A Coffee Lover's Guide to Tea

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For many Americans, the day hasn't started without drinking their beloved cup of coffee. This is true for 63% of U.S. adults who drink coffee every day, according to the National Coffee Associaton's 2019 National Coffee Drinking Trends report. Whether you like it with some cream and sugar or prefer it black, people need their cup — or two or three or even four — of joe. However, another hot drink has also gained mass popularity as the second most-consumed drink around the world — tea. As 62% of Americans agree on the importance of limiting their caffeine intake, more people are making the switch over to tea, which typically contains a significantly smaller amount of caffeine than coffee. Don't fear, die-hard coffee lovers, as the switch to tea isn't as hard as you may think.

Switching From Coffee to Tea

Thinking about trading your go-to coffee brew for a hot cup of tea may feel like a significant sacrifice if you never drink tea and rely on coffee to function. However, as time goes on, you may forget you were ever drinking up to four cups of coffee a day. If you're ready to make the switch, you could go about it one of two ways — quit cold turkey or gradually reduce your consumption. Since the World Health Organization considers caffeine an addictive substance, quitting cold turkey could be quite a challenge even though tea still contains caffeine. Coffee consumption makes up about 75% of the intake of caffeine by U.S. adults. Depending on how often you drink coffee, you may even experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms like headaches, irritability, nervousness or nausea. These symptoms can last for a week and start as soon as 12 hours to 24 hours after you stop consuming caffeine when you quit cold turkey.

An alternative way to make the switch from coffee to tea is to do it gradually. You can start slowly by replacing one cup of coffee a day with one cup of tea. After a few days, replace two cups of coffee with two cups of tea. A few days later, replace three, and so on, until you have successfully replaced your daily coffee intake with tea instead. You could also reduce the size of your coffee cup as the days go on. Making the switch doesn't have to be painful. Before you trade in some of your coffee mugs for teacups, however, you should be familiar with some tea basics so your transition doesn't seem drastic.

Tea Basics: What You Need to Know

If you're an avid coffee drinker, you already know the deal with coffee — you probably have a favorite roast, know exactly how much cream and sugar, if any, to use, and so on. But what if you hardly ever drink tea? Maybe you've had tea on fewer occasions than you can count on one hand. Don't worry. You'll form select tea preferences in no time.

All tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which comes in two main varieties — sinensis and assamica. The sinensis variety is found in China and is mostly used to make green and white tea. The assamica variety comes from India's Assam region and other regions of Southeast Asia and is used to create black teas, including Pu-erh teas. With thousands of components, tea is anything but simple. Some of the main active chemicals found in tea include flavonoids, caffeine, fluoride and theanine. Both coffee and tea also contain polyphenols, which are antioxidants many consider beneficial to your health.

Like coffee, all tea contains caffeine, although usually in smaller amounts, unless it was purposefully decaffeinated while being processed. Teas go through different processing methods, which results in various types of tea. Depending on how much oxidation the teas undergo during the processing, teas are divided into five main types — white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea and Pu-erh tea. Yellow tea is another type of tea. Still, due to production only in limited areas of China and low exports to other countries, yellow tea is much harder to find on the market and isn't as readily available as the other five main types.

1. White Tea

Compared to the other teas, white tea is typically the least-processed of them all. White tea comes from buds that haven't opened and young leaves. It takes about two or three days to make. White tea has some minor oxidation from its withering process, which takes two days, and then is baked and sorted, then baked again. It is light in color and considered one of the healthiest types of tea, as white tea contains higher concentrations of catechins and polyphenols due to minimal oxidation, which works to make your immune system stronger.

 

2. Green Tea

Green tea comes from unoxidized Camellia sinensis leaves that are a bit more mature than white tea leaves. In this process, the green tea leaves may be withered before any firing or steaming, then rolled and dried. Green tea is available in different shapes, such as flat, needlelike, rolled, twisted or curled. Green tea is also considered a healthy drink as it is also high in catechins, like white tea. However, catechins may vary and have different antioxidant abilities batch by batch due to the other non-catechin antioxidants the tea contains. Compared to other teas, green tea also has a shorter shelf life of about six months to eight months.

 

3. Oolong Tea

Oolong tea, sometimes called Wulong tea, uses mature leaves that go through a particular production process. These tea leaves are withered for some time and then bruised to get some polyphenol oxidase out of the leaves and to release more flavor during the oxidation process. Oolong teas are known to oxidize more than white or green teas, but not as long as black teas before they are heated and dried. For oolongs that are more lightly oxidized, they may be formed to resemble little shiny pellets while heavily oxidized oolongs may be shaped into dark and long twisted leaves. This tea is also known to help some with digestion, so it's sometimes used as a digestive drink to consume after you eat a meal.

 

4. Black Tea

Black tea is fully oxidized, and the tea leaves used to produce black tea are entirely rolled or broken to amplify the interactions between polyphenol oxidase and catechins during the fermentation process. The oxidation process results in a rich, full-bodied brew that is more brisk and malty. Black tea is also prevalent among the tea bag industry, where black tea is usually mixed with other types of tea and herbs to create the breakfast and afternoon blends you can find at the grocery store. Black tea tends to be many people's go-to tea, as 84% of the 3.6 billion gallons of tea Americans consumed in 2014 was black tea.

 

5. Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh tea is considered a post-fermented tea and is made of two main groups — raw or green and cooked or black. The cooked is black tea that has been fermented and the raw Pu-erh is green tea that has been fermented. After Pu-erh tea is processed, the leaves are steamed and pressed, then aged for some years before being sold. Since Pu-erh tea is exceptionally long-lasting, some people may opt to store Pu-erh tea blocks for decades as the flavors — which can be more earthy, chocolatey or woody — grow over time. However, you can also get loose-leaf Pu-erh tea as well. Pu-erh tea has microorganisms with probiotic properties to help with digestion, boost weight loss and promote a strong immune system.

What to Expect When You Make the Switch

You might be wondering how switching over to tea after being a longtime coffee connoisseur will affect you initially. Although both tea and coffee have caffeine, amounts vary and can even have different effects depending on the drink. With decreased caffeine intake, you could also be getting a better night's sleep. Finally, you may notice some physical changes for the better after you make the switch. Not that coffee has any significant adverse effects, but you may see your teeth gradually getting whiter or maybe even a less sensitive stomach when you swap it out for tea.

1. The Difference in Caffeine

Going from a mug of coffee to a mug of tea cuts your caffeine intake in about half, so you'd have to drink twice as much tea as you were drinking coffee to get around the same levels of caffeine. However, different kinds of teas have varying caffeine content, which can be impacted by things such as brewing time, how much tea and water were used to brew it and whether the tea is in teabags or is loose. Additionally, using buds or young leaves have been found to have more caffeine than older leaves. This means white teas may have higher caffeine content than green teas.

However, even if you do consume the same amount of caffeine from coffee as you do in tea, the psychostimulatory effects will be vastly different. The caffeine in tea, theine, sticks to other substances in the tea, whereas the caffeine in coffee beans is freer to move around. Since coffee's caffeine isn't bound like theine, the caffeine is more accessible for people to absorb, so the effects come on faster and more intense when you drink coffee. You may start to feel the effects of caffeine as soon as 15 minutes after consuming it. These effects may last up to six hours, so drinking tea instead of coffee could also affect your sleep.

2. A Better Night's Sleep

It can be easy to forget that you drank a cup of coffee in the afternoon until you are lying wide-eyed on your bed, 45 minutes past when you wanted to be asleep. Since the effects of tea's caffeine aren't the same as coffee, you can drink tea when you please, even if it is an hour before bedtime. Meanwhile, you should be mindful of any coffee consumption in the afternoon, as it could affect your sleep. The polyphenols, or antioxidants, in tea, can impact the way your body absorbs the caffeine over a more extended period, so you don't have to worry about drinking your tea at a specific time to avoid any adverse effects. Coffee can also contribute to restlessness if there's too much caffeine in your system, so drinking tea instead can help keep you relaxed come bedtime.

3. Physical Changes

Coffee can stain your teeth, especially if you consume multiple cups a day. Drinking tea — especially light teas like white or green tea — won't be as harsh on your enamel, and you may even start to see improvements in your teeth's brightness the longer you stick with tea. This is due to the fluoride tea plants accumulate. The older the tea leaves, the more fluoride they contain. Green teas, oolong teas and black teas have fluoride levels that are comparable to standards recommended to prevent dental cavities.

Coffee also has some ingredients that are known to irritate some drinkers' stomachs. Some substances in coffee could affect one's stomach by producing more gastric acid or feeding particular microorganisms in the intestinal track, which can create discomfort due to a growing bacterial population. Drinking tea instead could resolve some of these stomach issues, such as acid reflux. Tea has also been found to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol in adults. Since tea is a bit more hydrating than coffee, you may also see improvements in your skin and feel better overall.

Best Tea Flavors for Coffee Lovers

If you're diving into the world of tea but don't know where to start, don't worry — you're not alone. Although coffee and tea have their similarities, it can be challenging at first to find a tea that has everything you're looking for if you've never really had it. Don't be afraid to experiment with different types of teas until you find your new go-to. In the meantime, consider the following teas to make your transition over from coffee a little easier.

1. Teas by Function

If you're looking for tea to provide a specific effect, try some of these:

  • To wake you up: Try some breakfast teas to get you started in the morning, such as an English breakfast or Irish breakfast tea. These are typically a blend of black teas using the most potent leaves to produce a full-bodied, bold, malty taste to get you up and at 'em.
  • For an intense flavor: Try a tea such as Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong or Genmachai for a strong and unique flavor. Earl Grey is the most popular out of these three and has a mild flavor but distinctive taste that is scented with bergamot oil, adding a touch of delicateness.
  • For health and balance: Try an oolong tea. Oolong teas are a nice mix between the lighter-flavored green teas and the stronger black teas, making it a smooth and versatile tea that's easy to drink.
  • For an extra boost: On days where you need that extra push, try matcha — a powdered tea. Matcha is made from green tea leaves before it's milled into a powder and mixed with hot water by whisking away. With matcha, you are consuming the actual tea leaf, which is what makes the energy you get from matcha higher than that of the other teas.
  • Bonus tip: Keep your teas stored away from any light, hot air or strong smells to maximize its shelf life. Fresh teas should last you roughly two years, but teas with light oxidation tend to get stale faster.

2. Teas by Coffee Similarities

If you're looking for a tea that's similar to a coffee you already love, check out one of these:

  • For medium to dark roasted coffee lovers: Try a Pu-erh tea. Pu-erh teas are dark in color, resembling coffee and have earthy, rich notes that many would consider coffee-like, as well.
  • For medium roast coffee lovers: Try a black tea, oolong tea or white tea. If you gravitate toward medium roasts such as Costa Rican, consider an Assam-based breakfast tea for some rich flavors. If you typically drink brighter medium roasted coffee, such as a Panamian blend with a wide arrange of flavors, try an oolong tea. For coffee lovers who rely on their Ethiopian blend, a cup of white tea could hit the spot.
  • For people who love the clean and simple cup of coffee: If you lean toward a more mellow cup of coffee, like a Brazilian blend with nutty undertones, go with a green tea. You could even try Genmaicha, which is a type of Japanese green tea that uses roasted brown rice in the infusion process to create a stronger, nuttier flavor some describe as resembling that of popcorn.
  • For the flavored coffee lovers: If you're used to drinking flavored coffees, try a flavored tea or a tea with a strong scent for some extra flavor and aroma. For a boost of smell and some refreshing taste, try a mint tea. Maybe you like your coffee sweet. In this case, you could try a sweet ginger peach tea that will be bursting with flavor and works well hot or poured over ice as a refresher.
  • Bonus tip: If your tea tastes too bitter for your liking, reduce the steeping temperature. On the flip side, if your tea is too weak, add more tea leaves or increase the steeping time.

Explore Your Tea Options at Barnie's and Buy Today

Since the first store opening in 1980, Barnie's has been serving the bold, unique, flavorful coffee customers have grown to know and love. However, we understand that everyone needs to venture out of their comfort zone from time to time and try new things. If you're a coffee enthusiast looking for a new drink that's still bursting with flavor and as equally masterfully crafted as our coffee, try our teas. We offer both traditional and flavored blends sure to make your mouth water. No matter where your journey takes you, start and end your day with a fresh cup of tea. Check out our tea selection and buy now to get one step closer to deliciousness.