Calories in Tea: Where Do They Come From?

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Counting calories seems to be one of the main obsessions in the modern world. Many see calorie-counting as a sign of health consciousness, others, however, as a major problem. Either way, calories seem to be very important, regardless of whether we are talking about food, drinks, weight loss, weight gain and overall perception of healthy or unhealthy living.

But, what happens when we take something that is generally considered as healthy and start seeing it through numbers and calories. Take tea for example. Recently, tea has become a hot topic among nutritionists and healthy lifestyle practitioners as a drink that might actually be responsible for greater calorie intake.

Why? Because tea has calories and required sweeteners. People, me included, were in awe with such statements, as we all believed that tea is the healthiest drink in the world due to lack of calories, among other benefits. Well, we were all proven wrong and now you will be too. Let’s see what is the deal with the calories in tea.

Calories in Tea: Overview

Tea, in its pure form, doesn’t actually have many calories and the numbers are almost negligible. However, according to the types of tea, these numbers can differ. That is why it is important to look at each type of tea individually and see how many calories each tea has per serving, or per 100 grams, to get a properly painted picture about calories in tea;

  1. Green Tea – green tea has 6 calories per tea bag, and 2 calories per serving when brewed from tea leaves.
  2. Black Tea – black tea has approximately up to 6 calories per tea bag, and up to 3 calories per serving when brewed from tea leaves.
  3. Pu Erh Tea – this is a type of black tea, so it shares the same calorie numbers
  4. Oolong Tea – oolong tea has between 5 and 6 calories per tea bag, and up to 2 calories per traditional serving, when brewed from tea leaves.
  5. White Tea – white tea can have up to 7 calories per tea bag, and up to 2.3 calories per serving when brewed from tea leaves.
  6. Herbal Tea – chamomile and mint herbal teas can have up to 6 calories per tea bag, and up 2.2 calories when served traditionally.
  7. Hibiscus Tea – hibiscus tea can have up to 37 calories per serving (tea bag or traditional brewing).

Additional Tea Calories: Where Do They Come From?

It has to be pointed out that people rarely enjoy tea without anything added to it. Tea simply pairs perfectly with sugar, honey, other sweeteners, milk, and other calorie-adding ingredients. Therefore, a simple, low-calorie cup of tea can skyrocket on the calorie list with each new sweetener we add. Let’s look at how each sweetener and other additions disturb the naturally low-calorie teas;

1.  Sugar

Woman hand adding a lot of sugar in a coffee from a sugar bowl
Image Source: Tuula Vintage

Sugar might be the worst of the sweeteners. It adds much of the sweetness, but also much of the calories. For example, a teaspoon of refined, white sugar (4 grams) contains 15 calories, and a sugar cube (2 grams) contains 9 calories.

For those who use sugar packets, you should know that they contain 11 calories per 3 grams. But, the calories wouldn’t be a problem if sugar had any nutritional value. It is the complete opposite, as sugar adds empty calories, meaning, there are no vitamins, proteins or minerals. You are just making a perfectly healthy drink completely unhealthy.

2. Honey

Cup with herbal tea and honey and dry herbal tea
Image Source: Tuula Vintage

Honey is known to be a healthy alternative to sugar when it comes to tea sweeteners. Honey, in general, is very healthy, as it contains antioxidants and overall improves the immune systems and helps the body fight off cold or a sore throat.

However, honey is sweeter than sugar. Per 5 grams, honey contains 20 calories. A cup of tea with honey, therefore, can have up to 130 calories. To put it in perspective, it would take you 35 minutes of walking to burn 130 calories. Think about that next time you make a cup of honey tea.

3. Milk and Cream

Pouring milk into cup of black tea on table
Image Source: Tuula Vintage

Milk is not generally considered to be a tea sweetener, but it definitely adds flavor and a hint of the sweet. However, it also adds unnecessary calories; a fluid ounce of whole milk contains 18 calories, out of which 9 are fat.

Other types of milk, like skim milk, half-and-half or even cream can contain up to 39 calories per fluid ounce. However, unlike sugar, milk does also add some nutritional value to your tea; for example, it adds vitamin A, proteins and calcium. But, this does not mean that your cup of tea is actually healthier; remember the fat in the calories.

The Beauty of Unsweetened Tea

The best thing you can do to recognize the beauty of unsweetened tea is to look up to the ways of tea tradition in the Far East. Asian cultures are known to appreciate tea in its pure form, without any sweeteners and dairy products. In India, people do drink their chai with milk traditionally, but they also prefer their Darjeeling and other teas in their pure, unsweetened format.

However, if you’re having troubles enjoying tea without sugar, honey or milk, you could try lowering your consumption of these sweeteners, and gradually completely get rid of them.

You can achieve this by trying your tea unsweetened each time you make it and then add sugar or honey. This way you will get introduced to the natural bitterness of the tea without disliking it completely.

On the other hand, when it comes to the calories in the tea, you shouldn’t really bother much.

The calories mentioned above are still small numbers, considering that the daily calorie intake for adults is approximately 2000 calories. Tea is healthy, and you should enjoy sweetened tea just as you would enjoy the pure one, without the fear of calories.

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