Black Tea vs Coffee - Which Is Best?
How much caffeine is in black tea vs coffee? What about the health benefits? And is the flavor comparable? These are all valid questions when you're researching which caffeinated beverages are the right choice for your morning energy boost.
Too much caffeine can leave you jittery, but not enough will leave you sluggish. So, when comparing black tea with coffee, we've also included figures and information about our green and black tea at Zest as well.
We create plant-powered tea energy drinks that have more caffeine than coffee!
Below you can compare black tea with black coffee, and find out how both coffee and standard tea compare to Zest's beverages.
Tea and coffee are two of the most popular hot drinks consumed around the world. Black tea is also one of the most popular tea types in the west, while green tea tends to be more popular in the east.
Let's explore where black tea comes from, its caffeine content, and preparations.
Drinking tea is nothing new. Civilizations have been drinking naturally caffeine free herbal teas for medicinal properties as far back as we can trace. Tea, made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, has more traceable origins.
Legends suggest that tea was first discovered as a beverage in 2737 BC, however the first credible record of people drinking tea is in the 3rd century AD.1
The Chinese were the first to drink tea made by the tea plant and enjoy the caffeine intake from the leaves. The different types of tea, including black tea, green tea and oolong, were developed throughout the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.
To make black tea, the leaves are fully oxidized to turn them from green and fresh to dark and rich. Learn more about the process of making black tea in our article Black Tea vs Green Tea.
The reason we recommend black tea for coffee drinkers is that it has a comparable flavor. Black tea is rich, malty, smooth, and bold. The most distinguishing flavor note of black tea is the tannins. Tannins create a very distinct flavor that's quite drying - if you've never consumed tea before, it can be hard to describe, however it's not dissimilar to the tannin taste of red wine.
Likewise to wine, black tea can be low or high in tannins. There's a huge variation in flavor notes depending on the growing region and cultivar of tea plant used, not to mention the processing.
It's also common to find additional flavor ingredients added. At Zest, we use non-GMO flavors in several of our black teas. For example:
- Blue Lady teabags - black tea, cornflower petals, hibiscus flowers, orange peel, flavorings of lemon, orange, and passion fruit.
- Spicy Masala Chai loose leaf - black tea, cardamom seeds, ginger root, cinnamon chips, cloves, and natural flavors.
- Blackberry Lime ready-to-drink tea - black tea, carbonated water, blackberry flavor, lime flavor, and stevia leaf.
Standard black tea contains approximately 47mg per 8oz serving of tea - this is an average figure, as it really does vary from one brand to another.2 It also depends on how you brew your tea - the longer and hotter you brew, the higher the caffeine content in your cup. This is the same for tea and coffee.
As for Zest Tea, we have measured the level of caffeine in our teas so we can be very precise. There's up to 150mg of caffeine in a cup of black tea by Zest. We can achieve this by adding additional tea extract to our tea leaves - it's non-GMO, natural and completely plant-powered.
Standard black tea has less caffeine than coffee, but Zest Tea has way more!
Traditionally, people have consumed black tea either plain or with milk - exactly the same as black coffee. It's prepared by steeping the tea leaves in hot water for a short period of time, usually 3 to 5 minutes, then removing them. This creates a simple cup of black tea.
You can also drink black tea iced, cold brewed, and in many other recipes.
Brewing tea is very simple and comparable to making coffee with a French press or drip method.
Black tea is also used to create numerous more complex beverages, including bubble tea, milk tea, sweet Thai tea, and more. Learn more about how to make an average cup of tea in our article How to Make Tea Like a Pro.
Black tea comes with a range of health benefits. You're more likely to benefit from these perks if you consume black tea regularly, however it's not a miracle beverage! Besides the calm from amino acid L-Theanine and energy from caffeine, you're unlikely to feel or see any immediate effects.
Nonetheless, tea drinkers may benefit from:
- Enhanced antioxidants found in tea. These can combat free radical damage and negate the risks of many chronic diseases.3
- Flavonoids in black tea are great for your heart health and may lower the risks of high blood pressure and heart disease.4
- Theaflavins in black tea may also lower LDL cholesterol compared to coffee.5
- As a device for weight loss, black tea can boost healthy gut bacteria.6 And don't forget the caffeine in black tea (especially Zest energy tea) gives you the energy boost you need to workout harder.
Like most foods and drinks, tea comes with negative properties as well as positive ones. If you have high caffeine sensitivity, you may want to try a tea that's lower in caffeine - see green tea below. Furthermore, black tea inhibits iron absorption if consumed during or shortly after a meal. Thankfully, this can be mitigated by consuming foods that are iron absorption enhancers like ascorbic acid, meat, fish, and poultry.7
Overall, the greatest health benefit from black tea comes from the L-Theanine and caffeine consumption. Learn more about these two amazing components and what they can do for your productivity and focus in our article A Quick Guide to Black Tea.
If you're a coffee person, you'll be used to the huge caffeine boost after consuming a hot cup of brewed coffee. But coffee lovers also suffer from the caffeine crash when the effects from their cup of coffee wear off.
Even though tea has less caffeine compared to coffee (in most cases), the way your energy levels are smoother and calmer has a huge impact on your productivity.
That's why black tea vs coffee is an interesting comparison.
Drinking coffee dates back to the late 15th century, with coffee trees originating in Africa (the exact location is debated, but possibly Ethiopia). The coffee beans are actually the fruit of the plant, rather than the leaves. Technically, you could consider coffee a type of herbal tea, as herbal teas are any plant that's infused in water that isn't from the Camellia sinensis plant.
Regardless, coffee typically is associated with morning energy, Starbucks, and Italian espresso.
The Italians undoubtedly made coffee their drink, taking unfiltered coffee and inventing the espresso machine in 1901, then the moka pot in 1933.8
Black coffee is widely consumed today, however iced milky beverages are increasingly popular. With mainstream coffee houses, like Starbucks, beverages including iced macchiato, pumpkin spiced latte, and frappuccinos can be made in seconds... with a lot of sugar, of course.
Both black tea and coffee have a warming, rich and intense flavor. They can also be bitter and brisk at times, which is why coffee consumption often requires plenty of cream and sugar or sweetener.
The caffeine content of coffee is also quite high, especially for espresso. This is another reason to dilute coffee with milk or water
Coffee flavor notes can be fruity, chocolatey, nutty and even floral in some cases. Compared to tea, however, it is very limited. While you can have sweet and light green teas, then swap to rich and malty black teas, nearly all coffees follow the same rough flavor profile.
Regular coffee consumption is a good way to increase your caffeine intake over that of tea, however coffee is lower in caffeine compared to Zest Tea. Here's how they compare:
- Zest Tea - 150mg of caffeine,
- Brewed coffee - 96mg of caffeine,
- 1 shot of espresso - 64mg of caffeine,
- Instant coffee - 62mg of caffeine,
- Standard black tea - 47mg of caffeine.9
According to the FDA, your daily caffeine intake shouldn't surpass 400mg.10 The problem with coffee is that it crashes so suddenly and quickly, leaving you craving another cup to fight off those sleepy feelings - for that reason, we find it much harder to continue focusing without more caffeine. It wouldn't be uncommon for coffee lovers to consume three to five cups just to stay awake.
Tea doesn't hit like that. Thanks to L-Theanine, the caffeine in tea slowly drops off, lowering you back to your normal afternoon energy levels. That's why even high-caffeine teas have that smooth, gentle come down.
The healthiest way to consume coffee (especially if you're interested in the health benefits listed below) is to drink it black. Black coffee provides that energy boost without the high fat and sugar content from adding dairy and sweeteners.
Drinking coffee can be a simple affair, using instant coffee or a drip coffee method. It can also be more complex, with an espresso machine and careful ratios of coffee, milk, and milk foam.
How much caffeine is in your final beverage depends on the coffee in it. Adding milk to 2x shots of espresso won't alter the 128mg of caffeine provided by the espresso. This is true for both tea and coffee.
Like tea, coffee has numerous health properties associated with caffeine, for example, it can help you lose weight and burn fat cells.11 Other health benefits associated with a cup of coffee include:
- Coffee is good for your liver health and evidence suggests that coffee supplementation can prevent and protect against thioacetamide induced liver cirrhosis.12
- Habitually consuming coffee is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and may have a cardioprotective effect that's good for general heart health.13 However, this study also notes that the effects of coffee on blood pressure, particularly hypertension, are neutral.
- Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which is good for feeling awake and energized. However, studies on the impact of coffee on brain health are mixed. One study found that consuming coffee leads to improved cognitive function,14 while another found that both tea and coffee can protect neurons against dysfunction and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.15 Conversely, another study found that high coffee consumption is linked to a higher risk of dementia.16
For optimum human health and a strong immune system, consuming a balanced diet and moderating your caffeine intake (keeping it below the recommended 400mg per day) is also important!
Summary - Black Tea vs Black Coffee
Overall, both tea and coffee come with good health benefits and provide an energy boost through caffeine. However, tea is better for focus and productivity, as well as exploring a wider range of flavors.
In terms of drinking caffeine, the winner is neither standard tea nor coffee - it's energy tea!
At Zest, we boost the levels of caffeine in our tea up to 150mg while retaining the L-Theanine amino acid found naturally in tea leaves. The result? The energy boost you're craving without the jitters and crash.
Discover the full range of Zest Teas at ZestTea.com.
Green Tea and Other Tea Types
If you want to move away from the rich, bold flavors of black tea and coffee altogether, try green tea. It's a lighter and fresher way to get your morning energy. With Zest, you don't need to compromise on caffeine either.
While standard green tea contains minimal caffeine, our green tea blends contain more caffeine than coffee, with up to 135mg per cup.
Learn more about green tea in our Best Green Tea Guide.
Is black tea healthier than coffee?
Tea and coffee both have a range of health benefits, some of which overlap due to the caffeine content. Which is healthier depends on which health benefits you're looking for. To benefit from these health properties as much as possible, consume the beverages without added milk and sugar.
Which has more caffeine coffee or black tea?
In order from the most caffeine to the least; Zest black tea, coffee, standard black tea.
Why drink coffee instead of tea?
Coffee provides a very large and sudden caffeine boost. This is good if you need a very immediate burst of energy, however beware that it will drop off just as quickly! Tea, on the other hand, is a smoother energy boost that's also more long-lasting.
Is black tea equal to coffee?
In terms of flavor, both have similarities. However, in terms of caffeine, calmness and versatility, we have to vote for energy tea.
How much caffeine is in black tea vs coffee?
Standard black tea contains 47mg of caffeine on average, while a cup of standard coffee contains 96mg. Zest black tea contains up to 150mg of caffeine.
Is it safe to drink coffee daily?
Yes! Habitually consuming coffee is linked to several health benefits. However, watch your caffeine intake carefully - the FDA recommends staying below 400mg per day.