Coffee or tea?

Coffee and macaroon

Which is better for you, coffee or tea? Both contain that life-giving essence called caffeine, although the debate about caffeine’s benefits and risks has raged for centuries.

King Gustav III of Sweden was so convinced of the dangers of coffee that he devised an experiment which probably would not pass review today: he ordered that one condemned prisoner drink three pots of coffee every day, and another drink three pots of tea. He expected that the coffee drinker would die first, proving that tea was the far less dangerous beverage.

What does modern science tell us about the respective effects of coffee and tea on the body? A cup of brewed tea, of course, contains far less caffeine than a cup of coffee…which may be good or bad, depending on whether you want to wake up or relax. Drinking black tea may slightly lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of stroke. Despite thousands of years of traditional beliefs in the healing power of certain types of tea, none of them has been shown to have any measurable effect on human diseases as of 2015.

King Louis XV: coffee lover?

While tea has been known to and enjoyed by humankind for thousands of years, coffee is a relatively recent import from Turkey, where retreating Ottoman troops supposedly left behind troves of coffee beans after the Siege of Vienna in 1529. By the 18th century coffee was a popular drink all over Europe, and coffeehouses became a fashionable trend. King Louis XV of France was even said to personally serve coffee to select guests at gatherings hosted by his mistress. Madame du Pompadour. Coffee is beloved all over the world for its effect on the body’s metabolism – in moderate doses, it fends off fatigue and increases alertness. Think of how any great works of art, literature, music, science and philosophy might not have been accomplished without coffee. On the other hand, coffee can cause insomnia, shakiness, and even dependence (which again may not always be a bad thing).

By the way, both of the prisoners in King Gustav III’s experiment outlived the king himself, who was murdered at a masque in Stockholm in 1792. The first prisoner in the experiment later died at the age of  83. He was the tea-drinker.

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