5 Reasons Tea is Similar to Coffee

Instead of arguing over which is better, tea or coffee, we decided to make a list of the things the two have in common! In this article, we’re listing 5 different ways that tea is similar to coffee. If you’re a coffee lover, you might be surprised by how similar the two drinks really are.

First, we can start off with the most obvious similarity and that is the fact that both drinks contain caffeine. This is a large reason why the two drinks have become so popular around the world. While some people think of coffee as the drink to wake up and tea as the drink to wind down, tea actually can have a lot more caffeine than you might think. While many low quality teabag teas are quite low in caffeine, higher quality loose leaf teas can be quite high in caffeine. Gyokuro is perhaps the highest tea in caffeine, with as much as 120-140mg per 8oz cup. This is on a similar level to a cup of coffee which contains around 100mg of caffeine per 8oz cup. You may not feel as much of a jolt from the green tea, as the l-theanine slows the absorption of the caffeine, giving you a longer lasting energy throughout the day, without the crash or jitters.

The second similarity between the two has to do with the plant. Both tea and coffee come from two major plant species. The Robusta and Arabica make up almost all of the coffee that is exported around the world and similarly, the Camelia sinensis assamica and Camelia sinensis sinensis make up almost all the the that is exported around the world. Within these two plant species, there are hundreds of different varietals or cultivars and the same is true for the coffee plant. Depending on the terrain, the climate and what type of tea is being produced, a farmer will choose to cultivate different plants. Some cultivars are sweeter like the Saemidori and Asatsuyu, some have more vegetal flavors like the Yabukita and some are stronger on these savory umami notes like the Gokou.

The third similarity is the age that the plant reaches maturity. Both the tea plant and the coffee plant reach their maturity at around 4 years old, meaning this is the earliest they can be harvested. When it comes to the world of Japanese tea in particular, the similarities continue, as the peak productivity is considered to be somewhere in between 7-20 years. After 20 years, a lot of tea plants in Japan will be rotated to make room for new ones although in China these older tea trees are considered to produce even higher quality teas. 

The fourth similarity comes from the production. While it’s common knowledge that coffee beans are roasted to produce a particular flavor, some may not know that certain tea leaves are roasted to produce roasted teas. Hojicha, a type of roasted Japanese green tea, is a good example. Hojicha is still a green tea because the leaves are steamed after harvesting, but these green leaves quickly turn brown as they are roasted. The color of the tea produced is this beautiful reddish brown and the flavor plays more on these warmer notes of coffee, chocolate and caramel. This tea is less expensive than a lot of other Japanese green teas, and the flavor is quite popular, particularly in the colder months.

The final similarity comes down to the preparation or each drink. Of course, both tea and coffee are considered to be extractions. The both use hot water to pull out certain aspects of the plant and leave some elements behind. The both control what is extracted with some type of filter. Of course when it comes to brewing both of these drinks, the time, temperature and ratios are important. I’ll leave the coffee explanations to a coffee expert, but I can briefly go through the brewing parameters for Japanese green tea. You want to use 5 grams of leaves and 150ml of water. The water should be more warm than hot, something in the region of 60-70 degrees celsius or 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can let the leaves sit in the water uninterrupted for 1 minute and then pour them out into a cup. The clay teapot you use should have a built in filter that prevents the leaves from getting into your cup.

Whether your a coffee drinker that wants to get into tea or a hardcore tea fan, we really recommend you sign up for our monthly tea club. Each month, we’ll send you our best teas from all over Japan at the best possible deal. We’ll also give you a free kyusu teapot so you can practice preparing these teas the traditional way. Thank you all so much for reading this article. If you have any questions about where to get started in the world of tea, please feel free to leave us a message in the comments below. Until then, we’ll see you next time.