes, while the flavor of cooked Pu Erh tea will be savory, sweet and musky or earth-like. The taste of coffee can not be easily compared, as there are huge differences.

As you will have tasted both Pu Erh tea and coffee, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to taste Pu Erh tea or coffee. The differences are otherwise noticeable, but I would decide on my preference for taste.

How You Should Decide Between Pu Erh Tea And Coffee

Pu Erh tea and coffee have their similarities and obvious differences. Both beverages contain more than enough caffeine to get you out of bed properly, but do have major differences in taste.

In the end, your personal preference is far more important than the information you find on the internet. If you are looking for a better-tasting beverage to drink, you should try both and decide for yourself. If you want the caffeine boost, either option is perfectly fine.

There’s a lot more to learn about tea! If you are looking for a good place to start, I highly recommend the book Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. You can check its current price on Amazon here.

Jens Friis

I am the author and editor of TeaSteeping.com, chemist and tea enthusiast. For many years I have been obsessed with tea, teaware, and tea culture. Always hunting for the next tea experience and learning more about this most delicious and diverse beverage.

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