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In Which We Solve That Age-Old Conflict: Coffee or Tea?

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on December 09, 2014 8:55 AM

It's 8 a.m. and you walk into the office, bags under your eyes, weary from the 12 hours you worked yesterday just so you could bill eight. Or, it's 3 p.m. and lunch has hit you like a freight train. In either situation, your options are coffee or tea.

As with Red Sox v. Yankees or Boxers v. Briefs, people's feelings about caffeine are strongly held and engender heated discussions. Thankfully, we have the resources to answer the coffee v. tea question definitively, for all time.

Pick-Me-Up

The caffeine content of coffee varies tremendously based on the type of bean used, how long it was roasted, and how the coffee was prepared. Your average cup of regular brewed drip coffee has at least 95 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. Black tea, on the other hand, tops out at about 70 milligrams per 8-ounce cup.

Winner: Coffee.

Variety

Some of us stop eating when we're bored with the food. Coffee can taste good, but there's only so much of it you can tolerate. Coffee comes in a variety of roasts, but tea has far more variety. There's everything from flowery, flavored herbal tea to middle-of-the-road green tea to robust black tea. Even "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" has a touch of orange zest in it.

Winner: Tea.

Dependency

Here's the dark side of drinking coffee every day: You become addicted to it. Coffee is, of course, the world's most popular psychoactive substance. If I don't get coffee by noon, I get a headache -- which is actually a symptom of caffeine withdrawal. If the idea of becoming physically dependent on something doesn't seem awesome, stick with tea, which is less addicting because it has less caffeine.

Winner: Tea.

Availability

Many coffee shop chains -- like that ubiquitous green-and-white one -- also carry tea, so that's a wash. Go to your local grocery store, however, and you'll find that the coffee selection is much larger than the tea selection. And if you like to go to a fancy coffee house, the tea offerings will be somewhere between limited and nonexistent.

Winner: Coffee.

Health Benefits

Didn't you read somewhere that tea is good for you? Or coffee? Something about antioxidants and omega-3 acids, but that could have been fish (or fish-flavored coffee). As it turns out, both tea and coffee are chock full of health benefits. To that extent that any of these studies are true, they're sort of a wash; neither beverage is noticeably more or less healthy than the other.

Winner: It's a tie!

OK, we'll level with you: There's really no rubric you can use for evaluating coffee v. tea. It all comes down to what you like. (If you're habitually ordering specialty coffee drinks, though, you're entering 500+ calorie territory, which is like drinking a Big Mac.)

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