1. Coffee and tea are some of the most widely consumed beverages throughout the world, including in this locality in Hong Kong. Local café style milk-tea has long been one of the signature items among our local delicacies. Besides, coffee culture has bloomed in recent years, making coffee more and more popular in Hong Kong. In the past year or so, there have been local media reports on caffeine content in coffee, which aroused concerns about the potential health effects of drinking coffee. Noting that comprehensive data on caffeine content in local coffee and milk-tea was not available, the Centre for Food Safety and the Consumer Council have conducted a joint study to examine the caffeine content in coffee and milk tea prepared in local food premises. This study aimed to enhance public understanding on caffeine content in these drinks, and to facilitate the public (especially among vulnerable population subgroups) in making informed and appropriate individual choices.


2. Caffeine is a methylxanthine which occurs naturally in plants like coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, cola nuts and guarana. Food and drink products, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, which are made with caffeine-containing raw ingredients contain certain amount of caffeine.

3. Caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system and enhance mental alertness. The reaction to and tolerance of the effects of caffeine differ widely from person to person.

4. For healthy adults, caffeine intake arising from moderate consumption of coffee and tea, in the context of balanced diet, would not pose risk of adverse effects. There is no internationally recognised health-based guidance value for caffeine for average adults.

5. However, certain vulnerable population subgroups including children, pregnant and lactating women, and individuals less tolerable to caffeine should be mindful about their caffeine intake.

6. In general, pregnant and lactating women are advised to limit caffeine intake to not more than 200-300 mg per day, whereas children are advised to limit daily caffeine intake to not more than 2.5-5 mg per kg body weight.

The Study

7. This study covered 80 samples of hot-served coffee and milk tea drinks commonly prepared in local food premises, comprising six items which included: (i) regular coffee; (ii) espresso; (iii) cappuccino; (iv) caffe latte; (v) local café style milk tea; and (vi) Taiwanese style milk tea.

8. These drink samples were purchased from various food premises such as chain and individual fast-food shops, local cafés, restaurants, specialist coffee shops, Taiwanese style beverage shops and convenient stores in Hong Kong between April and May 2013. The laboratory testing of these samples for caffeine content was completed by the Food Research Laboratory of the CFS in July 2013.

9. The mean caffeine content of the six coffee and milk tea drink items under testing are summarised in the table below:

Drink Item No. of samples Caffeine content (mg)
Per Litre Per Serving
Mean Range Mean Range
Coffee Regular coffee 20 880 320-1600 200 110-380
Espresso 12 3700 2000-7200 97 62-170
Cappuccino 4 390 230-520 110 55-160
Caffe latte 4 300 180-500 90 54-140
Tea Local café style milk tea 30 730 330-960 170 73-220
Taiwanese style milk tea 10 320 250-490 130 100-160

Advice to the Public

Advice to the Trade

More Information

10.  The related article is published in the CHOICE MAGAZINE (Issue 444 released on 15 October 2013) (Chinese only).

October 2013
Risk Assessment Section
Centre for Food Safety
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department