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Which is Better, Coffee or Tea?

It’s important to choose what you like. I personally love starting my day with a hot cup of coffee or tea! Here are some of the differences.

There are 80-185 milligrams of caffeine per cup of coffee versus 15-70 mg of caffeine per cup in tea. Coffee comes from the berries of an evergreen plant and tea comes from a variety of plant leaves.

Let’s start with some facts about tea, shall we? 


Tea is a flavorful way to increase your fluid intake and stay hydrated. There is some great research looking at the potential health benefits, but there is still a lot we don’t know. Promising, I know.

Pros: Tea is rich in antioxidants and studies have shown it can help prevent blood vessels from hardening, lower risk of stroke and heart disease, and can boost brain health. May benefit tooth decay. Additionally, non-caffeinated herbal teas are great before bed, and might help curb that dessert craving. 

Cons: Can stain teeth and can interfere with iron absorption.

Recent study:

Studies have shown that tea can help:

  • Improve endurance
  • Prevent cancer
  • Fight free radicals
  • Provide better hydration
  • Lower risk for Parkinson’s
  • Help with weight loss
  • Strengthen bones

Types of Tea:

Green tea

  • Made from steamed or dry-heated tea leaves, they are immediately heated after picking to prevent oxidation (black tea is normally immediately let to oxidize upon picking)
  • Types: Sencha, gyokuro, kabusencha, matcha, genmaicha (my favorite), and many more
  • Flavors: steamed green tea generally tastes bittersweet, while other types of green tea usually taste sweet. Other flavors can be floral, nutty, vegetal, or fruity.
  • Caffeine content: 12-75 mg per cup
  • Health benefits:
    • Possesses helpful antioxidants, can help reduce the risk of developing various cancers, including breast, stomach, bladder, pancreatic, lung, and colorectal cancers
    • Can help decrease neurological oxidative stress
    • Can help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimers
    • Can improve heart health by improving cholesterol levels and reducing risk of clogged arteries

Black tea

  • Made from fermented tea leaves
  • Types:
    • Traditionally drunk with milk and sugar (or just milk): English breakfast, masala chai, Assam black tea
    • Traditionally drunk with sugar and/or lemon: Ceylon teas (iced), Earl Grey, and Nilgiris black tea
  • Flavor: Bold and brisk
  • Caffeine content: 50 to 90 mg per cup
  • Health benefits:
    • Contains powerful antioxidants, can decrease inflammation and can reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease
    • Can improve cholesterol levels
    • Can improve blood pressure
    • Can reduce the risk of having a stroke

  White tea

  • Made from uncured, young tea leaves
  • Types: Silver needle, long life eyebrow, white peony, tribute eyebrow
  • Flavors: floral, woody, fruity, light
  • Caffeine content: 6-75 mg per cup
  • Health benefits:
    • Can improve immune function, has capabilities to help fight viral, fungal, and bacterial infections
    • Protective against the development of colon cancer


Pros: Coffee is also a rich source of antioxidants, and studies have shown that 3-5 cups per day may help prevent against premature death, type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

Cons: Acidic and is a diuretic, which could lead to G.I distress, and has also been linked to blood pressure spikes and lower bone density. ? The biggest problem with both drinks are the added syrups, whipped cream and high fat dairy. The drinks can have even higher calories than a meal should! Choose what you like, but skip the B.S.

Types of Coffee:

Dark roast coffee beans that have been roasted for longer, causing them to brown further and become oily. Has a more bitter and bold taste, and has lower caffeine content.

Light roast coffee beans have been roasted for a shorter time. Tastes lighter and earthier, and has a greater caffeine content.


A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, an academic medical journal published by the American College of Physicians, followed 521,330 men and women across 10 different European countries for roughly 16 years and found that people who drank coffee regularly had a lower risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular and digestive diseases. They also showed a lower risk of developing liver disease, and a lower risk of stroke.

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788283/

Other coffee health benefits: To Drink or Not To Drink:

Ordering at Coffee Shops: Coffee or Tea?

Many of us need coffee or tea to get through our day, and for a lot people that usually comes from a coffee shop. While there are plenty of coffees and teas that come unsweetened, sweetened coffee and tea drinks are becoming increasingly more popular.

My favorite sweetened coffee drink is a mocha from Starbucks. I order it tall, no whip, and half-sweet. I find that a tall size is just big enough to get my sweet tooth and my caffeine fix (of course, if you need more caffeine you can always add an espresso shot!). I find that making it half-sweet doesn’t make it taste any worse, and actually I prefer the taste less sweet (lets you enjoy the coffee more). Skipping on the whipped cream doesn’t change the flavor of the drink itself, but definitely takes out that extra sugar and calories.

There are a lot of strategies you can try to make healthier choices at Starbucks or other coffee shops that can still help you get your coffee or tea fix.

If you drink sweetened coffee drinks and usually order a larger drink because you need more caffeine, you could instead order a smaller size and ask for them to add an extra shot. You’re not getting the large increase in sugar and calories that comes with a bigger drink, but you’re still getting the caffeine you need.

You can ask for most drinks half-sweet. They often sweeten drinks with pumps of liquid sugar, and it’s easy to reduce the amount of pumps added.

Some drinks, like the Starbucks Refresher beverages, are unfortunately made from a pre-made mix that already has sugar in it. But, there are still a lot of tasty teas and coffees that you can get half-sweet or unsweetened that are delicious!

Starbucks healthy drink comparisons:

Caffe mocha from Starbucks (grande, regular, 2% milk, with whip)

  • 35g sugar
  • 360 calories

Caffe mocha from Starbucks (grande, regular, 2% milk, without whip)

  • 34g sugar
  • 290 calories

Caffe mocha from Starbucks (grande, skinny mocha, without whip)

  • 15g sugar
  • 170 calories

Teavana iced shaken green tea from Starbucks (grande, regular)

  • 11g sugar
  • 45 calories

Teavana iced shaken green tea from Starbucks (grande, half-sweet)

  • 6g sugar
  • 22 calories

Teavana iced shaken green tea from Starbucks (grande, unsweetened)

  • 0g sugar
  • 0 calories

Need some homemade coffee or tea ideas?

My favorite coffee beans are Purity Coffee and my discount code is HHUGHESRD20!

I also enjoy Sleepy Time tea every evening.

Coffee Recipes:

Simple Cashew Coffee Creamer

Golden Milk Latte


Authors: Haley Hughes MS, RD, CDE and Hana Myers BS, Graduate of Food Science and Human Nutrition

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