THE CAFFEINE CONFLICT: TEA vs COFFEE
How healthy is tea brewing, does tea or coffee contain more caffeine, and which beverage has the most health benefits?
It’s almost the time of year when tea-producing countries around the world sit down for a cup of the finest brew to celebrate International Tea Day. Countries such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other tea growing and producing countries have observed this day since 2005. Its aim? To draw the general public’s and government’s attention to the impact the global tea trade has on the lives of growers and workers.
But just how healthy is tea brewing, does tea or coffee contain more caffeine, and which beverage has the most health benefits?
THE GREAT TEA vs COFFEE DEBATE: WHICH IS HEALTHIER?
Whether a cup of Darjeeling at home or an Americano at the office is on the cards first thing, the debate rages on: which is healthier, tea or coffee?
Both drinks contain caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant found in leaves and seeds. When consumed, caffeine is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and travels to the liver, where it’s broken down and passed onto other organs including the brain. In the brain, caffeine blocks the production of adenosine, a neurotransmitter which relaxes the mind.
As a result, consumption of caffeine can help in feeling more alert, energised and less sleepy. Caffeine consumption can also increase blood adrenaline levels and increase the brain’s production of the neurotransmitters dopamine (known as the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter, responsible for feeling good) and norepinephrine.
There’s no doubt about it – caffeine is a wake-up call for many people all over the world. In fact, 80% of the world enjoys a product containing caffeine on a daily basis. Studies have shown that both tea and coffee cause similar feelings of alertness first thing in the morning, although there is some research that shows tea is more effective at sharpening the mind than coffee.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE IS IN A CUP OF TEA OR COFFEE
The amount of caffeine in a cup of tea or coffee depends on the ingredients and how they are prepared. For example, coffee beans typically contain 1.1 to 2.2 percent caffeine. Because coffee is generally brewed with hotter water than tea – and because more beans are used than leaves – a cup of coffee generally has more caffeine than the average cup of tea. A 237ml cup of coffee contains around 95mg of coffee, although dark roast varieties may contain more than this.
Tea comes in black, green and white varieties, all prepared with leaves from the camellia sinensis plant. The colour of the tea depends on the time of harvest and the level of oxidation of the leaves – which also affects the caffeine levels.
A 237ml cup of black tea contains on average around 47mg of caffeine, but steeping the tea leaves for longer could result in one cup containing up to 90mg of caffeine. In contrast, green teas contain 20-45mg of caffeine per cup, while white teas can contain as little as 6mg or up to 60mg per cup.
IS CAFFIENE HARMFULL TO YOUR HEALTH?
The jury is still out as to the impact of caffeine consumption on health. According to researchers at the University of Surrey, drinking coffee may make it harder to get a good night’s sleep, and tea drinkers may drift off more peacefully. Tea can also help to soothe nerves, with tea drinkers tending to be calmer in the face of stressful situations.
Yet coffee could help combat low mood, with studies revealing that each cup of coffee consumed could cut the risk of developing depression by around 8 percent. Both tea and coffee are said to offer some protection to the heart too, while tea’s antioxidants are thought to offer some protection against a range of cancers. Good news for coffee drinkers too: coffee is less likely to stain tooth enamel than a cup of tea.
KEEPING IT HEALTHY: OPT FOR AN AMERICANO
When it comes to a healthy cup of coffee, avoiding drinks loaded with milk and sugar is the way to go. The Americano is one of the healthiest cups of coffee around, made with equal parts of espresso and hot water. It’s easy to make at home with an espresso machine and boiling water. Here’s how:
- Pull a 3 oz shot of espresso into a glass
- Pour around 3 oz of hot water into a separate coffee mug
- Pour the espresso shot into the water. Some people prefer to add the water to the espresso, but this can break the shot apart
An Americano is a healthy start to the day, with just enough caffeine to boost alertness and that lovely, freshly brewed coffee taste.