Americans made the switch from tea to coffee right before the Revolutionary war, as a way to boycott tea, which they felt was unfairly taxed. Still, there are plenty of folks in the US today who find tea to be the superior drink. And in the UK, where tea is still queen, coffee drinkers abound. So which is the better beverage? Let’s compare some of the finer points of these staples of our culinary culture.
Coffee has about 80 to 115 mg of caffeine, while tea only has about 40 mg. Still, studies show that drinkers experience similar levels of alertness after drinking either beverage; however, if you can brew a cup of tea up to the same caffeine level as coffee, it can actually be more effective at sharpening the mind. Later in the day, the caffeine levels make a difference: coffee drinkers have a harder time falling asleep at night than do tea drinkers.
As far as mental health goes, tea seems to be the winner: people who drink three cups of tea a day are shown to have a 37% lower chance of developing depression than non-tea drinkers. Coffee drinkers, on the other hand, are about 8% more likely to develop depression than those who don’t drink coffee, and the jitters from the caffeine can make drinkers feel quite anxious. Green tea drinkers also show less of a memory decline as they age.
For physical health, both drinks offer positives. Both beverages seem to lower the risk of developing diabetes, for instance. Both drinks may also protect the heart, and they seems to be able to reduce the occurrence and mortality rates of many cancers. Tea drinkers also ultimately show a lower biological age than non-tea drinkers!
On the other hand, the acidity in coffee may be hard for people with digestive problems, while tea may reduce absorption of important vitamins and minerals, such as iron.
Also, between the two of them, the pigments in tea are the more likely to adhere to tooth enamel–so if you want a brighter smile, coffee may be the way to go.
Of course, both drinks can prove to be wildly unhealthy when you load them up with cream, sugar, and syrups–but, on the other hand, what beats a delicious treat like that?
A big concern surrounding both coffee and tea is production ethics. Remember, the ingredients for both drinks are usually grown on farms around the world, and it’s easy for the growers and laborers to be underpaid. You may have heard the phrase “Fair Trade,” which refers to a product that is certified to have been produced in a way that ensures that the laborers and growers receive a fair wage and aren’t exploited for their time and service. There’s also the Rainforest Alliance certification, which ensures that the ingredients have been grown in a sustainable manner. Usually, the companies that are certified Fair Trade are also produced in environmentally sound ways. Since tea and coffee are, in fact, luxury products, making sure to only purchase ethically-produced grounds and leaves is a great way to make a positive impact.