Nanomedicine requires intelligent and non-toxic nanomaterials for real clinical applications. Carbon materials possess interesting properties but with some limitations due to toxic effects. Interest in carbon nanoparticles (CNPs) is increasing because they are considered green materials with tunable optical properties, overcoming the problem of toxicity associated with quantum dots or nanocrystals, and can be utilized as smart drug delivery systems. Using black tea as a raw material, we synthesized CNPs with a narrow size distribution, tunable optical properties covering visible to deep red absorption, non-toxicity and easy synthesis for large-scale production. We utilized these CNPs to label subcellular structures such as exosomes. More importantly, these new CNPs can escape lysosomal sequestration and rapidly distribute themselves in the cytoplasm to release doxorubicin (doxo) with better efficacy than the free drug. The release of doxo from CNPs was optimal at low pH, similar to the tumour microenvironment. These CNPs were non-toxic in mice and reduced the tumour burden when loaded with doxo due to an improved pharmacokinetics profile. In summary, we created a new delivery system that is potentially useful for improving cancer treatments and opening a new window for tagging microvesicles utilized in liquid biopsies.