Green Tea and Coffee - A Comparison

By Alex Zorach

Green tea and coffee are two very different drinks. They both contain caffeine, but after that they have little in common. Coffee is a strong, dark, bitter drink, whereas green tea, while it can be bitter too, is a gentler and lighter drink.

The Plants Of Origin

Green tea is prepared from the leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), a species native to south and southeast Asia, which is grown in tropical and subtropical regions across the world. Green tea is made by gathering the leaves of the tea plant, processing them, and heating the leaves so as to stop the enzyme activity that would turn the tea into black tea. Green tea is very diverse, coming in many different shapes and varieties.

Coffee, on the other hand, is made from the roasted seeds (beans) of the coffee plant. Unlike tea, there are many species of coffee, but the most common one is Coffea arabica. Coffee is native to Africa and its use originated there, probably in Ethiopia.

Where Do The Tea Plant And Coffee Plant Grow?

The tea plant can tolerate some cooler temperatures: it can be grown commercially in South Carolina, Washington State, and even England. The coffee plant, by contrast, only grows in warm, tropical areas. But, unlike the tea plant, the coffee plant grows well indoors, and makes a pleasant houseplant, although it rarely yields any substantial amount of coffee beans while grown in this manner. Both plants are small evergreen trees, adapted to humid climates with high rainfall, although tea is grown in areas with seasonal rains.

Preparation Of Coffee Vs. Green Tea

Green tea is prepared by steeping the dry tea leaf in hot water. The leaf can be steeped loose in the water and poured through a strainer, a tea infuser (such as a tea ball or tea basket) can be used, or a tea bag can be used. Typically, water significantly below the boiling point is used. Depending on the type of green tea, the water's temperature should be between 150-180 degrees Fahrenheit (65-82 Celsius). If the water is too hot, the leaves can scald, leading to a bitter or astringent taste, or an unpleasant aroma. Tea can be steeped either in a pot (common to make several cups) or directly in a mug or cup. There are subtle differences in the different methods of brewing tea but the general idea is the same.

The methods for preparing coffee are far more diverse than the methods for preparing tea and are too involved to comprehensively explore in this brief article. In many parts of the world, coffee is boiled directly in water; in the U.S. this is called "cowboy coffee". Most common in the U.S. is drip brewing through a filter--the way a typical coffee machine works. Coffee can also be steeped in hot water similarly to tea--a french press is one invention useful for this type of preparation. Coffee can also be brewed by forcing pressurized hot water through the ground coffee--yielding espresso.

Caffeine Content Of Green Tea Vs. Coffee

Most tea, including green tea, has significantly less caffeine per cup than coffee. The caffeine content of a cup of tea varies widely, depending on the type of tea, the amount of leaf used, and how it is brewed. In general, most green tea contains between 15mg and 60mg of caffeine per cup. It is not true that green tea contains less caffeine than black tea. This is an often-perpetuated myth, and is not backed up by scientific studies. Systematic studies of caffeine content have shown that both black and green tea can have higher and lower caffeine contents from one tea to the next.

The caffeine content of coffee also varies widely, depending both on the beans and on how the coffee is brewed. Coffee generally contains between 60mg and 150mg caffeine per cup. Large sizes (16 oz. or more) can easily exceed 200mg of caffeine. The higher caffeine content of coffee presents some health issues for heavy coffee drinkers.

Health Risks Of Heavy Coffee Use

Because of its higher caffeine content, coffee drinkers need to be cautious that they are not exposing themselves to too much caffeine. Consuming more than 300mg at once often results in "caffeine jitters", which has a variety of unpleasant effects. Heavy caffeine use over a long period of time can contribute to anxiety and disruption of sleep, which can have deleterious effects on overall health. Such heavy use is also discouraged during pregnancy. Caffeine can also produce dependency, which includes unpleasant withdrawal effects if the caffeine use is discontinued.

Some people also find that the acidity of coffee is hard on their stomach, contributing to acid reflux (heartburn). Although coffee does have some health benefits, the health benefits of tea are more numerous and better documented. Tea contains substantially less caffeine than coffee, and provides a similar boost in alertness while being less disruptive of sleep. Green tea in particular, when it is brewed properly (so as not to be too acidic) is a gentler drink, easier on the stomach. People consuming 3 or more cups of coffee a day, or people who like the boost in alertness that coffee brings them but find that coffee upsets their stomach or sleep patterns, may want to consider switching to green tea or other types of tea.

Alex Zorach
Article by Alex Zorach
Alex Zorach is the creator of, an interactive website where anyone can rate and review teas. RateTea also has a wealth of information about different varieties of tea, tea-producing regions, and articles on tea and health. You may wish to start by visiting the page on switching from coffee to tea, which can point you to some good teas for coffee lovers.

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