Black tea contains about 40 mg of caffeine. When adding 80 mg of caffeine powder, the tea tastes bitter.

Why doesn't caffeine that is already in the tea or in an energy drink taste bitter and how should caffeine be added to drinkable fluids so it has no taste?

Adding more sugar is not a very healthy solution either...

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    Energy drinks usually have some awful tart/sweet flavor that masks the bitterness. If you're good with adding pure chemicals to your tea, consider theanine instead. It's an amino acid rather than an alkaloid, so not bitter. Found in both green and black tea, it's somewhat like caffeine in that it'll increase alertness: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theanine Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 16:36
  • Theanine? So there is at least some remote truth about the "Theine" myth, some people keep talking about. I thought black tea contained caffeine... Is Theanine a caffeine analouge or is that something entirely different?
    – bytecode77
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 16:45
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    @bytecode77 Completely different structure. Both black and green tea contain caffeine and theanine. The ratio varies between the two types. You can find a lot of woo about theanine, but there's a hard kernal of research down at the bottom of it. See: scholar.google.com/… Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 17:47
  • It says that theanine is relaxing, unlike caffeine. So it's something different from what I want. I'll try salt as suggested in the comments of the answer.
    – bytecode77
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 19:09

4 Answers 4


Caffeine is bitter, tea isn't too bitter because as you mentioned it's only got 40mg of caffeine. If you then triple the amount in there it's going to taste that way. Try adding 3 tea bags to your cup and I'm certain it'll taste just as bitter.

Energy drinks have copious amounts of sweeteners added hence why they don't taste like caffeine.

If you are hell bent on more caffeine without the associated bitterness but not adding sugar maybe a sweetener like stevia would be the way forward...

  • I think I'm gonna try mixing stevia with sugar. I use a lot of sugar (5 cubes) and I really need it sweat. So 5 sugar cubes and 3 stevia pills is what I'll try then.
    – bytecode77
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 16:18
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    Not only are energy drinks sweetened, but they also have some salt (which masks bitterness very well) and usually REALLY INTENSE FLAVORS. Red Bull tastes like someone crammed a pound of Sweetarts into an 8oz can. I don't know how you'd taste bitterness paste that anyway.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 16:23
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    Salt is really the key here, not sugar or sweeteners. Sugar mutes all other flavors but salt specifically masks bitterness.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 17:22

"The addition of “phantom aromas,” such as vanilla, berry, citrus, bacon or even cheese, can distract the brain from acknowledging a bitter to taste." "Other additives can mask or “mitigate a bitter taste.” Lactisole, for example, made from carboxylic acid salt derived from Columbian coffee, can negate sweet taste. An allosteric modulator can change a food or ingredient’s protein structure reducing the salty, sweet or bitter signal to the brain." src -http://www.novotaste.com/content/bitter-blockers

Substitute some of the supplemental caffeine with theanine, and add only Xylitol (possibly steviol but to me the taste is disgusting). Don't forget some glucose-based sugars for consistency (it considerably affects aftertaste). Add a pinch of potassium-balanced salt. Lemon juice helps the bitterness too if that is an option for you.

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    Hello Mihail, and welcome! We are a strictly cooking site. We don't feel qualified to tell people what is healthy, and in any case, Internet discussions on this topic quickly devolve into flame wars between several camps of extreme dieters. So we just have banned nutrition and health discussion. This is why I had to remove the last paragraph from your answer. But thank you for the rest, it's very interesting information.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 20:25

Tea also contains tannins, which is the main cause of the bitterness - not the caffeine.

You're adding something bitter to something that's already bitter, obviously increasing the bitterness, so I'm not sure what the point of the question is. The question should have been, "how do I mask the bitter taste of added caffeine in my tea".

Milk, sugar, acid (such as lemon juice), and salt are all suitable for masking bitter flavors.

  • 1
    Tannins are not bitter, they are astringent. It's a different perception, not even a taste. Caffeine is bitter on its own.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 20:08
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    @rumtscho I'm aware that tannins are astringent, but they're also described as bitter, despite being an acid. They are a polyphenol; polyphenols increase in bitterness and decrease in astringency inversely to their polymerization. I would still call strong decaf black tea bitter, but perhaps that's still due to the small amount of remaining caffeine. Tannins increase with brewing time, so it makes sense that tea brewed longer is more bitter and astringent.
    – TonyArra
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 20:17

EDIT: The tea without the added caffeine does have bitter flavor to it, but you don't notice it because "noticing bitter" means there's "too much bitter" in the flavor profile. The tea tastes good because the bitterness in it is balanced by other flavors—and that balanced bitterness is part of what makes it taste good.

As for the second question, you can't. Caffeine has a flavor, and it will add that flavor to whatever you add the caffeine.

For a similar example, I can taste the difference between Mountain Dew and Caffeine Free Mountain Dew. I prefer the caffeinated version (slightly), because the bitterness of the caffeine balances the sugar better. The caffeine free version is a touch too syrupy, leaning very slightly towards root beer. But there's a ton of caffeine in Mountain Dew, which is why I can taste it over the sugar at all, and even then it's not strong. Contrariwise, I don't like Mountain Dew Throwback at all (the kind made with sugar instead of HFCS). It's not sweet enough, and too much acid and bitter shine through.

Chocolate is another obvious example, not as much from the caffeine as the cacao. I like semi-sweet chocolate because the flavor profile is more well-balanced than with milk chocolate (the sweetness doesn't totally mask the bitter flavor), and tasters almost universally prefer cookies made with semi-sweet chocolate when the cookies are already loaded with sugar. Supertasters seem to like chocolate that's much more bitter than an typical taster can stomach, but I don't know why.

  • This is interesting, but doesn't answer the original question. Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 13:07
  • @DanielGriscom The answer is that "the tea does taste bitter, but you don't notice it because it's part of a balanced flavor profile". I'll add that to the start of my response Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 13:09

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