Take a quick lap around our office and you’ll see a few industrial-sized single-serve coffee brewers; the occasional French press or cold brew drip set up; and of course, vacuum insulated stainless steel travel mugs decorating every desk in various states of fill and refill.
It’s clear that we’re a coffee-centric office, but in recent years, we’ve started hearing more from our tea-drinking colleagues (and customers). They brag about the health benefits associated with tea, like antioxidants, lower risk of stroke and heart disease, and even a lower biological age.
Coffee is no slouch, either. A 2015 Harvard study found that moderate coffee drinkers may be less likely to die prematurely from some diseases (heart disease and type 2 diabetes, for instance) than those who drink less or no coffee.
So, when pitted against each other, which drink should you reach for in the morning to improve your overall health? Here’s what our investigation found.
The Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee lovers, rejoice: the consensus among doctors and medical researchers seems to be that a moderate amount of coffee each day offers great long-term health benefits.
Like we mentioned before, a Harvard study found that moderate coffee drinkers (defined as 3 to 5 cups per day) are less likely to die from premature death (such as heart disease, neurological disease, and type 2 diabetes) than those who don’t drink or drink less coffee. Caffeine even might have a protective effect against cognitive decline (meaning diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s).
Coffee can also help you increase your fitness, if you time it to drink and digest before a workout. One recent study found that participants who drank 2.5 cups of java a few hours before working out could sprint 9% further than when they didn’t have coffee. The stimulant effect of coffee works for your brain and your muscles.
Speaking of, if a straight up boost in energy is what you seek, then it’s no contest: coffee packs a stronger caffeinated punch than tea. One 8oz. cup of tea averages 14 to 61 mg of caffeine, depending on type; meanwhile, the same amount of coffee has 95 mg of caffeine.
The Health Benefits of Tea
Similar to coffee, tea lovers have a lower risk of stroke and heart disease, along with a lower risk of cognitive decline. With tons of antioxidants, a cup of tea is the perfect drink to fight inflammation while strengthening your immune system, and tea drinkers tend to have higher bone density levels and slower rates of bone loss. Plus, it’s more hydrating than coffee.
For those interested in losing a couple of LBs, a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition review found that drinking green tea daily could take an inch off your waistline in three months; the EGCG antioxidant and caffeine help shrink fat cells while making muscle cells more active.
Tea is also well-known for its soothing, rejuvenating effect on the drinker. Sounds hippie-dippie, but science backs this up: one study showed that people who drank tea were able to chill out more quickly than those who drank a fake tea placebo (if you’re British, the comforting ritual of making a cup of tea may help even more).
So who wins?
Turns out, coffee and tea are basically equivalent in their health benefits. But here’s the curveball: your drink’s impact on your health has much more to do with the cream, milk, or sugar you add to it, instead of the main component of the drink.
Translation: drink whatever you want, just don’t overload your stainless steel travel mug (or tea infuser) with whole milk, tons of tiny sugar packets, and sugary flavored syrups. Now, go forth and enjoy your hot cup of [insert preferred beverage here].