I am fully aware that this title, in and of itself, will detract and even disgust some readers. For many, coffee versus tea is like dogs versus cats — or life versus death! Asking a coffee drinker to abandon his/her life-giving elixir could be seen, in some circles, as blasphemous. However, this article is not about abandoning that which you love; I promise. Rather, it is a personal testimony of the power of open-mindedness and all the joys it can bring!
Flash back ten years to when I was just graduating from college, starting out my professional life, and drinking about a pot of coffee every day. In fact, one of my coworkers and I took a trip to Walmart specifically to buy travel coffee mugs that could hold our 48 ounces of requisite coffee and keep it warm until we could drink it all. Granted, we were both first year teachers at the time, so there is some context as to why so much coffee was necessary. Anyway, one fateful day I woke up with blurred vision, impaired speech, and lack of feeling in my fingers, toes and mouth.
Of course, this was very alarming, and I had a friend take me to urgent care to see what was happening. The doctors ruled this as a panic attack, caused by high stress and anxiety (first year teacher, remember), gave me some calming medication, and sent me on my way. Days went by and I felt better and I almost forgot about the episode until it happened again one morning while I was with my students. I had to amble down to the office and find a ride home, all while wondering what in the world these episodes were.
Fast forward a few years, working at a different job, and I would still sporadically suffer from these strange fits of crazy symptoms that I had come to refer to as my panic attacks. However, at this point in my life, there was no stress or anxiety that would be causing this to happen, so I began talking about it with friends and family to try to discover the cause. A few friends as well as my mom all immediately pointed to migraines.
My mom has suffered from migraines her entire life, but I only ever knew of them as her headaches, and this issue was certainly not a little headache. Luckily, she set me straight by detailing all of the symptoms she experienced under the cute little euphemism of “headache” while I was a kid, and 90% of these matched my experience. She told me about all of the triggers that she had, and warned specifically about coffee. Up to this point, I hadn’t really connected the two, and had continued to consume copious amounts of coffee every day. Otherwise, I was a very healthy person, eating well and exercising frequently.
So about three years ago, (yes, it took some time before I was ready) I decided to cut down on the coffee — and I mean really cut down. Over the next sixth months, I weaned myself down from about 48 ounces of coffee each day to only 12 ounces, or one mug a day. Was I worried that my energy would plummet? Absolutely. Did it plummet? No, quite the opposite—I actually had more energy throughout the day. I started sleeping better, exercising more intensely, and had fewer mood swings. I credit this shift not only to the removal of so much coffee, but also to the addition of tea!
By continuing to allow myself one cup of coffee each morning, I didn’t have to lose the ritual that I love of brewing coffee. Furthermore, I am still able to take advantage of the rich antioxidants that coffee provides me, not to mention the boost in exercise output from the immediate kick of caffeine.
However, throughout the day I switched to tea. Everyone knows green tea has amazing health benefits, from increasing metabolism to staving off diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. Green tea also has some caffeine in it. The caffeine content is far less than a cup of coffee, and the effects of it are felt in more of a time-released way than that of coffee, so you don’t feel the mania and crashes nearly as much. Instead, green tea provides a steady energy for a few hours.
Furthermore, the health benefits of green tea helped to keep my anxiety and stress in check much more than coffee did. I also drink a lot of herbal tea during the afternoon and evening. Herbal tea is another fantastic alternative to a sweetened, coffee pick-me-up in the afternoons because it has neither caffeine nor sugar, but can provide a nice kick of flavor during that post-lunch napping time. With herbal tea, you can pick and choose what flavors and benefits you want. I personally love herbal teas with ginger, turmeric, fennel, peppermint, and lavender, because all of these ingredients have extra health benefits.
Ginger tea is a great way to aid digestion and give yourself a spicy kick in the afternoon. Peppermint and fennel are also great for digestion, with different flavors to enjoy. Lavender is great for relaxation after a stressful day, and turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties for anyone suffering from injuries or illness.
With tea, you can mix and match flavors, too. I like to combine green tea with herbal ginger tea in the summer to make an iced tea concentrate that I can keep in the refrigerator all week for a relaxing and rejuvenating beverage after a long work day. This leads to the real benefit here, which is that all of these great flavors and combinations are simultaneously hydrating you, which gives you more energy and an overall “feel good” vibe. Conversely, with the diuretic properties that coffee has, drinking it all day will actually dehydrate your body, causing several unwanted side effects.
After a few years of this shift, I’ve really come to rely on tea as a refreshing and tasty alternative to drinking all that coffee. My migraines have decreased substantially in both frequency and intensity, making it much easier to continue life while experiencing one. Furthermore, I’m more hydrated during the day, which was another key trigger for my migraines. Best of all, my one cup of coffee in the morning gives me so much more of the caffeine kick I seek than it ever did when I was constantly drowning myself in it. By weaning myself off of the constant caffeine drip I was administering, I’m more sensitive to smaller amounts of caffeine, which now have a more positive effect on my overall health.
Although unrelated to health, another key bonus of the switch has been the financial savings. When I was drinking up to two pounds of coffee beans each week, my habit added up fast. This sometimes led me to choose cheaper beans, which inevitably have fewer positive health benefits. Tea, on the other hand, is substantially more affordable, and lasts much longer, depending on what you’re into. For me, the gradual shift has been a very positive one for my health, my relationships, and my wallet.
If you are trying to make the shift, don’t be so hard on yourself. You don’t have to go cold coffee! Gradually replace your coffee with tea until you reach a point that makes you happy. Freshly brewed, black coffee has its own benefits, but sometimes too much of a good thing can go bad. Rather than seeing the options as one or the other, think about developing a happy medium that will be the best for your overall health.