Tea and coffee are the main two natural caffeinated beverages consumed in most of the world, and they are often presented side-by-side, as alternate options. This article provides a comparison of tea and coffee in several major categories: caffeine, acidity, health benefits, and other reasons for preferring either tea or coffee to the other.
Caffeine Content of Tea vs Coffee:
Compared to tea, coffee contains much more caffeine: often as much as 2-3 times the amount. Compounding the comparison, however, tea is more widely variable than coffee in terms of how much caffeine is in a typical cup. Coffee tends to contain about 80 to 135 milligrams in a typical 8 ounce cup, whereas tea typically contains between 15 and 75 milligrams per cup. Both coffee and tea will be higher in caffeine if they are brewed more strongly (i.e. longer steeping times, or using more grounds / leaf per unit water). Keep in mind that many people, especially in the United States, drink a lot more than 8 ounces when they have a single serving of tea or coffee.
Too much caffeine is known to cause a variety of health problems, and can contribute to anxiety and insomnia. The Mayo Clinic currently claims, based on their survey of medical research, that 200-300mg of caffeine per day is safe, but 500-600mg daily can cause health problems. For pregnant women, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ official stance is that 200mg daily of caffeine or less is completely safe.
A Comparison of Acidity & Effects on the Digestive System:
Both tea and coffee are acidic, and different teas and coffees vary somewhat in their acidity, both based on the variety used, and the strength with which it is brewed. Brewing tea or coffee stronger will result in a more acidic cup. However, as a general rule, coffee tends to be much more acidic than tea.
Because of its greater acidity, coffee tends to be rougher on the stomach and digestive system than tea. Different people vary in their sensitivity to the acidity in coffee, and many people consume large quantities of coffee without any complaints. However, people who have a problem with acid reflux, indigestion, or other problems in the digestive tract may wish to experiment with switching from coffee to tea to see if their symptoms are reduced or eliminated.
Health Benefits of Tea vs Coffee:
Tea and coffee are both known to have a number of health benefits. Although tea is widely perceived as a more healthy beverage, there is also some evidence of coffee having a variety of health benefits as well. Also, although there is solid evidence backing up some of the benefits of tea for health, the health benefits of tea are often overstated or exaggerated. There are not a great deal of studies comparing tea to coffee in terms of their effects on health, but those studies that exist have mostly pointed to tea as the healthier drink, mainly because of its more moderate caffeine content.
Other Reasons to Drink Tea vs. Coffee:
Health is only one of the factors to consider when choosing whether to drink tea or coffee. Cost, taste, and variety are additional considerations. Tea, even high-quality tea, tends to be somewhat cheaper per cup than coffee. And although many people prefer the unique and powerful flavor and aroma of coffee, tea tends to have more variety, owing in part to the existence of different types of tea such as green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong, and Pu-erh. Lastly, convenience is often a factor in more practical settings: if given the choice between high-quality coffee and low-quality tea, as is often the case in many parts of the U.S., many people will choose coffee even if they might prefer drinking tea at home.