Coffee or tea for thee?


If you’re looking for a mix of coffee drinkers and tea drinkers, Saipan is one of the world’s more exotic examples. So here’s the latest from the coffee-or-tea front: According to a Sept. 1 article in the U.K. Daily Mail, tea offers some health benefits that coffee doesn’t.

The article featured a study that was based on looking at some health and tea- and coffee- consumption habits for 131,401 people.

That’s just one article, and one study, among many, so I’m offering it as an item of current interest, not as the final word on anything.

As for conventional wisdom, I think most people, even coffee drinkers, would say that green tea is a healthy choice, but I don’t know where, or even if, science will ever draw the line on this.

Me, I’m usually lined up for coffee simply because I grew up with it and I like it.

Paradoxically enough, having a taste for coffee sometimes drives me into the arms of tea because in much of the world you can’t get a decent cup of coffee. Nothing is worse than bad coffee. It’s positively demoralizing.

One of Abraham Lincoln’s more famous quotes is, “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.” In my book, this rates second only to “Where’s the bathroom?” when learning phrases in a foreign language.

The Pew Research Center posted some interesting coffee and tea data in 2013.

Eye-balling that information, if I had to settle on a global line of demarcation for coffee vs. tea, Finland would be a good candidate. West of that longitude, coffee is the generally the brew of choice. This includes western Europe and the Americas, with Great Britain being a notable exception. East of that longitude, tea is usually the winner. This includes Russia and Asia, though I’ll note that the Philippines is one exception. But I’m not going to tally all the exceptions, I’m just looking at the general layout, and in that regard it’s a fairly clear split.

As for Africa, the data is a bit sparse, but coffee and tea are both represented.

Globally, according to Pew’s information, in terms of cups consumed, tea surpasses coffee. However, in terms of pounds produced globally, coffee outweighs tea by almost a two-to-one margin. A cup of tea requires less weight of product than a cup of coffee does.

If you added up all the coffee and tea consumed in the world, it came to about 29 billion pounds for the year 2011.

Well, for today we’ve drained this topic to the bottom of the cup, so I’ll just stir around some stray items.

On the tea front, one item is that in Chinese, black tea is called “red” tea. Well, China should know; it is by far the world’s largest producer of tea.

Black tea and green tea come from the same basic type of plant. The difference is a function of how the leaves are processed after harvesting.

I have no idea how to properly prepare tea. All I know is that whatever I do it’s invariably wrong, so I let my friends handle those chores. After all, I’m the kind of guy who would serve single-malt Scotch in a “Smash Up Derby 1983 Championship” beer mug, so I’m not nearly qualified to deal with the nuances of fine tea preparation.

On the coffee front, however, they’ve got stuff that not even I can screw up. An American company called Keurig has hit the jackpot with a line of high-tech, single-serving coffee makers. The coffee comes in a little cartridge about the size of a golf ball. The cartridge is loaded into the machine, a button is pushed and, instant-presto, you’ve got a fresh cup of coffee. These machines are at the luxury end of the spectrum, costing from $75 to $150 and more, but they prevent the scourge of coffee stewing on the burner and getting funky.

There are a lot of things that come and go in life, but coffee and tea are two constants. Saipan is doing its share to contribute to the billions of pounds of annual consumption.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

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