Is it OK for Teenagers to Drink Tea? Ask a Dietitian

Are you ready to “spill the tea” about tea? In teenage terms, “spill the tea” is a phrase that means sharing the dirty details or latest gossip. So, is it OK for teenagers to drink tea?

The short answer is yes, but it’s best to stick to unsweetened teas or herbal teas with little or no caffeine. Caffeine isn’t a healthy choice for fueling your teenager, there are many other options for feeling energized and staying awake.

Any beverages in a healthy dietary pattern should take calories and nutrients into consideration, and that includes tea. Other variables to watch for that affect the nutrient value include flavors, sweeteners, caffeine, and cream. 

Read on to learn more about tea and teenagers, and find out if your teen should be drinking tea and caffeine. 

Is Tea Good for Teenagers?

According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines, choosing healthy beverages for a balanced eating pattern can be tricky. For teenagers, this is especially true since they are growing and maturing. We often consider whether what we eat is healthy or not, but we can easily forget that beverage choices are just as important to think about as food choices. 

When choosing between drink options, it is recommended that parents and teens take the following into consideration: 

  • Does it contain caffeine? If so, how much?
  • Is it flavored? If so, with what?
  • Does it contain sweeteners? If so, are they artificial or natural (i.e. honey)?
  • What is being added to the beverage (i.e. cream, sugar, flavored syrups)?
  • How much water is also being consumed throughout the day? 

Typically, tea can be a healthy choice for teens, but the key is to keep an eye on how it is processed and the source of sweetness or additives. Steeping your own tea at home and using natural substances for sweeteners, like honey, are two small but significant ways to make tea-drinking a healthier habit.

See also: Are Artificial Sweeteners a Good Idea For Teens? Why Sugar-Free Isn’t Always Best

Is Tea Healthy for Teens?

Tea can be a nutritious drink depending on its ingredients. Some teas contain spices with healing properties and heart healthy seasonings, such as turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Unsweetened tea is among one of the healthiest beverage options next to water, with 0 calories and 0 grams added sugars. 

When water or nutrient-rich dairy is added to tea, it can improve hydration. Healthier dairy choices, such as fat-free or low-fat milk, can fortify tea with added calcium as well. Calcium can help maintain strong bones, muscles, and teeth in growing teens. 

Plant-based beverages can also be a healthy choice to add to tea. Just be sure to opt for unsweetened types so that your teen’s tea can remain high in vitamins and minerals and low in levels of added sugar.

See also: What is the Best Diet Plan for a 15 Year-Old? Tips from a Dietitian

How to Make Tea a Healthy Choice for Teens

Choosing healthy teas starts the moment you step into a restaurant or grocery store. Knowing how to read a label and being aware of what ingredients to avoid are helpful in deciding what is best for your teen’s health. 

A few tips when looking for healthy teas include: 

  1. Look at the label– check for caffeine, sugar, and saturated fat of the tea as well as any added ingredients.
  2. Say no thanks to added sugar– beverages sweetened with sugar can strip tea of almost all nutritional value
  3. Avoid – added “energy” or alcohol
  4. Curb the caffeine – a healthy diet, regular sleep schedule, and an appropriate amount of physical activity are all that is needed to safely stimulate young minds and bodies
  5. Moderation is key – smaller portions can help keep calories in the appropriate range
  6. Naturally spice it up – fresh fruit infused, herbs, lemon slices, mint leaves, and many other whole foods and seasonings can add a natural flavor without adding extra “empty” calories
  7. Try herbal teas – tea without caffeine is a great choice

Benefits and Risks of Drinking Tea for Teenagers

Benefits of Drinking Tea

Making small shifts when it comes to tea choices can add up to a big impact for teens. Potential benefits include the following: 

  • Achieving weight management by decreasing added sugar
  • Reduced calorie intake while increasing nutrient intake
  • Improving bone, tooth, and muscle health by decreasing added sugars
  • Replacing fluids and producing soothing properties when sick (from herbal teas with honey and lemon)
  • Studies suggesting uses mediating chronic disease risk (i.e. heart health, cancer, diabetes)

No special “detox” tea is needed to support the benefits of tea for the body. Unsweetened and naturally flavored tea can contribute to the body’s natural detox. Helping the body to perform its best by providing nutrient-rich foods and beverages is the best way to detoxify.

Risks of Drinking Tea

Tea containing caffeine in large doses can cause the following symptoms: 

  • Irritability
  • Impaired metabolism
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Sleep problems
  • Dangerous interactions with certain medications

For kids and teens, studies have suggested that those who consume the most caffeine get the fewest hours of sleep. Many teens consume tea or caffeine to boost concentration or increase the amount of hours they can stay up at night. Unfortunately, if large amounts are consumed for a long time, sleep disturbances can occur. 

Another danger of drinking tea comes along with the additives. Sugar-sweetened beverages account for 32% of added sugar intake in adolescents, and that number rises to almost 40% when coffee and tea are added. Many teas are sugar-sweetened, particularly those that are served at restaurants.  

The concern about sugar-sweetened beverages is that they contribute to calories throughout the day without helping the body meet its needs for each food or nutrient group. These are sometimes called “empty calories” because they don’t offer the body much beyond increasing the calorie count. Over time, this can cause excess calorie intake and lead to weight gain.

Should Teens Drink Caffeine?

Caffeine is a component of foods or beverages. It functions as a stimulant to the body’s central nervous system. This means that it may make your teenager feel alert, awake, or more energetic — and that’s just in small doses. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that, “It is not recommended that people start consuming caffeinated beverages if they are not currently doing so.” In certain circumstances and used safely, such as under proper supervision during sports performance, caffeine may have positive outcomes. 

Otherwise, caffeinated beverages tend to influence poor choices and become a source of unnecessary and unneeded calories for many teens. If your teen is curious about using caffeine during sporting events, it is important to talk to a registered dietitian first about other options for improving performance. Caffeine is generally not needed for teen athletes who are already nourishing themselves properly and with a well-balanced diet. 

See also: Best Supplements for Teenage Athletes

What if Tea is Trending?

Tea is often wrapped up in the latest nutrition craze, especially when it comes to weight loss. Trends may shift, but the truth about tea is more timeless. Teens should avoid products claiming to “speed up metabolism” or “boost metabolic rates”. 

A well-nourished body keeps a healthy metabolism on its own — no magic “green tea diet” or detox is needed. Encourage your teen to eat a healthy variety of nutrient-rich foods. That can include unsweetened teas with no caffeine. 

Use naturally sweet-tasting or healing spices to boost both nutrients and flavor profile. This can be an especially powerful tool for teens looking to lose or maintain a healthy amount of weight.

How Much Caffeine is Too Much for Teenagers?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Teens may deliberately consume large amounts” of caffeine. While caffeine can seem like a tempting substance to stimulate teenagers during busy schedules and heavy school work loads, caffeine can actually worsen sleep cycles.

The effect of caffeine on teen health can cycle out of hand until fatigue and lack of sleep counteract the initial kick of concentration and being able to stay up late. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet set guidelines regarding caffeine for children and adolescents. However, the Academy of Dietetics recommends avoiding products with caffeine completely for children and adolescents.

Healthy habits are generally more effective in the long-term to energy and wellness than caffeine. For example, adjusting sleep hygiene to accommodate for short naps or earlier bedtimes can improve concentration and fatigue without the side effects of caffeine. 

Best Tips for Caffeine Substitutes

It’s not necessarily recommended, but small doses of caffeine are fine in teens (less than 100mg per day). Be aware, caffeine has some risks and tolerance is different in everyone. High doses can cause trembling, increased heart rate, restlessness, heavy sweating, dizziness, vomiting, and anxiety. Caffeine is toxic in large doses.

Want to ditch the caffeine but still feel like you need the energy boost that caffeine gives? Here are some alternatives that will leave you feeling awake, alert, and energized throughout the day. Do these anytime of day, especially morning.

  • Natural light- open the curtains and spend more time outside and less time on screens
  • Eat an apple- it’s proven that the crunchiness of the apple will wake you up more than caffeine!
  • Take a cold shower- okay not the whole thing, just add a cold boost at the end before you get out
  • Make sure you’re eating a healthy diet
  • Try herbal tea
  • Stay hydrated with cold water
  • Exercise

Caffeine can be addicting and it’s not a beneficial habit to start in your teen years. Try out some of the suggestions above and do your best to cut back on caffeine.

What is the Minimum Age for Drinking Tea?

Leading health organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics alongside the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have helped create the “Healthy Drinks Healthy Kids” initiative. Their research shows that it is never too early to be aware of what children are drinking. 

Studies suggest that caffeinated beverages should be avoided by children under the age of five years old. In addition, the AAP discourages caffeine and stimulant use in older children and teenagers. Since tea can be a common source of caffeine, it is important for teens to be aware of stimulants and their potentially negative effects. 

Adolescents of all ages should beware of sugar consumption and opt for unsweetened or no sugar options when ordering tea. Sugary beverages can pose an added health hazard over time by contributing to tooth and gum bacteria that cause decay and damage as well as adding excess sugar and calories. 

In other words, don’t offer tea as an option for satisfying your teen’s sweet tooth or sleepiness. For optimal adolescent health, use naturally sweetened, no added sugar or caffeine teas to enhance an already well-balanced diet. 

Healthy Tea Options

Check out some favorite teas: 7 Herbal Teas to Drink During Winter

Related Questions

Is it Safe for Teenagers to Drink Caffeine, Coffee, and Energy Drinks? Caffeine is safe in small doses for teenagers. Some coffee and tea is likely fine for teenagers, but not every day and not very much. Most energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine that would be excessive in a teenager’s diet and not recommended.

Is it Bad for a Teenager to Drink Coffee Everyday? It’s likely safe for a teenager to have coffee as long as they keep their caffeine intake under 100mg per day (about 1 cup of coffee), but caffeine and coffee are overall not recommended for teenagers. Caffeine can be addictive and it’s best to not rely on coffee each day.

What Age is it Appropriate to Drink Tea? It’s appropriate for teens and even young children to drink tea as long as it is unsweetened and low in caffeine (such as herbal teas).

See Also


Cording J. Looking to Reduce Your Family’s Intake of Added Sugars? Here’s How. Published September 9, 2020. 

Ellis E. Feeding Children When They Are Sick. Published January 27, 2021. 

Ellis E. Nutrition Info about Beverages. Published January 19, 2021. 

Foroutan R. What’s the Deal with Detox Diets. Published June 27, 2019. 

Gordon B. The Health Benefits of Tea. Published January 21, 2020. 

United States Department of Agriculture. Published December 2020. 

Weisenberger J. Eat Right for a Healthy Mouth and Teeth. Published August 22, 2018. 

Weisenberger J. Is Your Kid Over Caffeinated. Published October 25, 2018.

WolframT. 4 Metabolism Myths and Facts. Published April 30, 2019.    

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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