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.
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.
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.
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.
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!