Does Hot Chocolate Have Caffeine?

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There is nothing quite like a steaming cup of hot chocolate in those cold winter months. It is warm, rich, and comforting. But as you find yourself reaching for that decadent cup of hot chocolate, you may find yourself wondering; does hot chocolate have caffeine? And that is the question we are going to answer in this article. Does hot cocoa have caffeine? How does the caffeine in hot chocolate compare to other popular beverages like coffee, tea, and soda? And how do the different hot chocolate brands compare? So let’s get into it. 

Does Hot Chocolate Have Caffeine?

So does hot cocoa have caffeine? The long and short of it is that yes hot chocolate does have caffeine, but it is a minimal amount. The amount of caffeine in hot chocolate depends on the brand of hot chocolate you are using and how the drink is made. But on average, the caffeine in hot chocolate is around 5 milligrams per cup

Does Hot Chocolate Have Caffeine- person drinking hot chocolate in bed

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in coffee, tea, and cacao plants. The history of consuming these beverages dates back thousands of years to when tea was discovered in China in 2737 BC. Later down the track, around 500 BC, Mayans discovered hot chocolate made from ground cocoa

beans, cornmeal, water, and chili (not sure about that combination!). And finally, about 700 AD, a goat herder in Ethiopia made the most important discovery… coffee (we may be a bit biased, though). Since then, caffeine has become the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world.

Consuming caffeine has several beneficial effects, including helping with alertness and preventing tiredness. The recommended daily caffeine intake is 400 mg or 200 mg for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Like all good things, overindulging can result in some adverse effects. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia and anxiety. It is worth noting that everyone responds to caffeine differently, so if you have a lower tolerance- consume less! 

How Does Caffeine Work?

Caffeine is absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. From there, it travels to the liver, where it is broken down. It has its primary effect on the brain and central nervous system. Caffeine blocks the effects of a neurotransmitter called Adenosine in the brain. Adenosine essentially makes you feel relaxed and tired- so by caffeine blocking this effect; you stay alert and awake. 

Why does hot chocolate have caffeine?

You may be wondering ‘why does hot chocolate have caffeine?’ Caffeine is usually associated with coffee or energy drinks not a hot cocoa mix. The caffeine in hot chocolate actually comes from the cocoa powder that hot chocolate is made from. Each cocoa bean contains anywhere from 0.1-0.7% caffeine. So how much caffeine makes it into your hot chocolate will depend on the quantity of cocoa powder used. Generally, a dark hot chocolate mix will have more caffeine than a milk chocolate one as it contains more cocoa. 

In comparison, dried tea leaves have around 3.5% of caffeine, and dried coffee beans have about 2% of caffeine. While tea has more caffeine than coffee, you use fewer leaves when brewing, so the final beverage contains less caffeine.  

Does cocoa have caffeine- Person holding cocoa beans

Caffeine in Popular Hot Chocolate Brands

The amount of caffeine in a hot chocolate depends on how the drink is made. Your simple Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix combined with water will have a lot less caffeine than a decadent Starbucks Hot Chocolate made with chocolate syrup and topped with cream. We have compiled a list of some popular brands and how much caffeine is in a cup of hot chocolate. 

So first off, if you are ordering a cup of hot chocolate from a cafe chain, it is likely made from chocolate syrup or even melted chocolate. So you can expect these drinks to have a higher caffeine content.

  • Starbucks Classic Hot Chocolate- Grande (16 fl oz) has 25 milligrams of caffeine
  • Dunkin Donuts Large Hot Chocolate (20 fl oz)- has 18 milligrams of caffeine
  • Tim Horton’s Large Hot Chocolate (19 fl oz)- has 30 milligrams of caffeine

In comparison, the powdered hot chocolate mixes have virtually no caffeine.

  • Nestle Hot Chocolate Packets- 0.1% caffeine 
  • Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix- 1 packet has 0.1% caffeine

A cup of ready-made chocolate milk has a comparable caffeine content, with an average of 5 mg of caffeine.

Average amount of caffeine in Hot Chocolate: 5 milligrams

does starbucks hot chocolate have caffeine

How Does Hot Chocolate Compare to Tea?

In general, tea has higher levels of caffeine than hot chocolate. The caffeine content varies depending on the type of tea leaf, how much tea is used, the time to brew, and brew temperature. In saying this, though, some herbal teas have no caffeine.

  • Black tea (8 oz): 47 milligrams of caffeine
  • White Tea (8 oz): 28 milligrams of caffeine
  • Green Tea (8 oz): 18 milligrams of caffeine
  • Chai Tea (8 oz): 50 milligrams of caffeine

Average amount of caffeine in a cup of tea: 47 milligrams

How Does Hot Chocolate Compare to Coffee?

Coffee contains much higher levels of caffeine compared to hot chocolate. Once again, this does vary with different brewing methods. For a complete guide, see our article on how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee. 

  • Espresso double shot (60ml): 95-105 milligrams of caffeine
  • Drip Coffee (8 oz): 70-140 milligrams of caffeine
  • Latte/ Cappuccino (8 oz): 95-105 milligrams of caffeine
  • Cold Brew (8 oz): 102-159 milligrams of caffeine
  • Instant (8 oz): 30-90 milligrams of caffeine
  • Decaf (8 oz): 0-7 milligrams of caffeine

Amount of caffeine in a cup of brewed coffee: 95 milligrams

Amount of caffeine in a double shot of espresso: 125 milligrams

Caffeine in a cup of coffee

How Does Hot Chocolate Compare to Sodas?

It goes without saying that sodas have a higher caffeine content than hot chocolate. There are a few exceptions, though; Sprite and Ginger Ale contain no caffeine.

  • Coca-Cola (12 oz): 34 milligrams of caffeine
  • Pepsi (12 oz): 38 milligrams of caffeine
  • Dr. Pepper (12 oz): 42 milligrams of caffeine
  • Mountain Dew (12 oz): 54 milligrams of caffeine
  • Sprite (12 oz): Caffeine-free
  • Ginger Ale (12 oz): Caffeine-free

Is hot chocolate healthier than other sources of caffeine?

All in all, if you are looking for a low caffeine drink, hot chocolate seems the way to go. Does cocoa have caffeine? Well, it has very minimal amounts of caffeine, especially if you are using a hot chocolate mix.

So is hot chocolate healthier than other beverages? The answer to this is a resounding no! Caffeine content does not determine how healthy or otherwise a drink is. You need to look at the other ingredients. Hot chocolates are often packed with sugar, topped with whipped cream, and, if you’re lucky, drizzled with chocolate syrup! In fact, the Starbucks Grande Hot Chocolate has a whopping 43 grams of sugar in it. In comparison, a can of Coca-Cola has only 39 grams of sugar. 

So, if you are looking for a healthy beverage, we would suggest looking at tea or (our preference) black coffee.

Caffeine in hot chocolate- cafe hot chocolate

Does Hot Chocolate Have Caffeine- The Bottom Line

So does hot chocolate have caffeine? Yes, the average cup of hot chocolate has around 5 milligrams of caffeine, although this can be upwards of 25 milligrams if you buy hot chocolate from a cafe like Starbucks. The amount of caffeine depends on the size and brand of hot chocolate and how it was made. 

In the grand scheme of things, the level of caffeine in hot chocolate is far less than that found in coffee, tea, and soda. If you make hot cocoa from a powdered mix like Swiss Miss, the caffeine quantity is so small that it’s not worth worrying about.   

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