BREWING DEBATE: TEA VS. COFFEE
It seems the world can be split into two types of people; coffee drinkers and tea drinkers. Those reliant upon their morning coffee fix to function will swear to the superiority of their double shot latte, whilst tea drinkers firmly believe their herbal brews are the way to go.
In the right quantities, both tea and coffee offer many benefits; we’ll be looking at them more closely to see if a clear winner emerges in the brewing debate of tea vs. coffee to settle the score between tea and coffee drinkers once and for all.
Culturally viewed as better for us than coffee, tea has long been associated with everything from weight loss, to better skin, to a longer life.
- Thanks to the fact that it contains Flavonoids, Tea protects against Free Radical depletion and damage. Free Radicals can cause oxidative stress that causes cell damage and prematurely ages our skin, so essentially this means tea can help us to look younger for longer.
- For the highly-strung of us, Tea can be a godsend to help calm our nerves. Tea strains such as Chamomile, Jasmine and Lavender have been linked to calming nerves and reducing anxiety, to the extent that these effects can be felt from simply smelling these tea blends, with a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showing a reduction in heart rate just by inhalation of these teas.
- Tea has been linked to fighting cancer, in particular skin cancers. Hasaan Mukhtar from the University of Wisconsin, has undertaken many studies upon the benefits of tea, with results finding that “… topical applications for the skin and oral administration of tea leads to significant reduction in cancer incidences”. Mukhtar partly attributes this to the Polyphenolic compounds in tea, like Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), that have been shown to provide significant protection against radiation and sun damage.
- Tea also offers benefits in the way of weight loss. Whilst coffee may aid in weight loss through suppressing our appetite, tea works on multiple levels to assist in losing those last extra pounds. This is thanks to the Tannins and EGCG present in tea that work to shrink our fat cells and speed up our metabolism.
- Tea has a definite edge over coffee through its ability to take the edge off, thanks to superstar ingredient L-theanine. This amino acid,“found in the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and not in coffee”, aids in mental focus and alertness and instills a sense of calm upon drinkers. This is why many tea drinkers experience the energy hit from caffeine without the side effects of anxiety that can accompany coffee. L-theanine also neutralises the effects of coffee that can interrupt sleep patterns, instead studies find that L-theanine not only assists in pre-sleep relaxation, but also improves sleep quality and feelings of refreshment upon waking.
- Abundant in antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols, Tea has the benefit of repairing weak immune systems, preventing viruses and recharging white blood cells counts.
Coffee often gets a bad rap, however, there are many benefits to coffee consumption, which depending on your goals may outweigh the benefits of tea. The trick is to make sure to keep the milk, sugar and syrups to a minimum to reap the full benefits. This is something most of us don’t do, attributing somewhat to coffee’s misunderstood nature.
- If you’re looking to build muscle then coffee is the clear winner, helping drinkers to perform better and longer during workout sessions. By stimulating your muscles it allows you to blitz through more reps, as well as boosting your energy and motivation, coffee accounts for both physical and mental gains.
- Similar to tea, studies also show that coffee offers protection against cancer, in this case endometrial and prostate cancer rather than skin cancer. These studies found that coffee consumption not only prevents cancer, it also halts progression and prevents recurrence.
- A recent study by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that those who drink a moderate amount of coffee (three to five cups a day) are less at risk (of dying from a premature illness) to die from premature illness, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This has been put down to the bioactive compounds present in coffee that aid in reducing systemic inflammation and insulin resistance. So next time you tell yourself you’ll die if you don’t have a coffee, it may not be such an exaggeration after all.
Ultimately, both tea and coffee offer many benefits and there is no clear winner. Whilst the scales seem to be tipped slightly more in the favour of tea, this can be partly put down to how it is consumed, with most tea addicts consuming it black, whereas coffee is easier to consume in excess and is often drunk in conjunction with milk, sugar and syrups that can mask the benefits and exemplify the less desirable side effects.
When tossing up between tea and coffee, how much of it you drink, and the effects and benefits you wish to experience should also come into consideration. For those who want a jolt of energy then coffee is the clear winner, however, those sensitive to the high caffeine amounts in coffee and who want a more consistent focus should choose tea instead.
So pick your poison, hopefully this provides caffeine addicts with enough information to justify their tea or coffee habit.
WORDS BY CLAUDIA STACEY-MURRAY