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The Differences Between Coffee and Tea

Colin Stuckert

What are the differences between tea and coffee?

There are a lot, to say the least.

First of all, they are completely different ingredients and come from different plans that are grown, processed and consumed in their own unique way.

In fact, the only similarities between tea and coffee are the fact they are liquids you can drink hot or cold, they use infusion methods of extracting solids into liquid, and that some of them contain caffeine.

After that, the similarities end.

differences between coffee and tea?

Let's look at coffee.

Roasted coffee beans start out as two seeds inside the cherry of the Coffea plant. These seeds are called green coffee beans, and are hard, inedible and need to be roasted to give us access to the coffee solids inside that are extracted through hot or cold water to produce what we know of as coffee.

Tea, on the other hand, has many categories and confusing definitions.

For example, when you say “tea”, you are actually referring to any ingredient from the camellia sinensis plant. This plant is the source of green tea, black tea, white tea, yellow tea, Pu-erh tea, oolong tea, and probably some others I’ve never heard of.

If it comes from this one plant, it’s tea.

Any other tea that does not come from the camellia sinensis plant that you come across is considered a herbal tea, most of which are caffeine free. A few of these include honeybush tea, peppermint tea, rooibos tea, berry tea, and so on.

While most herbal tea is caffeine free, not all of is, technically. (Although some may argue that all herbal tea is any tea that does not contain caffeine, but since that just causes more confusion and perplexity, let’s just keep it simple and stick with Tea and Herbal tea.)

Examples of tea that do not fit neatly into the Tea or Herbal tea categories include yerba mate and guayusa.

drink more tea

Then there’s coffee.

The fundamentals of coffee are simple to understand compared to tea. The complexities of coffee come when you venture farther down the rabbit-hole and get into roast levels, processing methods and origins.

The two coffee varieties grown today for commercial coffee include arabica and robusta.

Arabica is the standard for higher-end coffees while robusta is typically used for more mass-produced coffees due to it’s ability to be grown on large coffee plantations and to resist more intense temperatures compared to arabica.

Robusta has slightly more caffeine than arabica, yet is considered more acidic and less flavorful. Some roasters use robusta beans to balance out their espresso blends, but other than that, you’re not going to find a lot of robusta in the better “third wave” coffee shops.

Now let’s look at the nutrition differences between coffee and tea.

As a general rule, the more a coffee bean is roasted—the "darker" the roast—the less caffeine it contains. This is because the longer cooking time degenerates more of the caffeine inside the bean while lighter roasts have undergone less time under heat and so has more caffeine than darker roasted beans.

Typically, dark roasted coffee beans will have 15-25% less caffeine than lighter roasts.

Typical amounts of caffeine in coffee:

  • Single shot of espresso = 40-60mg of caffeine
  • Double shot espresso = 90-120mg of caffeine
  • 8-ounce brewed coffee has about 70-150mg caffeine
  • 12-ounce brewed coffee has about 205-250mg of caffeine
  • Decaf coffee usually contains somewhere between 0-8mg of caffeine

Now let’s look at the average caffeine in some of the most popular teas and herbal teas.

  • 8oz cup white tea = 25-35mg caffeine
  • 8oz cup of green tea = 24-45mg caffeine
  • 8oz cup of black tea = 20-70mg caffeine
  • 8oz Oolong tea = 50-75mg caffeine
what are the differences between coffee and tea?

Global Tea Numbers

Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water (right before beer and then coffee).

Largest consumer of coffee is the United States. The largest consumers of tea include China, India, Japan, United Kingdom.

The Largest producers of coffee are Brazil and then Indonesia. The largest producers of tea are India and China.

Tea can be found in a near 80% of U.S. households. It is estimated that 87% of millennials drink tea, making the U.S. the only country in 2015 to grow in tea import and consumption—compared to Russia and Pakistan. (source:http://www.teausa.com/14655/tea-fact-sheet)

Nearly 85% of tea in America is black iced tea, with 14% being green tea and the remaining 1% being comprised of other varieties such as Oolong tea, White tea and pu-erh tea.

Global Coffee Facts

Coffee has been growing at 2% a year since 2011.

Over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world each day. The majority of coffee is produced in developing countries and consumed in industrialized countries.

More than 150 million Americans drink coffee daily.

Coffee is a $100 billion a year global commodity.

In America, coffee is responsible for 75% of American’s caffeine consumption, with the average coffee drinker consuming 3 cups of coffee a day.

While a small part of the global coffee market, Fair Trade coffee is the most popular fair trade commodity in the world.