The study of 76,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 also found that women, who drink even small amounts of tea in a day, have a 40 percent chance of developing the disease.
Researchers aren't sure what it is about tea that causes the problem but note they did not find any such association between coffee drinkers and rheumatoid arthritis.
"It is surprising that we saw such differences in results between tea and coffee drinkers. This does make us wonder what it is in tea or in the method of preparation of tea that causes the significant increase in risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis," said Christopher Collins, an assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University.
The findings are being presented at the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Rome.