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The Benefits of Tea v. Coffee

Chocolate versus vanilla, cat person or dog person, tea or coffee? It’s human nature to have a need to categorize things, right down to what we decide to drink to get our day started. A couple of months ago, I took a poll on my social media to see what people favored; tea or coffee? There was an overwhelming response for coffee! As someone who almost equally drinks both, I decided I wanted to investigate what makes people so drawn to coffee over tea, what are some of the benefits of each, and is there really a “superior morning beverage.” On a trip to Hawaii years ago, I had the opportunity to see how coffee and tea were grown and learned about each quite a bit which is why I enjoy both of them equally. Read on to join me on this caffeinated journey of the benefits of tea versus coffee!
Let’s start with the draw of coffee. Thinking about a steamy mug of dark, rich coffee early in the morning just makes me want to brew myself a cup right now. There’s definitely an allure to coffee over tea, but why is that? The smell alone of coffee is generally more intense than steeped tea, and the strong aroma wakes up our salivary buds before the cup has even reached our mouths. After all, our sense of taste is directly related to our sense of smell. Teas, in contrast, seem to be lighter and more floral in smell and don’t always invoke the same response in our olfactory system as coffee does. Of course, there are so many different types of teas out there, and a chai tea has a very different scent than earl grey. This is just one explanation of why coffee might be favored over tea, but when it comes to benefits, the pendulum swings back in the other direction.
Both tea and coffee contain antioxidants and caffeine, in differing levels. Many studies have shown the anti-aging benefits of tea thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, and the many types of teas correspond to increases their antioxidant levels. One of the main antioxidants in green tea, polyphenol, is said to even fight cancer; green tea is about 30% polyphenol by weight. Most of us at some point or another have heard that green tea is good for us, but even in green tea there are variations in antioxidant levels. Matcha, a powder containing darker and younger green tea leaves, can have up to 3 times the amount of antioxidants compared to even a high grade, traditional green tea. When I drink tea, matcha is my preference when I’m in need of caffeine, while caffeine-free herbal teas like hibiscus rose or lemon turmeric help me boost my antioxidants in the evening when I’m trying to wind down my day.
But what about coffee? Coffee also contains antioxidants and sometimes even more so than tea! Regular coffee consumption has been shown to possibly protect against type-2 diabetes and Parkinson’s. The caffeine levels of coffee also tend to be higher than tea after brewing, as it’s a stronger process than steeping tea. Caffeine is water soluble, so while tea leaves actually contain more caffeine before the steeping process, they wind up with less caffeine than coffee once the drink is ready to be consumed. On that note, dark roasts actually have less caffeine than French (light) roasts, as the beans have been processed longer and therefore experience more caffeine-leaching. Coffee is also more acidic than tea, so if you suffer from acid-reflux, you might want to dial it down on your coffee consumption or switch out on occasion to tea. Other than that, considering both tea and coffee have varying levels of caffeine and health benefits, it really comes down to personal preference on which you start your day with.
On this last note, whether you’re a devout coffee fan or tea lover, how you doctor your drink also determines how healthy it is for you. Try to stay away from lots of added sugars like flavored syrups, and if you’re watching your fat intake, choose low fat options for your milk instead of cream. You can also add antioxidant-rich spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to coffee and freshly grated ginger or mint to your cup of tea. This is a good way to add flavor without extra calories or unhealthy sugars. I don’t think there will ever be a consensus on whether tea or coffee is better, so in the meantime, to each his own, and nothing will ever beat a good glass of water! But that’s for another day. Which do you prefer, tea or coffee, and why? Comment below, I look forward to seeing your responses. Until next time!
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