Tea vs. Coffee: Is One Beverage More Healthy Than The Other?
Sure, there are people out there who start their mornings with a glass of orange juice, milk, or pure water. The majority of people, though, prefer to brew themselves either a mug of tea or coffee. While both caffeinated beverages are well-beloved by their respective drinkers, does one have more standout benefits?
How do tea and coffee compare?
The caffeine content of various teas and coffees will differ based on brewing time, preparation method, and size of the drink. To get a general idea, though, here is a rundown of popular beverages, from highest caffeine content to lowest.
These caffeine levels are based on 1 cup (8 ounces) of each beverage, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food database1:
- Cold brew: 96 mg caffeine
- Regular brew coffee: 96 mg caffeine
- Latte: 86.4 mg caffeine
- Iced Coffee: 74.4 mg caffeine
- Black Tea: 48 mg caffeine
- Green Tea: 28.8 mg caffeine
- Decaf Coffee: 0 to 15 mg caffeine
- Herbal Tea: 0 mg caffeine
Summary: When compared side by side, it's apparent that most coffee beverages are higher in caffeine than tea—even in the case of certain decaf brews.
Coffee is a good source of antioxidant polyphenols, caffeine, and trigonelline, all of which support cognitive functioning and may lower the risk of memory loss, according to Uma Naidoo, M.D., nutritional psychiatrist and mbg functional nutrition coach.
Along with antioxidants, like the anti-inflammatory compound chlorogenic acid2, Singh says coffee also has beneficial impacts3 on brain health, fatty liver, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. In fact, research shows women who drink two to three cups of coffee each day have less body fat than infrequent coffee drinkers.
Tea also has many health benefits, from soothing nausea to managing headaches and easing digestive discomfort. Similar to coffee, tea is also high in anti-inflammatory properties, like antioxidants. Some studies have also linked the catechins in green tea to cardiovascular health4.
Summary: Coffee and tea both contain health benefits, like anti-inflammatory antioxidants. They also support the brain, the heart, and metabolism. Tea may have more soothing properties than coffee.
While caffeine in moderation is healthy and has been shown to increase alertness5 and boost athletic performance, drinking too much can lead to unwanted side effects. A safe daily intake for adults6 is 400 mg (or about four cups), and going overboard on caffeine can lead to jitters, anxiety, high blood pressure, dehydration, insomnia, and headaches, to name a few. Plus, trying to wean off of it can lead to caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
Both coffee and tea can count toward your daily intake of water. However, you should still balance them with adequate water intake; otherwise, they can lead to dehydration, integrative medicine doctor Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., previously told mbg.
Coffee and tea are both high in antioxidants, hydrating, and may contribute to metabolic health. Because of the higher caffeine content in coffee, pregnant people or anyone attempting to lower their caffeine intake would be better off sticking with tea—particularly of the herbal variety.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.