Tea tends to be labeled as an acidic beverage. But really, is tea acidic?
Although this is mostly true, how acidic your tea is depends on many factors such as steeping quantities and time, the type of tea you use, as well as where your tea comes from, amongst other factors.
It also depends on whether you're talking about herbal or fruit teas.
In this post, we'll cover how acidic different teas and beverages are, and talk about the factors that influence tea acidity, how to reduce acidity in your tea, and much more.
We'll also talk about coffee acidity, and how it stacks up versus tea when it comes to acidity.
You may be surprised to find out that coffee is not as acidic as some teas...
For example, some bottled sugary fruity teas can be over 1,000 times more acidic than coffee!
So before you drink your tea, read on to learn all you need to (and more) about acidity in tea.
Before we dive deep into the world of tea acidity, we'll give you a quick explanation of what the pH scale is.
If you already know what the pH scale is, go right ahead and skip to the sections below.
The pH scale is a scale that ranges from 0 to 14 and measures the acidity or alkalinity of a substance or solution. It measures the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) in a substance.
A pH value of 7 means that a solution is neutral - that is, it's neither acidic nor alkaline (e.g. distilled water).
A pH of less than 7 means a substance is acidic, whereas a pH greater than 7 means that a substance is alkaline.
Something to keep in mind is that the pH scale is logarithmic.
For example, increasing the pH of a substance by one integer value makes it 10 times less acidic (or 10 ten times more alkaline depending on where you are on the scale).
Conversely, decreasing the pH of a substance by one integer value makes it 10 times more acidic (or 10 times less alkaline depending on where you are on the scale).
From the image above, you could then say that coffee with a pH of 5 is 100 times more acidic than pure water (pH of 7).
Ok, that's it for the pH scale.
Given my engineering background, it's tempting to go on and on about the pH scale.
But I won't bore most of you with this. Instead, check this page for a detailed explanation of the pH scale.
Did you know?
Some types of food contain anthocyanins and can be used as pH indicators. Butterfly pea tea can be used as a pH indicator!
Now that we have a basic understanding of the pH scale let's jump right in and answer this question.
Is tea acidic?
Yes, in general, tea is mildly acidic. By the way, we are talking about true teas made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.
The acidity levels of tea depend on various factors such as oxidation levels, steeping time, tea quantity relative to water, and additives (lemon tea anyone?). We'll cover these below in more detail.
Tea made from fruits is significantly more acidic. Examples include rosehip tea, lemon tea, apple tea, and blackberry tea.
Herbal teas tend to be neutral or very slightly acidic. Examples include chamomile tea, mint tea, fennel tea, and sage tea.
We've plotted for you the pH level of a few popular teas so that you get an idea. We've used data from a paper on the pH of various teas available in Brazil and a paper on the pH of Turkish fruit and herbal teas.
For reference, we have also included coffee and other popular drinks such as orange juice, Coca-Cola, and milk.
Here's the table version so you can take a closer look at the pH values from the above chart.
|Black Tea Zero Lemon (Coca Cola)
|Black Tea Peach Flavor (Nestea)
|Green Tea (Feel Good)
|Orange Juice (Minute Maid)
|AquaFina Bottled Water
|Evian Bottled Water
|Green Tea Upper Range
From our chart above you may have noticed that bottled green tea from Feel Good is acidic (pH of 3.60). But is green tea acidic? Well, green tea leaves (pH of 7.0) are less acidic than black tea (pH of 6.75). You may also have come across some references stating black tea can have a pH as low as 5.5, and green tea has a pH as high as 10!
Why is that so, if they come from the same plant?
Well, there are some factors that impact the acidity of your tea.
These factors are:
Let's go over some of them in more detail.
It's obvious the acidity of the water you brew tea with will impact the acidity of your tea.
What's not so obvious is that water acidity levels can vary a lot.
Evian bottled water has a pH of 8.1 whereas Aquafina bottled water has a pH of 5.7 (4). In other words, Aquafina bottled water is over 100 times more acidic than Evian!
So the acidity of the water you use plays a major role in how acidic tea will be.
How much tea you brew will impact acidity levels.
We tested the following to confirm this:
Here are pictures of the two cases we tested.
We used pH test strips for both cases and compared them.
Black tea made with one tsp of black tea using Toronto tap water has a pH of about 7.
Black tea made using two tsp of black tea using Toronto tap water has a pH closer to 6.
So the tea quantity you brew impacts its acidity!
The next factor that impacts tea acidity is how much the tea leaves have been oxidized.
White and green teas are less oxidized than oolong and black teas. These former ones are a great option if you are looking for a low-acid tea.
We also tested this, using the following cases.
Here's a picture of the green tea we tested.
Green tea made using two teaspoons of green tea using Toronto tap water has a pH between 6 and 7.
This means green is less acidic than black tea since it's less oxidized.
However, note that green tea using 2 tsp is more acidic than black tea using 1 tsp, all other parameters being equal!
This is a fairly obvious one, as higher steeping times allow for a more concentrated brew!
So the longer the steeping times, the more acidic your tea will be.
This is a complex one, but the environment in which tea is cultivated impacts the concentration of the tea plant's minerals, nutrients, and metabolites, which in turn impact acidity.
Environmental factors include seasonality (e.g. when is the tea harvested), water stress, solar radiation, altitude, soil type, available nutrients, herbivory, local microbes, and local geography (5).
It's difficult to predict how these factors impact tea acidity, but they explain the differences in acidity between seemingly similar tea types (e.g. green tea from China vs green tea from Japan).
This has to do with surface area. Tea bags have crushed leaves or tea dusting which have a larger surface area that water can interact with when compared to loose-leaf tea. As a result, teas prepared with a smaller leaf cut size will result in a more concentrated brew.
This means that teas that are prepared with small leaves or dusting will be more acidic than teas prepared with whole leaves, assuming all other factors are the same (steeping time, steeping quantity, etc).
Lemon tea, anyone?
Adding additives such as lemon juice (or most fruits for that matter) will make your tea more acidic. That's a fairly obvious one!
Adding milk to your tea can reduce the brew's acidity (i.e. increase its pH). However, whole milk is a common acid reflux trigger for those who suffer from Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Yes, it is!
You probably already saw above that black coffee (pH of around 5.7) is more acidic than tea (pH of 6 to 7).
We went ahead and tested the pH of espresso coffee. We were unable to find the pH of espresso coffee online!
Here's a picture of our "test specimen".
And here's the result, espresso coffee has a pH of about 5. Espresso coffee is indeed more acidic than regular black coffee - and this makes complete sense since it's more concentrated!
See for yourself!
Bottled tea with fruit additives can be significantly more acidic than coffee! Black Tea Zero Lemon (Coca-Cola) has a pH of about 3, making it 100 times more acidic than espresso coffee!
And fruit teas are even more acidic than coffee, with Rosehip winning the acidity price with a pH of 2.88!
In short, tea is less acidic than coffee if it's not fruit-based or does not have any additives.
Don't fret, it's quite simple!
Follow these easy tips to reduce the acidity of your tea.
Keeping these tips in mind should result in a less acidic cup of brewed tea!
The acidity of tea can have some health implications.
The main health effects are impacts related to your teeth and acid reflux.
However, with a healthy lifestyle including regular workouts and moderate consumption, it's likely that you will not encounter negative effects from drinking white tea.
The critical pH at which the enamel of your teeth starts dissolving is 5.5 (6)(11).
However, these lowered pH levels go back to normal levels after just two minutes of drinking (11).
So most people won't have to worry about tea eroding the enamel of their teeth since most teas have a pH between 6 and 7.
However, this critical pH value can be as high as 6.5 for people with low salivary concentrations (7). If you have sensitive teeth, that could be you.
To minimize impacts, follow any of the tips we've provided above to reduce the acidity of your tea.
Another impact of tea drinking is tooth staining.
Tea contains tannin which can stain your teeth. So make sure you brush your teeth after drinking tea.
But wait about 30 minutes if you've drunk a particularly acidic tea, as acidic beverages can soften the enamel of your teeth for some time.
Yes, it does!
Drinking tea can help fight off bacteria that cause cavities. Black tea also impacts bacterial enzymes responsible for converting sugars into a sticky matrix, that in turn helps plaque adhere to your pearly whites. (8)(9)(10).
So provided that you brush your teeth regularly, reduce the acidity of your tea, and avoid additives, tea could actually have a net positive benefit on your oral health.
We've seen that tea is not as acidic as some people make it out to be.
So why does it reportedly exacerbate acid reflux and cause heartburn, especially in people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
The answer is caffeine. Caffeine can trigger GERD symptoms because it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
However, there are no well-designed studies that show that removing caffeine from tea consistently improves GERD symptoms (12). These types of studies are difficult, costly, and time-consuming to execute.
That is a very good question.
Highly alkaline substances can also be corrosive and have their own impacts.
Fortunately, most foods and beverages tend to be on the acidic side of the pH scale.
However, some publications report green tea as being alkaline, with pH values ranging as high as 10 (14).
Would drinking such an alkaline tea have any impact on your health?
In short, yes - exposure to alkaline substances can result in tooth damage.
However, the mechanism by which teeth are damaged by alkaline substances is different than the mechanism by which teeth are damaged by acidic substances.
The main mineral composition of tooth enamel does not appear to be affected by alkaline substances, as it is with acid exposure. Rather, organic components of the enamel are impacted, rendering it more porous (15).
We were unable to find if there is a critical pH for alkaline substances.
However, common sense dictates to avoid regularly consuming overly alkaline substances.
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Yes, it can since drinking beverages that contain caffeine and sugar could exacerbate acid reflux. However, drinking tea low on acid and caffeine can help.
White or green teas tend to be the least acidic since they've undergone little oxidation.
In order, from least acidic to most acidic:
In other words, not all teas are acidic. That's a tea myth!
Yes, teas tend to have lower acidity than coffees. Most pure teas tend to have a pH from 5.5 to 10, whereas coffee has a pH of around 5 to 5.5.
This depends on the individual.
If you are experiencing GERD symptoms, try switching to an herbal tea, or a decaffeinated tea. Avoid drinking sugary or fruity drinks.
Yes, in general children can drink some teas provided the caffeine content is low. Health Canada recommends for children aged 4 to 6 a maximum caffeine intake of 45 mg (16).
For comparison purposes, a typical cup of black tea contains about 47 mg of caffeine. A typical cup of green tea has about 28 mg of caffeine.
So make sure your child only drinks a small amount!
In conclusion, tea is only mildly acidic. That is tea from the Camellia sinensis plant.
White and green teas tend to be the least acidic and can be highly alkaline. More oxidized teas such as oolong tea or black tea tend to be more acidic.
Other factors influencing tea acidity include the cultivation environment, tea steeping quantity and times, as well as leaf size.
Obviously, additives such as lemon juice will make your tea more acidic.
Herbal teas are also mildly acidic if not neutral, but they do not contain caffeine so they can help with acid reflux.
Coffee in general is more acidic than tea, except for bottled teas or teas blended with fruit juices.
These latter ones tend to be much more acidic than coffee or regular tea.
We hope you have enjoyed this read and learned something about tea and acidity!
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.