Most adults around the world rise each morning and start the day with a cup of their favorite hot beverage, whether brewed at home or picked up on the way to work. Hardly unique to modern times, the ritual of brewing roasted coffee beans for alertness dates back to the 13th century, when Muslim communities in Arabia would drink it to help them through long prayer sessions.
Morning tea, on the other hand, is a more recent development in the West, dating back to the 19th century emergence of mid-morning tea breaks across Great Britain, often accompanied by snacks. Today, while mileage may vary on the amount of caffeine anyone needs to jump-start their day, the debate rages on about which is the healthier choice.
Does one preference pack more of a punch than the other? Here’s what some experts say:
Americans may prefer coffee as their morning drink of choice, but globally people consume three cups of tea for every cup of coffee, according to Pew Research Center. That ratio may make the cup of Joe an underdog, but not necessarily the inferior option.
It turns out moderate coffee consumption has been associated with instances of a range of ailments, from Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease to colorectal cancer and Parkinson’s disease, according to research cited by the Mayo Clinic. And while more comprehensive studies are needed to confirm cause and effect, a 2011 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine noted a potential link between increased coffee consumption and decreased depression among women.
The trick, it turns out, is to consume your coffee the right way. Sugar, cream/milk and flavorings can add hundreds of calories to one cup, wreaking havoc on metabolic and cardiovascular health. Likewise, too much coffee in any form can give you the jitters and even raise your cholesterol levels if you’re drinking it unfiltered (i.e., espresso or simply boiled). So, if you’re a java loyalist, keep it under three cups a day and take it black.
Tea brings to mind a sense of ritual, from traditional triple servings of Moroccan mint tea signifying life, love and death to the multiple tiers of tea ceremonies enjoyed in England by royals and commoners alike. No matter where it’s consumed, tea offers a long list of health-boosting properties. Often packed with antioxidants, tea can protect your bones, boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, aid digestion, soothe the throat, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and potentially even prevent some forms of cancer.
Chief among the tea leaves is the powdered substance known as matcha, a versatile pulverized version of green tea that’s packed with catechin—the same phytochemical compound found in dark chocolate and red wine and touted for its bone-friendly and heart-healthy properties. Herbal teas, meanwhile, boast calming, restorative properties. Those with licorice root can soothe sore throats and acid reflux sufferers, while chamomile and lavender can gently trigger a state of relaxation.
There aren’t many “cons” with tea. Too much green tea can inhibit the absorption of iron into the blood, but a mere cup or two a day is generally a safe bet. Over-brewing or improperly storing the leaves can lead to bitterness or a stale, musty taste, so it’s best to brew from home or find a tea barista who knows their business.
And the Winner Is…
All things being equal, tea seems to come out on top thanks to its broad range of health benefits. Have an evening cup in the lobby at EVEN Hotels. At the same time, there’s no end in sight to the research being conducted on coffee’s hidden perks. So, if you don’t think you can live without that daily cup, don’t despair. Whatever your wake-up ritual or afternoon pick-me-up, there’s something in it for your own well-being.