How Much Caffeine In McDonald’s Sweet Tea? (Solved!)

I've been a huge fan of McDonald's Sweet Tea for years.

Whenever I see the drive-thru, I crave that perfect balance of sweetness and tea goodness.

A few days ago, after taking a few refreshing gulps, it occurred to me that I had never checked whether caffeine is lurking in this delightful beverage.

Since I haven't been sleeping well for several days, I decided now is the right time to find out the truth if McDonald's sweet tea is at least partly responsible for my poor night's sleep.

McDonald's Sweet Tea is available in four sizes.

  • Extra Small
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large

My go-to options are Extra Small and Small since I can't drink too much of this sugary beverage, but a friend of mine who worked at McDonald's told me that Medium is the most popular.

Now I will break down the caffeine content in each size to help you fit sweet tea in the recommended 400 milligrams of caffeine a day.[1]

Keep in mind that these caffeine levels are approximate, and that exact amount can vary slightly depending on a few factors.

In Extra Small Sweet Tea – 25 mg of caffeine

When you opt for the extra small size, you'll be sipping on a petite portion of McDonald's sweet tea, which typically contains around 25 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce serving.

That's almost three times less caffeine than in a single espresso shot, so perfect for those who prefer a milder caffeine experience.

In a Small Sweet Tea – 50 mg of caffeine

A small McDonald's Sweet Iced Tea is twice as big as the extra small size and thus has twice as much caffeine - around 50 mg.

It's not a huge amount of caffeine, but it's closer to one espresso shot or Lipton Black tea leaves. The half-life of caffeine in healthy adults is about 5 hours.[2]

So, 50 mg of caffeine can be too much if you drink sweet tea an hour or two before bed.

In a Medium Sweet Tea – 65 mg of caffeine

If you're craving a bit more caffeine (and sugar), the medium size is where it's at.

You will find around 65 milligrams of caffeine in a 21-ounce cup of McDonald's sweet tea.

It's just like one shot of espresso, so it can keep you refreshed and alert for at least a couple of hours.

In a Large Sweet Tea – 100 mg of caffeine

I've never been able to finish a Large McDonalds Sweet Tea, not because of the 100 mg of caffeine it contains, but because 32 fl oz cup is just too much liquid and sugar for me.

That aside, this is a significant caffeine amount, and you should treat a large size as a caffeinated drink like coffee.

Still, it won't be hard to fit it into your daily caffeine intake because I believe you won't drink more than one large tea daily.

McDonalds All Sweet Tea Sizes

What’s In McDonald’s Sweet Tea? (Is It Healthy?)

McDonald's Sweet Iced Tea is precisely what the name implies - tea with sugar.

Although it is one of the tastiest beverages on the McDonald's menu, it is far from healthy. The amount of sugar is so high that it should only be an occasional treat.

If you drink it every day or every other day, you will expose your pancreas and all other organs to a vast amount of simple sugar that is detrimental to your health.[3][4]

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Orange Pekoe and Pekoe Cut Black Tea
  • Medium Invert Sugar[5]
  • Ice

It does not contain added ingredients such as flavor enhancers, which is positive.

Nutrition Info

Basically, added sugars make up the entire nutrition info.

Water, tea, and ice contain practically zero calories. It is empty of fiber, minerals, vitamins (except small amounts of calcium), and trans fats.

This is the sugar and calorie content of McDonald's Sweet Tea per size:

  • Extra small - 17 g, 70 kcal
  • Small - 24 g, 100 kcal
  • Medium - 29 g, 130 kcal
  • Large - 40 g, 170 kcal

Another similar tea that McDonald's offers - Southern Style Sweet Tea contains even more sugar.

McDonalds Sweet Tea On Black Background

How Much Caffeine Is In McDonald's Sweet Tea Vs Other Drinks

Let's see how McDonald's Sweet Iced Tea compares to other popular caffeinated drinks. I’ll take medium size as a benchmark.

Black and Green Tea

McDonald's sweet tea's caffeine content is generally lower than a large cup of black or green tea.

While a medium size of sweet tea can contain around 65 milligrams of caffeine, the same amount of green tea typically falls within the range of 80-90 milligrams and black tea even higher - over 100 mg.

Coffee

Of course, if we compare the same doses, coffee contains incomparably more caffeine.

However, it is highly unlikely that you will drink 21 oz of coffee at once, so a medium size sweet tea contains about as much as a single espresso shot.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks contain the most caffeine of all other beverages.

The caffeine amount varies significantly between manufacturers, so a can of Red Bull has about 85 mg of caffeine, and Bang Energy has 300 mg.

In any case, energy drinks are way more potent than McDonald's sweet tea.

McDonalds Sweet Tea Vs Black Tea And Green Tea

How Is McDonalds’ Sweet Tea Made? (In-Store)

Making McDonald's Sweet Tea in-store is a straightforward process.

McDonald's employee starts by brewing a fresh batch of tea using quality tea leaves.

Once the tea is brewed, it undergoes a process called steeping, allowing the flavors to develop fully. After steeping, the tea is cooled down to an optimal temperature.

Then they add one pound of sugar per gallon of tea, according to the ex-manager.[6] The sweetened tea is mixed thoroughly, and that's it - ready for you to enjoy.


Tips When Ordering Sweet Tea At McDonald’s

  • 1
    You can't customize it much since McDonald's Sweet Iced Tea is a very simple drink. However, if, for some reason, you want it to be even sweeter, you can ask for it.
  • 2
    Also, sweet tea served with extra ice is always a good option on a scorching day. Of course, if you have a sensitive throat, you can remove ice, too. I do it all the time.
  • 3
    Another tip I can give you is to pair sweet tea with a burger, fries, or even a delicious apple pie if you need an extra-sugar boost before the gym.
  • 4
    If you travel, remember that there could be minor differences elsewhere based on regional preferences or seasonal availability, so ask the employees to tell you the info.
McDonalds Exterior Sign

Related McDonald’s Sweet Tea Questions

Can I get McDonald's Tea unsweetened?

Yes, you can get McDonald's Tea unsweetened. If you like a less sweet flavor or want to control the amount of sugar you consume, McDonald's offers Unsweetened Iced Tea, a zero-calorie, sugar-free alternative.

Is McDonald's Sweet Tea vegan?

McDonald's Sweet Iced Tea is indeed vegan-friendly. That is great news for vegans, who can enjoy the blend of the finest tea leaves, water, and ice that does not contain any animal-derived ingredients.

Is sweet tea okay during pregnancy?

Generally, a moderate amount of sweet tea during pregnancy is considered safe for most expectant mothers. However, it's important to remember that sweet tea contains caffeine and sugar, so keeping your intake in check is wise. And when it comes to pregnancy, it's always best to consult your doctor for personalized advice.

Will drinking McDonald’s sweet tea at night keep me awake?

While caffeine affects individuals differently, it's worth mentioning that McDonald's sweet tea contains caffeine, albeit in a milder form than coffee. If you're sensitive to caffeine and sugar or have trouble sleeping, it's better to drink your sweet tea earlier or opt for decaffeinated herbal tea.

Can I order McDonald's Sweet Tea online or through a mobile app?

You can easily order McDonald's Sweet Iced Tea online or through a mobile app. Simply browse the menu, customize your order, and enjoy the convenience of having your favorite sweet tea ready for pickup or delivery at your fingertips.


Conclusion

While McDonald's Sweet Iced Tea is not a caffeine powerhouse that will give you an energy boost like espresso or an energy drink, you should still be aware that it is not caffeine-free.

Larger sizes even contain considerable amounts of caffeine and are full of sugar, which can additionally give you the energy kick and lead to subsequent crash.

So, if you're caffeine-sensitive or simply don't want this drink to affect your energy levels, enjoy smaller portions, or don't drink it in the afternoon and evening.

References:

1. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223808/
3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916523291650?via%3Dihub
4. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/8/11/697
5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/invert-sugar#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
6. https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/mcdonalds-drink-made-4-pounds-191944139.html

Kayla Stavridis

Head of Marketing

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis is a coffee enthusiast and Head of Marketing for Barista HQ. She blends her professional insights and experience with a deep passion for all things coffee. Kayla offers a unique, hands-on perspective on coffee culture and trends. You can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Cold Brew

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