5 Reasons Why Coffee Is Healthier Than Tea

Dan Gentile/Thrillist
Dan Gentile/Thrillist

The rivalry between coffee and tea is one of the beverage world's hottest and most bitter (!!). Any coffee snob will tell you that coffee is hands-down more flavorful (1000+ flavor compounds to black tea's 400), but to compare the relative health benefits of the two, a scientist was needed. So we turned to Joseph A. Rivera of Coffee Chemistry for his opinion on the beverages' medical effects. Pour another cup, and kiss that colon cancer, liver cirrhosis, and crippling depression goodbye.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Coffee prevents depression and suicide

People often say they would die without coffee, but according to Joseph that exaggeration actually holds weight. “There's been quite a few studies that have shown that moderate consumption of coffee decreases suicide in teens,” he says. It's been proven to reduce stress and depression, but going to coffee shops also adds a crucial aspect of social engagement and community (bonus points if it's one of the best shops in the country). Conversely, a quiet contemplative cup of tea has an undocumented correlation with crippling loneliness and spinsterism.


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Loosening the bowels has unexpected benefits

Everyone knows that coffee can turn a clogged colon into a digestive slip-and-slide, but the science behind it isn't as well-known. “Coffee contains a high concentration of chlorogenic acid, which increases the rate of bowel movements by the production of gastrin and cholecystokinin,” says Joseph. One of the tertiary benefits of those loosened bowels is that it lowers the risk of colon cancer, which is the third largest diagnosed form of cancer in America (95k new cases in 2015).

Coffee can improve resistance to liver cancer through increasing iron levels

Liver cancer isn't nearly as prevalent as colon cancer in the US, but it still accounts for half of the cancer cases in the developing world. Although health care is scarce in many of these areas, coffee usually isn't. “By consuming moderate amounts of coffee, the polyphenols in coffee are able to bind to iron, thereby lowering its concentration and incidence of development,” says Joseph. In addition to cancer, coffee also combats other liver ailments like cirrhosis, hepatitis C, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and might even help slow the effects of alcoholism. Although there have been studies on tea's effects on the liver, none have been conclusive.

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Coffee drinkers use less drugs

Coffee withdrawal won't lead to any Trainspotting-style ceiling baby hallucinations, but it is a helluva drug to quit because it hits the same opiod receptors as illicit substances like cocaine. Joseph recounted a Brazilian study that linked higher coffee consumption to lower inner city drug use based on the fact that coffee lowers the chemical cravings the mind associates with harder drugs. Meanwhile handing a drug user a cup of tea is roughly as effective as a speech from McGruff the Crime Dog.

Alertness can save lives

By weight tea leaves actually contain more caffeine than coffee beans, but in its drinkable form coffee has three times as much caffeine thanks to higher brewing ratios. That added energy boost isn't just morning-saving, but can also be life-saving.

“I find it interesting that every time there is a major accident like a train wreck, the first thing investigators look for is the presence of drugs and sleeping pills. But what about all those accidents that didn't happen, simply because the operators were fully alert due to coffee? Do we really want that 18-wheel truck driver on the road "relaxed" because he drank tea all day, or fully alert because he drank Starbucks earlier and was able to avoid piling into a school bus?” says Joseph.

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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. His colon is in great shape, and he doesn't expect to pile into a school bus anytime soon. Follow him to coffee bean smiley faces at @Dannosphere.