Coffee vs. Tea

This is a combination of several articles I’ve written over the years about coffee versus tea. As a little teapot, I must confess to being somewhat biased but tried hard not to let that interfere in this very objective (honest!) investigation.

Great Teas for Coffee Lovers Who Want to Make the Switch

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Lots of coffee drinkers are hearing the call of tea for a variety of reasons. One of the things that impedes them, though, is not quite knowing which tea to switch to. Here’s a bit of the whys and wherefores to help you along.

Cutting Down on Caffeine

Some coffee drinkers want to reduce their caffeine intake but not eliminate it altogether. On average, teas have about half or even less the amount of caffeine as an average cup of coffee. Go for one of the breakfast blend teas. There are different versions, including English Breakfast, Scottish Breakfast, and Irish Breakfast – often very proprietary blends that are based on black tea from Assam, Kenya, or Sri Lanka, and livened with Keemun black tea or others.

Great Flavors and No Boredom

Drinking coffee day after day can get a bit monotonous. It’s a less-often named reason for switching than the caffeine one. And many think that tea is also boring. But the variety of teas seems endless, falling into these groups: white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erhs. Plus there are lots of teas with flavorings added, so your choices are virtually endless. No chance for boredom. You will find yourself trying various ones and then gravitating to those you like best. Many say Earl Grey is mild-flavored with a delicate aroma but quite distinctive, not boring – a great place to start for many.

Matching Tea Flavors to Coffee Flavors

Even if you’re bored with coffee, you might find tea rather too different to take all at once. But if you select teas with similar flavors, the transition will be smoother. A nice spiced tea (often called “chais” here in the U.S.) is a great option. They’re especially good if you like flavored coffees. Several options are out there, with hazelnut, vanilla, pumpkin, and other flavors similar to those coffee creamers. The flavor transition will be a close one. Lapsang Souchong is recommended by some due to its strong smoky taste that also goes well with milk and sweetener, the same way that many people drink their coffee. Others say that Genmaicha reminds them of Guatemalan coffees, and they’re a good option if you don’t take milk in your tea.

Coffee to tea pairings:

  • Kenyan, Zimbabwe, Ethiopian Harrar – Earl Grey
  • Brazilian, Kona – China Rose Petal
  • Sumatran – Jasmine, Ti Kwan Yin
  • Guatemalan, Sulawesi – Keemun
  • Tanzania Peaberry, Ethiopian Sidamo – Assam (Goldentip, or extra fancy)
  • Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto, Papua New Guinea – Formosa Oolong, China Gui Hua (black tea with pieces of dried kwei flowers)
  • Espresso – Imperial Gunpowder, Lapsang Souchong

Time to Switch?

Well, now you see some teas to get you started. And you certainly don’t have to go “cold turkey” on the coffee. Start with a tea or two, or better yet buy a sampler pack so you can try several and start to get a feel for what satisfies you. Enjoy!

Tea — a Replacement for Coffee?

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A recent Tea Forum showed how those of us in North America are becoming more conscious of tea. That is, we’re not just willy-nilly grabbing that cheap teabag, dunking it in tepid water, and slurping down the resulting sorry excuse for tea. As great as all that is, I’d like to go a step further and see tea as a replacement for coffee. No way, you say? Yes way, I say.

It’s great to enjoy those fine teas and to do so in a very conscious manner. But I see the goal as replacing that automatic cup of coffee they reach for in the morning and during the day with a cup or even a potful of tea. The proverbial donuts and coffee can become the donuts and oolong or maybe a nice Keemun or Yunnan black tea. Not at all impossible.

The Tea Machine Approach

Tea_Blog_KCup-CSIndiaSpiceC1If you have one of those new-fangled tea steeping machines or one of those coffee steeping machines that uses the little cups, your are all set to transition from coffee with all that excessive caffeine that will just make you all squirrely all day to tea which has much less caffeine and is supposed to have a veritable slew of health benefits, such as antioxidants. Not only are there already teas that come packaged in the little K-cups, but there are now cups for these machines that you can fill up yourself with whatever tea you want. (Caution: some teas are better suited to this style of steeping than others. You might want to do some experimenting.)

The Tea Station Approach

One reason people go for coffee instead of tea is that they think it’s easier and more convenient to make. But even the best teas can be as easy and convenient as coffee or even more so. A tea station is the key. A kettle for heating the water, a teapot for steeping, a stock of your favorite tea, and some cups. Anything you usually add to the tea should be handy, too. I use milk, so my tea station is within easy reach of the refrigerator. Others use lemons and other flavorings that they add after the tea is steeped. Keep some in stock and nearby.

Retrain Your Brain

We tend to be creatures of habit. We “get into a groove” so to speak and need to make a conscious effort to get out of it. This is a true of which beverage we go for as with other things. Make a conscious effort to have tea instead of coffee, and soon you will have acquired the tea habit.

Grow That Habit

Getting back to that forum, you can grow your newly acquired tea habit by being more conscious not only of drinking tea versus coffee but by expanding your tea knowledge and thus your tea experiences. That includes paying closer attention to the tea as you drink. Letting the tea slightly cool will help here, since you will be able to let that liquid flow over your tongue more leisurely and thus take in the wonderful flavors. Tea is a wonderfully varied beverage that’s easier to make front and center in your life than you’d think. It’s a perfect replacement for coffee.

Can You Brew Tea Like You Brew Coffee?

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The Tea-Cha company, headed by Ian Bersten, has proposed a revolution in tea preparation: brew it like you would brew coffee. Is that really possible? Ever being the one to like to test things out and run little mini-experiments, I looked forward to receiving the newest model of Bersten’s brew filter and giving it a whirl.

The filter is made of a superfine mesh all around, with a metal rim at top and bottom to hold the mesh into shape. It came with simple instructions and some questions that Bersten wanted me to consider as I tried the device. Step one was to find a mug that was the right size for the filter to fit into with a slight gap around it and the bottom of the filter sitting on the bottom of the mug. This was very exciting, since I have advocated in the past that if one must use an infuser basket or a filter, that it be about the same size as the cup or teapot in which one was steeping. It was pretty easy to find the right sized mug, since hubby and I have quite a collection. (The company may be selling a properly sized mug with the filter.)

Bersten proposes that tea should be processed to a fine dust to steep best, that is, for a short time yet give a strong flavor and have no bitterness or astringency. That’s how a lot of coffee is brewed — from fine grounds. So, we tried the filter using some Barry’s Gold Blend (loose, of course, not in the bag).

The brew time is crucial and so is the need to be precise. Too short can result in a weak taste, while too long can mean you get that bitterness and astringency you are seeking to avoid. So, hubby and I had to proceed with great care and precision.

A photo log of the process:

  1. The filter beside a cup that was sized just right for it.
  2. The filter slides into the cup.
  3. The bottom of the filter sits on the bottom of the cup — a perfect fit!

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  1. A teaspoonful of tea goes into the filter.
  2. Boiling water is poured in up to the rim of the cup.
  3. Our first steep trial was for 15 seconds. Too weak in taste and aroma but not bitter or astringency.
  4. Our second steep trial (with fresh tea) was for 30 seconds. Stronger taste and aroma and no bitterness or astringency, but still too weak to have with milk, so for us, not good.

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Hubby did a final trial for 50 seconds and got a decent tea liquid that was strong enough for milk with only a trace of bitterness that the milk took away. As Goldilocks would say, “It was just right!” So, it seems that yes, you can brew tea like you brew coffee.

One caution: the tea will be quite hot since the steep time is short and the water does not have the chance to cool. A small inconvenience, though; just let it sit a few minutes. You’ll still have a fairly quick and convenient cuppa to give you that charge of caffeine just when you need it. Bersten also suggests that you only fill up the cup about 3/4, steep up the tea a bit extra strong, remove the filter, and then fill the cup the rest of the way with cool water. This should make the tea cool enough to drink. Also, if you take milk in your tea as I do, use cold milk to reduce the temperature.

Would a device like this coax you to give up your full and broken leaf teas? That is something only you can answer. As for hubby and me, this filter is a great alternative for a daily cuppa.

You Can Win the Drink Wars in Your House: Coffee vs. Tea

Which gives the better uplift?
Which gives the better uplift?

Your sweetie drinks coffee and you drink tea. How do you cope? Before total war breaks out — like the kind in the movie “The War of the Roses” where dividing marital assets during divorce negotiations were taken to a ridiculous extreme — let’s see if there is some way to keep the peace. Barring that, we’ll try to work it so you can win the drink wars.

The main question is why drink coffee or why drink tea. Let’s face it, they both pack a caffeine jolt (the average cuppa joe contains 85 milligrams while the average cuppa tea has 47 milligrams), both have a variety of flavors and styles based on where they are grown and how they are processed, and both have flavorings added to them. There needs to be some reason why one person chooses coffee and another chooses tea.

“Nurture” is certainly one reason. That is, some grow up in a household where coffee is the wake-up cuppa and might even be consumed throughout the day. Other households might be tea drinkers who themselves grew up in a household of tea drinkers. In a sort of Romeo and Juliet scenario, the coffee drinking family may not want any relations with the tea drinking family, but a young coffee drinker meets and goes gaga for a young tea drinker and marries her. Thus, the drink wars are initiated.

“Efficient caffeine dosing” is another reason. You need to drink only half as much coffee as tea to get the same amount of caffeine. Of course, the opposite is true — you can drink tea and avoid about half the caffeine you would get in the coffee. I drink about 48 to 64 ounces of tea per day on average. Imagine the caffeine intake that would be if I were drinking coffee. Talk about getting the caffeine jitters!

“Healthy lifestyle” is a questionable reason. Tea is supposed to have a number of health benefits that coffee does not, such as the caffeine level being about half but also elements that work with your body’s chemistry to fight off disease and aging.

“Practicality” is a great reason. Tea is generally cheaper than coffee (sure, there are some pricey teas and coffees out there, but we’re talking about the basic ones here) and usually easier to make. It also stains less if spilled and tends not to be as sticky (if you don’t use honey or sugar to sweeten it).

Now all that remains is convincing the coffee drinker in your household (be it the ‘he’ of the house or the ‘she’ of the house) to give tea a try. How you accomplish that will be up to you to determine. If facts don’t work, you may have to resort to more — um, well — “unconventional” techniques!

Tea Drinker’s Guide to Dealing with the Coffee Drinker in the House

Tea_Blog_BTC Berry Medley-B002Just like that Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you need a guide to dealing with the coffee drinker in the house. But unlike that other guide, this one will not whisk you across the universe.

You drink tea. Not coffee. Tea. But your hubby, wife, or other domicile companion drinks coffee. He/she might occasionally dip a figurative toe into tea (at least we hope it’s figurative) but mainly sticks to that java. You, meanwhile, cannot abide coffee. Well, maybe just the smell of those wonderfully roasted beans…but not the liquid. There are many reasons for such a distaste. You might have a very sensitive tummy. You might just find the flavor repellent. You might associate coffee with something bad from your childhood (mom had to have a second cup, so you were late and missed the school bus and had to walk all the way to school during the worst blizzard of the century, for example). There are ways of dealing with this coffee drinker in the house that will result in a more peaceful co-habitation for you both.

What Not to Do

Okay, first of all, no violence. You can solve this peacefully. After all, tea is the beverage that calms and invigorates. (It’s that lovely theanine that, unlike the caffeine in coffee, can accomplish both the uplift and the calm down.) So, you are starting from a position of superiority. But don’t be too uppity about it. A more noblesse oblige attitude is needed here, as in “you poor coffee drinker, so deprived, let me lift you up out of your wretched condition.” Hm… sounds a bit uppity. How about “sure you like coffee more, but what would you know about good taste?” … uh, well, let’s just say that being deprecating in your tone and choice of words could prove counter productive here.

Sneaky tactics are also out. Hiding the coffee (beans or pre-ground) and putting a package of fine loose leaf tea in their place could result in the tea being scattered across the entire kitchen. A mess of tea leaf pieces sprayed across countertops, floors, tables, and chairs. You could have even worse results by trying to hide the coffeemaker, be it a Keurig machine, a Mr. Coffee-style maker, or even one of those old-style percolators like my mom used to make dad’s morning coffee. Imagine if that coffee drinker decided to do tit for tat. Who knows where your teapot or other steeping vessel would end up!

What to Do

With those cautions out of the way, time for some useful advice, starting with maintaining a cheerful, positive attitude. The other day someone commented on one of my posts that she hated tea, so I responded in a way that was meant to be helpful to this afflicted woman (hating tea is certainly an indication to me that someone is deprived). I suggested that she try better teas and should order some samplers. The response: “Gee, sounds like a good idea.” Turning the negative into the positive! So it can go with that coffee drinker. Stay positive. “Yum, that ground coffee has a wonderful aroma. Gee, how would you like to try this tea? It’s very similar.” Start them with something strong such as a nice CTC Assam. If they like milk in their coffee, have them try it in their tea. Ditto for sweetener. The idea is to make the tea experience close to the coffee experience. People tend to balk at sudden changes but can be eased into change a little at a time. But unlike that frog in the pot of water where the heat is being turned up slowly, the end result will be beneficial.

If they use a Keurig for their coffee, buy some K-cups filled with tea (yeah, I know they’re not ideal and rather wasteful) like English Breakfast and Earl Grey. Again, you want to keep the flavor similar. If they use a percolator, show them how to steep in a teapot using loose leaf tea (or teabags, if you must) to get the best tea flavor. And use a tea that’s one of the better ones. You can get them to use my 2-teapot method to assure that the tea doesn’t oversteep. If they just won’t take the first step to prepare tea, back up a bit and steep up enough tea for you both, inviting them to have a cuppa, even a small one.

The intransigent coffee drinker will be a true challenge, but you can take another approach – one I euphemistically call “live and let live.” A little tolerance of their rather incomprehensible choice of wake-up beverage will keep things from escalating to such foolish behaviors as scone throwing at the coffee drinker or chasing him/her from the kitchen to avoid that overpowering fragrance from blocking your enjoyment of your tea’s aroma, which is such an important part of any tea lovers complete experience.

Here’s hoping for a peaceful experience for all involved.

How to Get a Good Cuppa Tea at a Coffee Shop

Cups like this also make tea drinkers shrink away from coffee shops
Cups like this also make tea drinkers shrink away from coffee shops

Some of you are probably thinking right now: “Gee, she’s making a really big assumption here. That it’s possible to get a good cuppa tea at a coffee shop.” No assumptions being made here, since I have experienced this seemingly impossible feat.

To some, the very thought of getting tea in a coffee shop is practically blasphemous. The smell of the coffee beans and the fresh ground coffee, plus the brewed coffee are strong enough usually to overwhelm the more delicate aromas and flavors of the tea. How do you enjoy a delicate tea in such an atmosphere? If you are the type that really pays attention to the sensory nuances of your tea, this will be a big problem. So, the first step is to face the fact that you will most likely be going for a tea with a more prominent aroma and flavor.

Another fact tea drinkers have to deal with in coffee shops is the usage of tea concentrates in preparing chai lattés and other specialty tea drinks. One particular coffee shop chain even bought the company that makes the concentrates they routinely serve. Just don’t expect the same taste experience you’ll get when you make your own stovetop chai.

Some coffee shops carry brand name tea bags such as Harney & Sons, which is a “silk” (actually, nylon or some other material) pyramid bag filled with tea leaf pieces instead of dust and fannings. Sadly, the water is usually not freshly boiled and is generally heated to the same temperature (really, really hot in some places and downright tepid in others), no matter what type of tea you’re having.

The answer to getting a really good cuppa in a coffee shop seems to be to avoid the specialty tea drinks and the more delicate tasting and smelling teas, going instead for their regular teas that are stronger in character. And since there is quite a variety between coffee shops, you will also be better off if you select one that has the type of tea you want and that you know heats the water sufficiently.

In short, do a bit of homework or even private investigation. Then, you won’t go far wrong!

5 Things About Coffee That Will Make You Switch to Tea (Maybe)

Tea_Blog_Tea-vCoffee005aIn the U.S. a large percentage of folks drink both coffee and tea. A lot of them see tea as that beverage for when they are sick (remember that seen in Working Girl where Harrison Ford is offering a passed out Kathy Griffin some tea just because that’s what would sound good to him when he was in a similar condition?). Or they confuse herbals such as Rooibos and chamomile with true tea from the Camellia sinensis plant. But I propose, with a slight bit of prejudice as one who is devoted to tea and avoids coffee, that tea should be the drink of choice even for that morning wake-up cup. Here are a few reasons why:

1 Coffee is not exactly a beautifier

Ask any dentist, and he/she will tell you that coffee, especially when drunk straight (without milk), is a teeth stainer. Now, in fairness, some teas can stain, too. Those strong black teas (when not drunk with milk) will stain. And I can’t advise you to use spent coffee grounds on your eyes to reduce puffiness the way you can use spent teabags.

2 You’ll spend more time in the…uh…privy

There is some research showing that coffee can cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). So, you could find yourself seeking out facilities with increased frequency. Of course, both tea and coffee are said to be diuretics (but some debate that claim), but add IBS on top of it… plus, the whole diuretic thing is questionable, which leaves just IBS to worry about, which is quite enough.

3 A caffeine seesaw

You get that initial jolt of caffeine with your morning cup. You float along on it awhile and then… CRASH! You suddenly feel down and need another cup. Or a donut. Or both. Anything to get you back “up.” The caffeine has other affects: shakiness, concentration problems, an increased chance of a heart attack. And the caffeine levels in coffee are on average about twice what they are in tea. (Espresso is even higher.)

4 You can experience symptoms when stopping drinking coffee

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration generally considers caffeine to be safe and not truly addictive the way that various controlled substances are, you can still get used to it and experience some physical symptoms when you stop drinking coffee: headaches and a general feeling of irritability.

5 Not nearly as social as tea

There is just something about tea that coffee doesn’t have, at least not for those of us a bit more inclined to such things: the social event. There is Afternoon Tea, High Tea, Elevenses, and so on. There is the Buckingham Palace Garden Tea Party. But you see no such equivalents for coffee. Yes, there’s the coffee klatch, but other than that, coffee is that cup in the morning, the shot of espresso after a gourmet meal, that cappuccino in-between. With tea you steep a cup or a potful and enjoy it either with a good book, your latest knitting project, or while watching a movie, or you enjoy some with friends, often at the nearest tea room.

If that’s not enough to convince you to drop the coffee and stick to tea, then consider that tea has greater longevity, having been consumed by humans for about 1900 years longer than coffee. Enjoy!

Hope You Got the Picture!

If you are one of those folks who is still waffling between coffee and tea, trying to decide which is best for you, or you just want to make that switch to a more soothing beverage, I hope this compendium has been of some help. TOOOT!

© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text

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