Can You Eat Tea Leaves? Here’s the Truth

Whether you are in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare tea or are in a place where you don’t have access to warm water, you might consider getting a dose of caffeine by simply chewing on tea leaves. It is reasonable to dismiss such an idea based on potential health concerns, but is it really unhealthy?

You can eat tea leaves if you have a full stomach and you’re not taking more than a pinch of dried tea leaves. Green leaves are dangerous to consume (because of their high caffeine content), and even dried leaves eaten on an empty stomach can induce nausea.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the risks and benefits of consuming loose tea directly. You will also learn about alternatives that can help you get your caffeine fix. But first, let’s look at why you should be cautious when chewing tea leaves.

Reasons not to eat tea leaves

White Tea leaves are not toxic, they do contain a larger volume of caffeine than coffee beans and also feature tannins that can upset an empty stomach. You might get away with consuming a pinch of dried tea leaves but to consume a non-nominal amount is to invite indigestion and jitters.

You should care about how well the tea leaves are dried because the drying process removes caffeine from the leaves. On average, an unprocessed tea leaf has more caffeine than green coffee on an ounce-to-ounce comparison. 

When tea is dried, it loses volume and plenty of its caffeine. Coffee beans retain more caffeine during their roasting process. Dry tea won’t have noticeable side effects if consumed directly.  According to Healthline, brewed tea has less caffeine than brewed coffee, making it ideal for those who suffer from anxious episodes after consuming coffee.

If you want to eat tea leaves because you have not had the opportunity to brew tea and are experiencing caffeine withdrawals, you will get your caffeine fix by eating tea leaves. But you should not consume a teabag’s worth of dry leaves in order to offset your need for one cup of tea. Having a quarter of a tea bag is a good starting point. 

When you consume tea leaves, make sure to give yourself 15 minutes to experience an alertness boost. This is because caffeine liquid tea reaches your bloodstream quicker than caffeine from solid tea leaves. If you keep chewing more leaves because you’re not feeling alert, you might eventually have more caffeine than you’re used to by the time you notice a difference.

To avoid having to chew tea leaves and risk digestion problems, you should get an infuser flask like the T2 thermal flask. You can fill an infuser flask with hot water and become independent of hot water dispensers. As long as you have tea bags with you, you don’t have to worry about a hot water source. And whenever you start craving tea, you can pour one or two teabags’ contents directly into the infuser, wait for three minutes and then start drinking.

This specific flask has a 500 ml capacity, which is enough for two cups of tea, the most you’ll usually have outside. It can be used for iced tea as well as hot tea. And if you use really coarse grounds, you might get a cold brew on a really long drive.

All in all, it’s a decent product to have, even if you don’t consume tea regularly. But if you insist on getting your caffeine by directly chewing your tea, one more thing you can get is an opaque paper cup. The cup can be used to discreetly spit the leaves after you’ve chewed the essence out of them. Between chewing and spitting tea leaves and drinking tea from the T2 flask, I would personally choose the latter. But you should choose what you prefer.

Self-assessment: your stomach and tea leaves

In case you personally like the taste of tea leaves, you have to consider your ability to stomach them before you start chewing them at any frequency. Here are the three questions you need to ask yourself?

• How often have I felt nauseous in the past year?

• Can I drink tea on an empty stomach?

• How is my relationship with caffeine?

If you have been nauseous more than twice in the past year, you might have a serious reaction to tea oils and tannins. In case you’ve not been nauseous more than two times in the past 12 months, your stomach is naturally strong. Still, you should continue asking questions.

In case you’ve never tried drinking tea on an empty stomach, you should conduct the experiment and put your gut to the test. Have tea in the morning and do not eat anything for two hours after that. If you feel a little nauseous, you should remove solid tea leaves from your diet. And if you don’t, you can continue having solid tea leaves.

But tea tannins aren’t the only problem. You have to make sure you can handle the caffeine contents of tea leaves. So check how awake and alert you feel after having coffee. If you feel an abrupt jolt of energy, and can go from being sleepy to being wide awake by simply drinking brewed tea, then tea leaves might make you jittery. Again, this is because tea leaves contain more caffeine than liquid tea.

The main advantage of black tea over coffee is that the beverage it produces has significantly less caffeine. If you cannot stomach a single cup of coffee, you might not be able to handle solid tea leaves.

On the other hand, the best part about chewing tea leaves is that you don’t have to worry about the brewing process. Some people simply prefer chewing things. Overall, liquid tea remains the superior choice which is why it is the mainstream method of consuming tea. But if you love chewing and want to get your caffeine buzz that way, you might want to try caffeine chews.

CLIF BLOKS: Chewable Caffeine Snack

Caffeine chews are not a new concept, but most of them aim to replace coffee and pre-workout. This specific caffeine chew product contains 25 mg of caffeine which is around the same as a cup of tea. Because this product is meant to be chewed, the side effects of oral consumption aren’t as severe as loose tea leaves. 

Secondly, it is backed by a corporation, so it is carefully produced to minimize health complaints. A caffeine chew company can be sued for making an unhealthy product, but one cannot sue a tea company because they chewed solid tea when the product is meant to be brewed. CLIF BLOKS has a serious drawback, though. It costs significantly more than loose tea. A box of 18 chews costs more than 30 servings of tea.

How to Safely Eat Tea Leaves?

With all the caution and potential side effects out of the way, let’s go over how you can safely eat tea leaves.

• Have a full stomach – This will neutralize the tea tannins that can make the empty gut nauseous.

• Drink plenty of water – The dehydrating effect of concentrated caffeine is offset by drinking water.

• Err on the side of moderation – Do not have more than one pinch of dried tea leaves at once.

Final Thoughts

Eating tea leaves will not send you to the ER, but it can make you vomit in extreme cases. Generally, tea leaves (once processed) aren’t toxic and can be chewed to get a caffeine-driven boost in energy and alertness. But for regular consumption, liquid tea must get the preference.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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