Coffee versus Tea

Which is better: coffee or tea? It’s an age-old debate, and one without a clear answer.

You might assume I’m biased, but I actually love tea too.

So, today I’m going to delve into various aspects that both are often judged by, and come up with a winner for this ancient debate.

Health-wise

Both coffee and tea boast a myriad of health benefits, and with almost every claim comes a counter-claim. Conflicting info is everywhere, and that’s simply because there just isn’t enough evidence out there to prove that any of the alleged health benefits of these famous beverages are actually significantly beneficial – but they also can’t seem to prove that they aren’t.

According to Harvard, both tea and coffee contain polyphenols, which have been linked to lowering diabetes, cancer, and heart disease risk. Penn Medicine acknowledges that tea can also boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.

Various tea varieties also have their own health claims. Mint tea helps a stomach ache. I use raspberry leaf and hibiscus tea to help with particularly strong menstrual cramps, and chamomile has long-since been used as a sleep aid. Oolong teas are purported to fight cognitive diseases and white tea to help teeth. The list is endless.

Coffee is claimed to lower the risk of liver disease and liver cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. It’s also supposed to help overall heart health and has antioxidant properties.

It’s generally accepted that both coffee and tea are not harmful – though the jury’s still out on excessive coffee consumption – and may have some serious health benefits. Both may be good for your heart, and both are extremely low in calories. However, if you load up either drink with cream, sugar, or both, or you drink those sugar-filled bubble teas, any health benefits are quickly overruled by the health negatives of these additives.

The Varieties

With coffee, you have your dark roasts, your light roasts, espresso, flavored blends – the options seem endless. However, at their core, all varieties of coffee still retain that essential coffee flavor.

Not so with tea, where the different kinds taste so different from each other that can’t recognize a common flavor that runs through them all.

You have your white tea, which is low in caffeine. White tea often comes in light flavors, like vanilla or almond, and tastes very much like the flavor it accompanies. I haven’t actually been able to find or try plain white tea, but I personally can’t detect any tea taste in the white teas I’ve had.

Black tea has the highest caffeine content of all tea types. It has a very distinct, strong flavor that carries through any flavored variety. It’s actually often used as a coffee substitute by people trying to cut down on their caffeine consumption, and is also commonly used in tea lattes, especially the spiced black tea called chai tea. Personally, my favorite black tea is Earl Grey with lemon.

Green tea is one of the most popular types of tea. It has more caffeine than white tea, but less than black, and also has a very distinct flavor. When people talk about not liking tea, they’re probably talking about the tea flavor that is distinct in black and green teas. Green tea flavor is probably the hardest flavor to get accustomed to, as it does kind of have an almost grassy taste, but once you do acquire the taste for it, it’s delicious, especially with lemon.

Herbal tea is an umbrella term for the myriad of different types of tea it encompasses; there is no one herb or leaf in common among all of them, so there is no ‘tea-taste’. Herbal tea is basically at its core, just a flower or herb steeped in hot water. Chamomile, mint, hibiscus, , dandelion – all of these are examples of herbal teas. Herbal teas don’t contain any caffeine, so they’re perfect later-in-the-day hot beverage choices. As I stated earlier, I usually drink raspberry leaf or hibiscus tea for menstrual cramps, and I absolutely love a post-dinner, pre-bed mint tea.

So, while there are different roasts of coffee and flavored coffee, all coffee still tastes like coffee. Whereas with teas, white, black, green, and herbal are the most basic types, but it would take forever to go into every variety. Tea wins this category; there is definitely way more variety with tea.


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In Terms of Flavor

You can add so many different flavors to coffee! You can add caramel, hazelnut, cinnamon, or nutmeg to your already-brewed coffee, spice up the beans pre-brew, or go with an already-flavored roast that comes in en endless variety of flavors.

Tea is similar. Fruits and flavors are mixed and matched with tea types all the time. They can be drunk plain, mixed with lemonade, or you can even have chocolate and cinnamon teas, or spiced teas like chai, that are sometimes mixed with coffee.

Though this is a very tough call, I’d estimate that there is slightly more flavors available to tea-drinkers, and the tastes of teas are definitely easier to get used to than the taste of coffee. However, I personally prefer the flavor of coffee to most varieties of tea.

Caffeine Content

Different types of coffee have different caffeine levels, but all types (other than decaf) contain more caffeine than tea does. Contrary to popular belief, the lighter the roast of coffee, the more caffeine content in actually contains. And decaf isn’t completely caffeine free either; it just contains less caffeine than regular coffee.

The caffeine content in tea also varies widely by type. Black teas have the highest caffeine content, followed by green tea, and then white tea. Herbal teas – like chamomile, peppermint, ginger, and hibiscus – typically have no caffeine at all.

It might be in my head, but I feel like coffee and tea keep you awake in different ways. Coffee gives you mental alertness and keeps you going when you’re tired, but tea seems to wake all of me up more thoroughly, though it doesn’t give you quite the same level of boost that coffee does. That’s why I try to drink coffee in the morning and transition to tea later in the day.

If you need that caffeine boost, coffee is the clear winner here. But if you’re looking for less caffeine or no caffeine, then tea’s your winner.

The Winner

I’d have to say that the overall winner here is…

Tea. Only because there are more varieties, more flavors, more reasonable caffeine content, and more purported health benefits. However, in terms of taste, my favorite is still coffee. I love the taste of both beverages, but – in my opinion – nothing beats the taste of that fresh, hot cup of coffee in the morning. I try to limit my coffee drinking to the morning and switch to tea in the afternoon, but that’s still a work in progress.

In the end, everyone has their own preferences. You do you!

Which is the winner in your book? Leave a comment and let me know below!


Sources

www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/december/health-benefits-of-tea

health.harvard.edu/press_releases/health-benefits-linked-to-drinking-tea

www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270202#nutrition

12 Replies to “Coffee versus Tea”

  1. In the final analysis, I think I would be forced to agree with you. In many ways, I still feel as if I am barely emerging from the state of very limited knowledge of the available varieties of tea and coffee that I grew up with. Pretty much into my early twenties I only knew of the existence of black tea and we just called it tea. And for coffee, I only knew about Nescafe instant. I must admit I never developed a taste for green tea. I do like rooibos tea though and I am rather partial to lapsang souchong and Earl Grey of course. I also agree with you that coffee is the way to start the day and tea takes over from about 11 am or 3 pm depending.

  2. Ooh, I am so sorry that you only grew up with Nescafe instant for your coffee! Can I ask where you’re from? I have noticed in my travels that it’s – unfortunately – the only popular option many of the places I’ve been.

    As for tea, I think your experience is pretty common. I hear so many people insist that they don’t like tea, but there are so many different types that taste so different from each other, so it seems crazy to me that there isn’t a single kind they like.

    And I admire your willpower to stop drinking coffee at 11am! I normally don’t make the switch until late afternoon, though I am trying to be better about that. Thanks for the comment, Andy!

  3. Hi Jade,

    Well, you’ve put me in quite a quandry here.

    I grew up in a house of tea drinkers, so from a young age I drank tea, although moreso to act like a 9-year old adult than for any health or taste benefits.

    I can’t recall when I had my first cup of coffee, but I’m guessing I would’ve been far closer to adulthood, and I remember my initial reaction being, “well this is awful”.

    However, it’s funny how times change. I’m now more of a coffee drinker, but there is something ever so refreshing about a nice cup of tea, so I enjoy a decent mug every-now-and-then.

    I’ve also tried a wide variety of green and herbal teas, and although they don’t hit the spot in quite the same way, I still enjoy them.

    I have to laugh at Andy’s comment about Nescafe instant, as that’s what I typically drink first thing in the morning (it must be a “London” thing, LOL). In fact, the only “proper” coffee I ever drink will be in coffee shops, my particular favourite being Costa Coffee.

    I’m still undecided to be honest – I drink more coffee nowadays, but there’s always something so very nostalgic about a cup of tea for me.

    Thanks for a great read.

    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thanks for the comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the read! I agree that it’s hard to decide which is better – I can’t, so I just drink both. That’s awesome that tea is so nostalgic for you – it’s not as popular here in the States, so I actually tried tea for the first time as an adult, years after already being an established coffee drinker.

  4. I can agree with your conclusions and even with the final verdict regarding the tea winning the contest. But not in my world.
    I do start my mornings with tea, sadly, but only as I have to take a medication for thyroid which does not go with coffee. An hour later I can have my precious cup of coffee, which is very often the highlight of my day.
    As I am advised to keep it up to two cups per day (I might be cheating, as mines are proper, 300 ml ones), I have to go back to tea in the late afternoon. Even then, I have a ginger-lemon tea, or something similar. I’m not a great fan of black or similar teas. That bitter taste is reserved for my beloved coffee.

    1. I have to agree that coffee still wins in terms of flavor for me, even though tea wins the overall comparison. I don’t know if I could cut my coffee consumption down to two cups a day like you do, but relaxing with coffee is also often the highlight of my days off, so I definitely understand where you’re coming from. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Hi and thanks for the interesting post! I personally like coffee a lot and was drinking it in recent years all over the day, many cups. But then I decided it wasn’t good for the health, and now I’m like you do- drink one cup in the morning and then during the day I drink tea only. In terms of tea, I prefect a green, especially I like milky oolong. I think herbal teas are very healthy, sometimes I like to drink the mint tea as well to fall asleep faster, it helps me calm down.
    Stay healthy,
    Alex

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for the comment! I do try to limit my coffee consumption in to the morning and early hours, but I don’t have the willpower to cut it down to a single cup. I admire your strength of will!

      I do like green teas, but I have never tried adding milk to it – it sounds a little weird to me, though I didn’t mind matcha in a dairy mix, so maybe I should try it.

      I also LOVE drinking mint tea in the evenings – it’s so relaxing!

  6. Hi there,

    There’s such valuable information here, and very easy to navigate too.

    I certainly agree with everything you’ve written above (especially the tea being the winner). There are some items I do need to try, for instance, I’ve never heard of a tea latte, do they differ much from a regular tea or even a coffee latte?

    Sharon

    1. Hi, thanks, Sharon!

      Tea lattes are just lattes with tea instead of espresso. So, a ‘London Fog’, a popular tea latte, consists of an earl grey tea seeped in steamed milk instead of hot water with a little bit of vanilla flavor added in. The most popular tea latte is undoubtedly the chai latte, which is just pre-brewed chai tea added to steamed milk (or cold milk if it’s iced). Another popular form of tea drinks I’ve seen becoming more popular lately is matcha drinks, especially the blended or iced matcha drinks, which is milk, ice, and matcha (super fine green tea concentrate) powder.

      Thanks for the comment, and happy tasting!

  7. Very interesting Jade – I had no idea that “Herbal tea is basically at its core, just a flower or herb steeped in hot water.” I always wondered why some teas didn’t really taste like tea at all. I tried Ginger Tea for sickness, and it seemed to help. But if I add Truvia am I lessening the effectiveness? What tea do you suggest for back pain, muscle spasms? Does raspberry or hibiscus tea help with back pain? Thanks for your article, I learned about teas.

    1. Hi Nancy; thanks for the comment! I’m glad that you were able to learn something from this post. I think that, like you, most people – especially in the states – don’t know the differences between the different teas, since it’s not as popular a drink as, say, coffee, here.

      I drink raspberry leaf (which doesn’t taste at all like raspberries, since it’s made from the leaf, which was surprising to me the first time I had it) and hibiscus tea to help with menstrual cramps because they are two of various teas that help with circulation and blood flow, which ends up helping me way more than pain pills ever did. I’m not sure they would help with general pain, though aiding blood flow might help muscle spasms, so you could always try it and see.

      Otherwise, I know that chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties, so I’d recommend maybe trying that. I’ve also read that using chamomile essential oils topically can help relieve muscle pain.

      As for ginger tea, yes, ginger and mint tea both help tremendously with sickness! I don’t think Truvia would lessen the effectiveness, unless Truvia makes you feel sick.

      I’m not an expert by any means, but the great thing about tea is that if it doesn’t work, you just end up with a tasty beverage. Good luck! Please, let me know if you end up trying any of these and they work for you!

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