In Shakespeare’s time, average folk believed the body contained four essential “humours,” including blood and bile. Today, many of us would add to that list the coffee and tea that seem to flow through our veins. So many of us can’t (or won’t) start our day without one of them. Both brews provide energy, along with a constant stream of studies proclaiming their health benefits.
But, in the battle of tea vs. coffee, is one “better” than the other? You might be surprised by the answer.
Caffeine in Tea vs. Coffee
Coffee has about twice the caffeine of black tea, which is more caffeinated than green tea. Here’s how the caffeine content of different types of coffee and tea stack up:
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration says that a caffeine intake of 400 mg a day is not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects. That’s four cups of coffee, give or take, eight cups of black tea, or nearly 14 cups of green tea! When comparing green tea vs. coffee, consider how many more cups you can consume of the former.
Which One Has More Benefits?
Let’s compare tea and coffee across the three benefits most associated with caffeinated beverages.
Coffee and tea both can boost energy. Because coffee typically contains more caffeine than tea, it “may have more pronounced effects on alertness,” says registered dietitian and certified personal trainer Conor McCrinkRD, CPT, MSc.
“Caffeine works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain, which allows fewer adenosine molecules to attach, reducing feelings of tiredness,” he explains.
Once ingested, caffeine reaches peak levels in the bloodstream within 30 minutes to an hourand it takes about five hours for your body to eliminate half of it. (Keep that in mind when timing your last cup of coffee or tea.)
Paradoxically, although tea has less caffeine to help perk you up, it also provides an amino acid that may help you chill out.
“Tea contains L-theanine, which can be synergistic with caffeine to promote relaxation with more subtle and sustained effects on alertness,” says McCrink.
Coffee and tea are tied when it comes to antioxidant support. According to Cristina SvecMA, RDN, CLE, a registered dietitian nutritionist, both are “loaded with phytochemicals” (plant chemicals) like polyphenols and flavonoids.
“These act as antioxidants,” she explains, so they provide all sorts of health benefits.
3. Weight loss
Drinking coffee, tea, or a caffeinated supplement before a workout may help give you more energy to work out longer. Exercise and a proper diet are both necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.
On their own, coffee and tea contain zero calories, so they’re a great fit no matter your goals. But beware: The “coffee” or “tea” drink you order might be loaded with sugar and milk (and calories). So, if you’re drinking something other than plain old coffee and tea, check out the ingredients list!
So Which Is Healthier?
Battle tea vs. coffee is going to end in a tie! Both drinks have benefits when consumed in moderation, as long as they’re not interrupting your sleep or adding excessive amounts of sugary calories.
“You’ll find different people have different opinions on this topic, mostly based on their preference of tea vs. coffee,” says Svec. “As a dietitian — and a coffee drinker — I’m trying to be impartial. Both coffee and tea can be healthy as long as they are not loaded with sugar and/or cream.”
Coffee can definitely be more acidic than tea, so take that into consideration if you have a sensitive stomach. But the bottom line is tea vs. coffee isn’t an either/or choice!