Tea vs Coffee : Which cup should you be drinking?


Research on the benefits of tea and coffee

Coffee and Tea benefit

Fun fact! 

There are studies and arguments for the health benefits of both. And of course there are different types of tea and coffee so it’s hard to make a very accurate and fair comparison.

Here are some large meta-analyses studies suggesting benefits for TEA: 

  • For every three cups of tea consumed per day decreases risk of depression by 37% [1]
  • At least three cups of tea per day reduces risk of stroke by 21% compared to less than 1 cup a day [2]
  • Consumption of at least 3 cups of tea per day improves lifespan by 24% [3] 

Here are some large meta-analyses studies suggesting benefits for COFFEE: 

  • Compared with no coffee, increased coffee consumption lowered risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 8%-33% based on 1 to 6 cups a day respectively. [4]
  • Largest risk reduction of health outcomes with 3-4 cups of coffee a day are more likely to benefit health than harm. [5]
  • Coffee and caffeine consumption were associated with decreased risk of depression when caffeine consumption was between 68mg-509mg/day.

Many of these documented health benefits for both tea and coffee have to do with caffeine and the antioxidant polyphenol found in both of these popular beverages. The health benefits also differ depending on the type of tea or coffee bean as well as the processing and intake of the drink. It goes without saying that a coffee or tea (read bubble tea !) loaded with milk and sugar would be less beneficial than a straight up black coffee or green tea.

Caffeine Content :

  • Coffee espresso: 70-80mg of caffeine
  • Brewed coffee: 120mg of caffeine 
  • Tea: avg cup of tea 10-60mg of caffeine depending on the variety. Matcha though where you're taking the full powdered tea leaves has about 70mg of caffeine.

One word about decaf; it uses a solvent that strips out the caffeine and all the other good stuff like the antioxidants and the flavour. 

The tea plant makes caffeine as a protective mechanism against insects as the caffeine is toxic to them. This is produced by the bud and the young leaves which means the premium picked teas will have higher levels of caffeine and also antioxidants - about 80% more than the lower picked leaves. Summer picked tea will also have a higher caffeine as they will produce more caffeine to ward off the insects.

What are safe levels of caffeine? 

caffeine level

  • 500mg per day for adults 
  • 200mg per day for pregnant women 
  • Caffeine is not suitable under the age of 4 

Can caffeine be bad for you? 

As seen in the large meta-analysis studies on tea and coffee. Caffeine is not harmful in moderation. Moderate intake of caffeine can actually have a protective effect as long as you keep your caffeine levels in check.

The known beneficial effects of caffeine are:
  • relieve fatigue
  • enhance endurance and performance
  • improve cognitive function  
  • protection of cardiovascular

The negative effects of too much caffeine (approx 1000mg or more per day) are:

  • feelings of jittery, anxiety 
  • increase blood pressure and risk of heart attack 
  • muscle breakdown and bone and mineral loss
  • dehydration 
  • addiction 

But if you need a caffeine boost on occasion, you may want to opt for tea which can sustain you longer and doesn’t have the big spikes and drops of energy and effects that coffee would have on your system. EGCG and polyphenols content in tea can modulate the effects of caffeine and is said to slow the uptake of caffeine as seen in the diagram below.

caffeine data graph

Caffeine Sensitive? 

caffeine sensitive

Here’s a hack. Steep the tea for 60 seconds and discard the first steep. The longer you steep and discard the first steep the more caffeine you will be able to ‘take out’ but this means you will also lose out on the flavour and polyphenol nutrients of the tea. 

You will have more control with loose leaf tea. 

  • More leaf = higher caffeine
  • Longer steeping time = higher caffeine 
  • More infusions = more caffeine  
  • Boiling hot water will extract more caffeine than cooler water. 
  • Tea bags are commonly made with broken leaves and tea dust so these will generally be stronger in caffeine. 

What does tea have that coffee doesn’t? 

feeling good

Theanine found in tea, but not coffee is a water soluble amino acid that acts as a relaxant. L-theanine can pass through the blood brain barrier and can even increase our brain’s production of alpha brain waves which are the same wavelengths produced in our brain during meditation. Theanine can also increase dopamine production, one of our feel good hormones. 

Other studies of teas benefits include*: 

  • weight loss and fat burning 
  • cancer prevention specifically: breast, colon, prostate and liver  
  • anti-inflammatory benefits 
  • increased metabolism 

* these are smaller studies with in-conclusive evidence on the benefits

How to get the best out of your cup? 

Both coffee and tea are one of the most sprayed crops so it is important that you choose organic beans and leaves otherwise you will be drinking pesticide soup.

You can upgrade your coffee by adding mushroom elixirs like chaga, reishi and lions mane or adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha. Some are also choosing to add in coconut oil or MCT to give their coffee or tea and extra cognitive and gut healing boost. Organic Traditions includes all of these powerful healers in their Focus Fuel Coffee Blend.

thes de la pagode

Thes de la Pagode teas are not only organic but only pick the bud and the first two tea leaves of the tea plant where 80% of the antioxidants are.Thes de la Pagode Gourmet teas include all of the main tea families: green, black, oolong, white and rooibos. 

Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) is a good alternative to those who want to go caffeine free as rooibos is actually not technically a tea but made by crushing the leaves of an African shrub. 

A simple google search will list out the extensive health benefits of rooibos including improved cholesterol, reducing inflammation, better sleep, reduced blood pressure, providing important minerals like zinc, magnesium and antioxidant effects from Vitamin C. 

This could be a good alternative to green, black and white tea for those who are caffeine sensitive or breast feeding but still want the benefits and enjoyment of drinking tea. Some even take it as a natural relaxant before bed for better sleep. 


In short, whether you’re a coffee or tea drinker, clear benefits from these two popular beverages is in moderation, the source as well as the preparation. Starbuck lattes and Ten Ren bubble teas won’t give you the benefits and if anything the sugar content in these drinks will cancel out and even do more harm than good. You’re better off brewing your own at home (and saving money). 

I’m off to make myself another cup of lemon ginger rooibos now- my current tea flavour of the month. Catch you guys again soon!

By Denise Tam, Holistic Nutritionist

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