The most consumed beverage on the planet second to water is tea (then third is beer, if you’re wondering). As for Coffee, which was brought into the European scene by the Dutch shortly after the Battle of Vienna (where it played a prominent role), it’s dominant in the Americas and continental Europe. Tea, on the other hand, is preferred across Asia, Russia, and its historical territories. Worldwide “three cups of tea are consumed for every one cup of coffee.”
A little about the history of coffee and . . .
While both beverages have been around for a long time, tea definitely has the longer history. Legend has it that tea was first “discovered” by a Chinese emperor around 2700 BCE when, while boiling water over an open fire in a grove of trees, some leaves fell in. When he returned to the water, he discovered that the water was now more pleasant — the “steeped” flavor, no doubt.
Somehow I don’t think it was the emperor doing the boiling and discovering, but I digress . . .
Regardless, we’ve had tea for over 4000 years. Soon after its discovery, scholars and priests quickly popularized tea across China and Japan. And, to this day, it seems to be aligned with ancient expectations and images of civility, spirituality, and wellness.
Coffee, on the other hand, is believed to have originated in the Ethiopian highlands. Legend has it that a goat herder noticed that his goats seemed to get energized after eating these red berries. Well, by the 11th century, they were steeping the berries in Sufi monasteries across Yemen, and Persia before making its way across the Arabian Peninsula (which I find interesting, because caffeine is mostly avoided in strict Islamic countries today: they largely opt for lots of mint tea instead) and into Turkey were is was a ‘secret weapon’ that the Sultans used in battle. In fact, coffee as we know it arrived in Europe in the 17th century Battle of Vienna. The Turkish troops were surprise-attacked and fled so fast that they left mountains of ground coffee behind. At first, the Viennese thought that the grinds were gun-powder, but soon discovered that the Sultan’s army would drink coffee for a burst of energy during marches and prior to attacks. . . . and that’s how Viennese coffee culture began.
Now, let’s take on the Pros and Cons one for each, shall we?
According to the Journal of Chinese Medicine (2010), tea catechins fight high-fat diet-induced obesity and type II diabetes, and may lower the risk of coronary disease. This seems to confirm traditional Chinese wisdom. “Real” Chinese restaurants serve green-style wu-long bitter teas with their greasier dishes to boost the nutritional value of the meal.
In fact, you probably already know that the high levels of antioxidants in tea are important for lowering systemic inflammation, and even help prevent hardening of the blood vessels themselves (and atherosclerosis). One study I found makes the case that tea is an anti-cancer beverage, while others I link to here say it significantly lowers risk of stroke, fights age-related memory loss, even seems capable of producing higher bone density levels. No wonder tea is associated with longevity and with anti-aging!
CONS: Yes, tea has (at least one) drawback. In one 1982 study, drinking tea with a meal resulted in a 62% reduction in iron absorption (coffee limited absorption by 35% instead, while orange juice increased the iron absorption by 85%).
According to a 2015 Harvard University Public Health Studies, regardless of whether the subjects drank decaf or regular coffee, those who drank 3-5 cups a day were less likely to die prematurely from some illnesses, including a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes, and (of all things) suicide. Studies have shown that regular coffee drinking decreases the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 25%. Why? Well, it’s high in antioxidants. It may also may also help you lose weight because it contains magnesium and potassium. Magnesium and potassium, in concert together, regulate insulin and blood sugar levels. So, coffee may work as a sort of natural appetite suppressant.
Unfiltered coffee, such as boiled or French-pressed strongly raised VLDL and LDL cholesterol and slightly reduce HDL cholesterol in humans.
Coffee’s caffeine levels and compounds also flood the body with oxytocin, the feel good loving and bonding chemical; it’s a reason that you often feel that happy-go-lucky caffeinated lift . . . but that makes me wonder — could coffee cause us to bond to things we don’t really want to bond to? . . . I’ll save that study for the professors, who are probably drinking coffee.
For now, I’m going to go back to the kitchen for another cup of . . .