Dietary manipulation is one promising approach to reducing methane (CH4) emissions from forage-fed ruminants. Studies were conducted to evaluate the effects of feeding two concentrations of tannins from Mimosa spp. on rumen fermentation, methanogenesis and energy partitioning in goats. Adult male goats were used in three trials where three diets with increasing concentrations of tannins (control, low-tannin and high-tannin) were fed in a switch-over design. The control diet consisted of 0·65 timothy hay, 0·20 crushed maize and 0·15 soybean meal; low- and high-tannin diets contained 0·975 and 0·950 of the control diet, respectively, mixed with 0·025 and 0·050 of a commercial compound containing tannins with mean crude protein (CP) of 147 g/kg dry matter (DM) and gross energy (GE) 19 MJ/kg DM, respectively. Total contents (DM basis) of tannins (hydrolysable and condensed) in the control, low- and high-tannin diets were 0, 2·8 and 5·6 g/kg DM, respectively. The tannin source contained 37 and 76 g/kg DM of condensed and hydrolysable tannins, respectively (DM basis). The DM (664 g/d) and GE intakes (19·0 MJ/d) were similar among diet groups. Digestibilities of all dietary components in the high-tannin diet were lower (P < 0·05) than low-tannin and control diets. The faecal energy (MJ/d) output was lowest in the control diet (3·49) and increased (P < 0·05) in tannin-fed goats (3·80; 4·87) resulting in a corresponding decrease in digestible energy (DE). Methane emission, expressed both on absolute and per unit of feed intake basis, decreased (P < 0·05) with increasing concentration of tannins in the diet. For example, CH4 energy excretion was 0·98, 0·87 and 0·76 MJ/d for goats on control, low- and high-tannin diets, respectively, whereas their corresponding values for CH4 conversion ratio were 0·079, 0·069 and 0·060 of GE intake. These results suggest that natural tannins, even at a low concentration (2·8 g/kg DM of the diet), reduce CH4 emissions, and tree leaves containing appreciable amounts of tannins may potentially be exploited as natural feed additives in ruminants.