The caffeine lover’s “coffee or tea” question is one that has been debated for what feels like eons now, and it is still quite the controversy. People’s choices about how they want to intake their caffeine generally depend on [possibly genetically predisposed] personal preference, but it’s still worth looking more deeply at how coffee and black tea affect our health, so that we can make educated decisions based on what’s best for our individual constitutions and lifestyle choices.

Caffeine Function

Not all beverages with caffeine are created equal.  First off, coffee has more of it than black tea. It depends on the origin of the beans, the roast, how long it’s brewed, and many other variables, but the general consensus is that one 8oz cup of coffee contains an average of 95mg of caffeine. Compare this to a maximum of 61mg in the same amount of black tea. So, what does this actually mean?

Well, higher caffeine content brings about the infamous “crash,” prompting yet another cup of coffee - or a deflated resignation to the slump. To be fair, not everybody minds slamming down cup after cup throughout the day, enjoying exhilarating spike after spike. They enjoy the productivity and buzz that comes along with staying at a constant 10/10 on the caffeine meter. It’s important to be aware, however, that too much caffeine can cause anxiety, and further down the line, heart issues. With coffee, moderation is key. Try to cap it at 2-3 cups a day.

The caffeine content in black tea is not insignificant either. However, the presence of a compound called L-Theanine “significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind.” [1] This pretty much counteracts the jitters that go along with the caffeine content in tea.

Antioxidant Content

Tea is revered worldwide for its antioxidants; in particular, tea lovers boast that black tea is chock full of polyphenols, most notably theaflavins. These antioxidants are especially good at lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of Parkinson’s,  and fighting allergies.

But black tea has some fierce competition.

Coffee is very high on the list of the most antioxidant-rich beverages. It is full of what are known as polyphenolic antioxidants, including caffeic, ferulic, chlorogenic and n-coumaric acids. [2] English please, am I right? Let’s break it down:

Chlorogenic acid is responsible for the weight loss aspects in coffee that are so highly sought-after, and can help in the prevention of osteoporosis.  Ferulic acid is beneficial to heart health as well as kidney structure, and even fights cancer-causing free radicals[3]! Pretty badass...and let’s keep it going. Caffeic acid protects against DNA damage, and n-coumaric acid is the same anti-inflammatory compound that turmeric is so popular for these days.

Effects on Oral Health

Coffee, like red wine and some other things that stain clothes, contains what are known as tannins - and this compound stains your teeth.

Oh, and black tea has ‘em too, at even higher levels. So, this is kind of just something to accept if these caffeinated beverages are part of your life. The yellowing of teeth can be combated in some ways - drink out of a straw, brush immediately after drinking, or eat an apple afterwards and the fiber will clean your teeth.  Also, brushing your teeth with baking soda or a baking soda based toothpaste is super effective.

Coffee lovers, brace yourself - the high acidity in coffee does actually erode your teeth over time, wearing down the enamel. Tea wins the game on this one, as it does not have any erosive effects. In fact, a single tea bag of black tea contains anywhere from 1.15 - 6.01 milligrams of fluoride per liter, which is enough to potentially prevent cavities. The downside? It is still fluoride, a highly debated chemical; over long periods of time, it can cause tooth fracturing.

There is also good news for you coffee and tea lovers regarding your pearly whites and your favorite caffeinated beverage.  The caffeine content in strong coffee actually has an antibacterial effect, which can prevent the formation of plaque. And, the polyphenols in both coffee and tea can both prevent and treat oral diseases.


Our cognitive functions are improved after a nice cup of coffee or black tea, as we’ve probably all experienced - sipping on a caffeinated beverage seems to expedite our process and sharpen our focus at work, turning us into productive little energizer bunnies.

But studies show that coffee may be excellent for long-term memory as well, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.