Tea and coffee are prevalent in the United States and all around the world. According to a 2018 survey by the National Coffee Association (NCA), 64% of Americans age 18 or older drink coffee daily. The Tea Association of the USA, meanwhile, said that Americans drank 84 billion servings of tea in 2019, which added up to 3.8 billion gallons. Each day, nearly half of all Americans drink some form of tea.
These drinks are both incredibly common, and a majority of people in America use one or the other as an energizing morning beverage. However, there is an ongoing debate about which one is the healthier option.
Coffee and tea both have health effects and benefits. They contain different amounts of caffeine, and they have compounds that affect energy levels in different ways. They also have substances, such as antioxidants, that provide various nutrients and benefits.
There is also a social dimension to coffee and tea, and different cultural practices and informal traditions surround the beverages.
Each coffee and tea drinker needs to weigh the benefits and effects and decide which one is the best option for their personal needs.
Both coffee and tea contain caffeine; according to the Mayo Clinic, the average eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains 96 mg of caffeine. Espresso has a higher concentration of caffeine, but it usually comes in one or two-ounce servings containing 60 to 120 mg of caffeine.
Brewed black tea averages 47 mg of caffeine, while brewed green tea has 28 mg of caffeine. Bottled teas typically have about 19 mg of caffeine per eight-ounce serving.
Caffeine content can vary significantly depending on the variety of coffee or tea and the brewing method and brewing time. Overall, however, coffee has more caffeine than tea.
The main effect of caffeine is that it improves mental sharpness. Studies published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) have shown that 75 mg of caffeine can enhance alertness. With a higher caffeine content, on average, coffee can generally offer a higher level of alertness, when compared to tea.
Moderately sleep-deprived individuals enhanced alertness for up to three hours by drinking up to 250 mg of caffeine. However, the same study also said that higher amounts of caffeine could lead to feelings of tension and anxiety.
Coffee can provide more benefits related to alertness because of its higher caffeine content. However, it can also expose users to adverse effects.
In addition to caffeine content, coffee increases dopamine levels in your body and blocks adenosine, a natural compound that depresses your nervous system and helps to bring on sleep.
While coffee generally provides a feeling of alertness quickly, these feelings last for approximately three hours and can vary from person to person. However, caffeine can remain in your system for between one hour and nine hours, depending on your physiology and other factors such as other liquids or food that you consume.
Tea also provides alertness benefits, but these can be milder because of the lower levels of caffeine. Tea has an antioxidant called L-theanine that also stimulates your brain. However, L-theanine also has calming properties. These properties and the reduced levels of caffeine combine to give tea drinkers a smoother, milder energy boost that leaves them feeling alert but not agitated. Tea drinkers also have a less noticeable dropoff in alertness when the caffeine leaves their system.
However, the lower caffeine levels in tea mean that some individuals will need to drink twice as much tea to get the same caffeine as coffee.
The social benefits of coffee and tea vary depending on where you live. In some countries, tea is the main morning beverage, while in others, it serves as an afternoon pick-me-up.
In America, coffee is usually a beverage of productivity, and it is a common part of many people’s morning routine. Coffee shops are busy in the morning, and offices and other workspaces have coffee for their employees. These employees often socialize while taking coffee breaks.
Tea is more of a relaxing and leisurely beverage in America. Though coffee shops also serve tea, it is seen as a beverage that you enjoy when you have time, rather than one that increases productivity.
Restaurants, coffee shops, and workplaces usually offer tea as an alternative to coffee, so there is a choice even though coffee is the beverage most associated with these settings.
Both coffee and tea have antioxidants called polyphenols. This group of naturally-occurring compounds provides various health benefits.
Coffee contains an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid (CGA), which has proven anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that it inhibits cancer cell growth for certain cancers in the liver and gastrointestinal system.
Tea, meanwhile, has theaflavins (black tea) and catechins (green tea). These antioxidants inhibit the growth of certain cancers as well.
Tea also has anti-inflammatory properties which can boost the immune system and help fight a range of diseases including cancers, immune disorders, diabetes, and heart disease.
Perhaps the most surprising benefits from antioxidants in coffee and tea have to do with the circulatory system. Though these beverages are often associated with energy and higher heart rates, they actually lower the instances of strokes and heart disease.
Polyphenols help the circulatory system because they relax blood vessels, which can relieve high blood pressure and stroke risks. Polyphenols also inhibit plaque buildup in your circulatory system.
Adverse Health Effects
The main adverse effects of coffee include anxiousness and irritability. If you drink excessive amounts of coffee, you could experience nausea and gastrointestinal issues. Some people may experience these issues with lesser amounts of coffee. Tea can also cause nausea and gastric issues.
Additionally, coffee can also cause sleeplessness in some people. Depending on your diet and physiology, caffeine can stay in your system for 9.5 hours, so even a cup in the afternoon can affect your sleep patterns.
Some people notice a feeling of lethargy and lack of energy when the coffee wears off (usually after three hours or so).
Those who drink coffee regularly may experience headaches or other caffeine withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking coffee. Tea is less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms, though they are possible, especially for people who consume multiple servings per day.
Both coffee and tea can cause oral health issues. Since oral health issues can affect your overall health and immune system response, it is important to be mindful of existing health conditions or risk factors before indulging. Unfortunately, both coffee and tea can stain teeth. This staining can be exacerbated when one is wearing braces, so it is important to manage coffee and tea consumption while undergoing orthodontic procedures to straighten teeth. Furthermore, the tannins in tea can bind to zinc, iron, and calcium and hinder their absorption in the body. This issue could affect the health of habitual tea drinkers.
Some health effects may have to do with the water that you use to brew the tea or coffee. Some additives, such as fluoride and minerals, can be beneficial at the proper levels, but other substances in water, such as lead and chlorine, can have negative effects on your health.
Additionally, some people may get adverse effects from the foods that they consume while drinking coffee or tea. Sugary foods such as cookies and donuts often accompany coffee or tea. It may be that these foods produce short and long-term effects on your health and energy levels. This issue is easily remedied by changing the foods that you eat while drinking coffee or tea.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide which beverage is better for them. If you start experiencing adverse effects, you may want to stop your drink of choice and try the other option or forego caffeine altogether.