“If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”
– Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
Coke vs Pepsi. Tom vs Jerry. Microsoft vs Apple. Right up there with these world famous rivalries have to a rivalry as old as time – The eternal tussle between coffee and tea! Each drink has its loyal supporters, with coffee drinkers being associated with that busy buzz of energy while tea drinkers are seen to be zen and restive. Obviously, there are benefits to both beverages but is one really better than another? Let’s find out!
For a morning jolt: Coffee
It’s no secret that coffee is the choice of drink if you want that sudden burst of energy. It only takes 10 minutes for your body to feel the effects of caffeine. One cup of coffee can easily pack about 80mg per cup ( almost 1/5 the recommended daily caffeine intake for men and 1/3 for women), so that’s a quick morning pick me up.
But, this could also be psychological. In a 2011 study, researchers discovered that daily coffee drinkers who were tricked into drinking decaf still scored the same on tests as caffeinated coffee drinkers. We’re so used to associating coffee with energy that we intuitively expect it to provide a jolt, even if it isn’t there!
For morning zen: Tea
While tea can pack a fair amount of caffeine, it also contains an amino acid called L-theanine.This tiny chemical creates two reactions in your body; the first, it lowers the absorption speed of caffeine and the second, it stimulates the neurotransmitter GABA in your brain, which has anti-anxiety effects. This creates an alert but relaxed state, which explains why tea is popularly used to aid meditation.
For weight loss: Tea
While caffeine has been shown to slightly reduce appetite, we’ve all heard the good news about green tea. More than the caffeine, the EGCG in green tea can help shrink fat cells and makes muscle cells more active.
To build muscle: Coffee (But not too much!)
While tea might be better for burning fat, coffee is the drink of choice when you want more muscle. An article in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise discovered that men who drank 2.5 cups of coffee could sprint up to 9 percent more than when they didn’t have coffee. It is likely because caffeine stimulates your muscles, which can help you power through with more reps. However, the article was careful to state that the coffee had to be drunk a few hours before their workout.
To sleep better: Tea (If you really had to choose between the two).
While tea also packs some caffeine and can cause sleeplessness, too much coffee in your system makes it harder for you to sleep as each cup packs a significant amount in comparison to tea. Lesser known is that too much coffee can make it hard for your body to absorb magnesium. As it is, many of us don’t get enough magnesium. Having too much coffee, coupled with this common nutrient deficiency, can cause symptoms like muscle cramps and sleeplessness.
For overall well being: Tea’s clearly a winner (But coffee is not too bad either!)
The long list of health benefits of tea, especially green tea and white tea, is common knowledge. Long story short, green tea is loaded with antioxidants such as flavonoids, EGCG and catechins that make green tea such a great catch! These chemicals recharge the white blood cells and help prevent viruses from reactivating. They also help fight inflammation and prevent blood vessels from hardening. This is also why tea is associated with anti-aging.
Tea is also known to boost brain health; tea drinkers who drank more than 2 cups of green tea a day had a significantly lower risk of age-related declines in memory, compared to those who had less than 3 cups a week.
Still, coffee does have its benefits. Similar to tea, it also contains antioxidants, though significantly less than tea. Like tea, which improves insulin sensitivity, coffee is believed to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Each cup of coffee contributes to almost a 7% reduction in developing this disease. It also plays a part in protecting the liver and reduces the risk of cirrhosis. Coffee also contains key nutrients such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, and niacin.
However, one area where coffee loses out to tea is bone health. Regular tea drinkers are likely to have higher bone density levels and slower rates of bone erosion. While it remains unclear how significant the effects of coffee on bone density is, one study found that 4 or more cups a day reduced bone density up to 4 percent.
Coffee is also notorious for causing acid reflux. Coffee can relax the band of muscle between your oesophagus and stomach. When that space opens, stomach acid could splash back up and cause acid reflux.
The preparation of coffee can also affect its health value. Unfiltered coffee, like espresso or French press, may increase “bad” LDL cholesterol, which could increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. This increased risk is because of oily substances called diterpenes. Cafestol and Kahweol are the two significant diterpenes in coffee. They are present either as oily droplets or in the grounds floating in the coffee.
For whiter teeth: Don’t drink either!
It is common knowledge that coffee can yellow teeth badly, so for a long time, tea was touted as a credible alternative. Green tea is also believed to promote oral health as the antioxidants in green tea can actually kill bacteria in your mouth and keep you from getting an infection. However, the tannins present in tea are acidic and will break down the enamel on teeth. Once this enamel layer is eroded, pigmented molecules are easily able to attach to teeth and this leads to staining. It is unclear whether this means that green tea, which is rich in tannins, can lead to more staining!
For amazing skin and hair: Use both!
Use ground coffee to make a scrub and exfoliate your scalp. If you have dark hair, good news! Coffee can also impart an incredible shine to hair. Follow it up with a tea hair rinse to boost hair health. Tea is also a natural alternative to dyeing your hair. While terrible for your teeth, its staining properties add color to naturally blonde or brunette locks.
Coffee is a known diuretic. While this is bad news when you drink up, it’s great news when you apply it topically! The same diuretic effect draws fluid away from fat cells, making them shrink. This tightens your skin, temporarily minimising the visibility of cellulite.
Tea is very useful as a soother for sunburns and bug bites. Cold compresses made from black tea bags can relieve pain and reduce redness. And if you are having trouble with foot odour, cooled boiled tea is your friend! The tannic acid in tea is both antibacterial and antifungal, so it stops feet from sweating and smelling funky.
The winner: Tea mostly!
While we might seem a bit biased, the truth is tea is probably much better for your overall health. While coffee has its benefits, you do need to be a regular drinker to reap them. But the caffeine content does add up, which is likely to cause over stimulation and affect sleep quality. However, you can get your coffee fix by using it externally as it is a skin and hair booster!