Coffee or tea: Which one is boosting or sabotaging your productivity?

by Kelly Lowe
Coffee or tea

Warm, caffeinated beverages have become a staple accompaniment to worker’s lives all over the world. With the move to working remotely, many people’s routines may have changed. But it’s almost guaranteed that their beverage consumption hasn’t. 

Whether you prefer coffee or tea, chances are you are one of the millions who claim they can’t get through a full day of work without a sizable dose of caffeine in your system. 

The adult population has become extremely reliant on the use of caffeine to fuel their production levels. Coffee has become a staple pick me up, and it’s an integral part of every working day. The fact that people can suffer from withdrawal symptoms when not drinking it speaks volumes. 

But is this energy-inducing substance really the answer to unlocking our productivity potential? 

Well, that depends on how much you are consuming. Both coffee and tea contain wildly different amounts of caffeine. Plus, the way different bodies respond to the chemical varies dramatically. 

So is coffee or tea the smarter option when it comes to safe caffeine consumption. And is it possible that one of the two could in fact be sabotaging our productivity levels rather than supporting them

Let’s spill the beans (or tea leaves!).

Deconstructing Coffee: What’s in it for Your Body?

“Even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.”
– David Lynch

An average of 64% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee a day, and 120 million bags of coffee beans are globally manufactured every year. These numbers make it plain to see that this beverage is a part of an international daily ritual. 

Coffee is full of caffeine, with every cup containing up to 40g of the naturally energizing chemical. Energy is important for focus and productivity, but at what point does the high content of caffeine in coffee do more harm than good?

Look at How Coffee Affects You

The Brain

When consumed, caffeine travels to the brain and prevents the production of a neurotransmitter called adenosine. 

Adenosine is a critical neurochemical that causes natural tiredness. It helps us to wind down as night draws near and promotes sleep at a healthy hour. 

The more caffeine you have in your system, the harder it is for adenosine to build up, blocking any signals of drowsiness from occurring. Caffeine also promotes the production of dopamine and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters that cause alertness and focus).

These reasons are why those who do remote or office work rely so heavily on coffee. This quickly activated stimulant for concentration certainly does the trick. 

The Bloodstream

Coffee enters the bloodstream within 20 minutes, causing blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure to rise. 

This is why consumers report faster heart rate, a dizzy or spinning sensation, and sometimes heart palpitations. Large doses of caffeine affect the internal organs, speeding up the digestive process and increasing metabolism. 

The Mind

If you think that drinking coffee makes you feel happier, you’d be right. Scientists have proven that coffee stimulates the release of dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical that triggers a feeling of euphoria. 

When you drink a cup of coffee, there’s a psychological reaction that tells you you’re feeling better, brighter, and happier. This feeling is something every worker wants, especially in the morning or when battling with a tricky problem.  

Caffeine is linked to a lower rate of depression and has the same effects as a mild antidepressant. With remote workers battling new challenges in the pandemic’s wake, this attribute is certainly a positive one. 

The Pros of Coffee

In a nutshell, there are several pros of coffee:

  • Improves energy levels
  • Enhances focus
  • Acts as a mood booster
  • Reduces feelings of depression 
  • Increases metabolism
  • Reduces feelings of sluggishness

Any natural substance that boosts positivity is surely a good thing for productivity. Right? 

The answer is yes, but there’s a caveat… 

How Much Coffee Is Too Much?


The New England Journal of Medicine study suggests that moderation is the safest approach to take with caffeine consumption. 

Research found that 400 mg is the recommended daily intake amount for healthy adults. 400 mg of caffeine is equivalent to five 8-ounce regular cups of coffee, which is more than adequate for the average adult.

Consuming over 400 mg of caffeine per day can cause disorders like insomnia, anxiety, and heart dysfunction. None of which support being productive. 

Let’s take a closer look at how each of these conditions has a negative effect on productivity:


A lack of sleep has a negative impact on productivity as it hampers performance. It’s impossible to perform at your optimum if you’re sluggish, tired, and lack focus. 

Insomnia sufferers struggle to concentrate, battle to communicate, and their problem-solving abilities diminish. Plus, they are also prone to memory lapses. 


COVID has already added to our anxiety. If we pour too much coffee on this, it’s a recipe for disaster. 

Anxiety can impact productivity in that it causes fear. This fear results in a freezing action, where people simply become unable to function. In a remote work environment where there are already feelings of tension due to uncertainty and change, anxiety is heightened. 

Anxiety also affects our ability to focus. Focusing is at the root of being productive, and a lack thereof leads to procrastination.

Heart dysfunction

This seems somewhat obvious. If you’re suffering from heart issues, you cannot work. Too much caffeine can exacerbate heart issues, and this leads to workers requiring time off to rest and recuperate. 

More Than Just Caffeine: Talking About Tea

“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.”
– William Ewart Gladstone

Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage of all time. With a caffeine content of just 11 mg per cup, you could consume up to 36 cups of tea a day without going over the recommended 400 mg caffeine quota. 

In this way, it would make sense for tea to be the recommended beverage for those needing to boost their personal productivity levels. However, because of the reduced caffeine dose per cup, the results will be less effective. 

The mild caffeine content that a cup of tea provides may feel too weak for those who have a high tolerance for caffeine. Or, if someone is looking for a noticeable pick me up, the lack of buzz is an issue. 

The Pros of Tea 


There are many types of tea in the world. But the ones with the most notable amounts of caffeine in them are black tea and green tea. 

Contrary to coffee, tea is actually known for lowering blood pressure and being a source of critical flavonoids and antioxidants. 

Low Blood Pressure = Lower Stress Levels = Good For Productivity

How many times have we said or heard the words this is giving me high blood pressure? If tea does the opposite and lowers your blood pressure, it stands to reason, it’s good for productivity

In the workplace, stress is a productivity killer. It reduces engagement, negatively affects focus, leads to fatigue, and causes an overall decrease in enthusiasm. 

In a remote work environment, stress can have other knock-on effects, especially when communication is all virtual. Stressed employees struggle to communicate, and this leads to the degradation of relationships. 

If tea lowers blood pressure, it goes a long way towards reducing feelings of stress.

Health Benefits of Tea

Many of the benefits that come with drinking tea have more to do with the herbs and plants they come from as opposed to the caffeine itself. These are just some teas that offer health benefits that will boost your productivity:

Black Tea

Black tea contains a mix of caffeine and L-theanine, an amino acid that improves alertness. This tea is often seen as a better alternative to coffee as it provides a more stable energy source. 

Jasmine Tea

This tea contains an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter that puts you in a good mood. This reduces stress levels and makes you feel more alert and energized. 

Ginseng Tea

Asian ginseng tea is energy inducing. It helps promote energy and fights fatigue, and regular drinkers often see improvements in memory and mood. 

Peppermint Tea

As a caffeine-free alternative, peppermint tea improves concentration and energy levels. It also enhances sleep quality, reducing the chance of insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Green Tea

Green tea has a huge effect on brain function, cognition, and mood. It influences psychopathological symptoms due to its caffeine and l-theanine content. This means that anxiety reduces, memory gets a boost, and brain function and energy levels increase. It offers a different buzz, but one that’s noticeable.

Teas Effect On the Brain, Body and Mind

 Unlike coffee, tea’s effects are far milder, even when drunk in excess. You won’t suffer from jitters, anxiety, or heart issues just from drinking too much tea. The worst you’ll feel is a bit nauseous, or an increased need to urinate.

None of these effects are going to hamper productivity drastically. But that’s not to say tea doesn’t have a physiological and psychological effect on you.

Tea And The Brain

Depending on the type of tea you drink, it will have some effect on the brain. 

As you see in the above examples, different types of tea affect the brain in various ways. Overall, they tend to stimulate brain function and boost memory—both of which are essential for maintaining productivity levels.

Tea Effect on the Body

Thanks to its calming effects, tea makes your body relax. However, the caffeine content in most teas still gives you enough of a buzz to keep you alert, rather than leading to drowsiness. In tea that has no caffeine this buzz is absent, but the feeling of wellbeing a warm cup offers still adds value.

In a stressful environment, a cup of tea can do wonders. There’s a reason people who have suffered a shock are given tea. 

… and the mind

Which brings us to the psychological effect of tea.

So many people see tea as a comforting drink rather than one that will wake you up and energize you. As we all face uncertainty and battle to bring about a work-life balance in the new normal, tea is a great mood booster. 

While it may not give you the same energy boost as a strong Americano or a shot of espresso, it has a more long-lasting effect—one of well-being. 

Tea can also promote healthy sleeping patterns. A good night’s sleep is an excellent productivity booster, as you’ll perform at your optimum when you’re well rested and relaxed. 

Studies have shown that remote work can affect the quality of sleep, making tea an excellent choice for anyone battling to get enough shut-eye.  

The Downside of Tea

From a health perspective, tea is significantly better for the body than coffee. However, its downfall is the fact that it contains far less caffeine. This is what people are after when they reach for a caffeinated beverage…

Despite the small presence of caffeine, many people find drinking tea to be a soothing or calming process rather than a productive, focus-oriented one. 

From this perspective, it makes more sense for those struggling to focus on work to grab something with a higher caffeine dose. 

Coffee or Tea: Which is the Better Beverage? 

This is a tough question, and it’s one only you can answer.

Choosing which beverage best supports your productivity levels will depend on your workstyle and state of health. If you have a high tolerance for caffeine and are prepared to consume under 400 mg per day, coffee is likely to be a good match for you. 

However, if your body struggles to process caffeine or you suffer from the negative side effects of high caffeine consumption, coffee is not a wise choice. Instead, it’s a far better idea to substitute your morning cup of Java with several steaming cups of green tea. 

Either way, your body will receive an adequate amount of stimulating caffeine that fortifies your focus reserves and lets your productivity levels soar. 

In the era of remote work, this is all you need. 

Wrapping It Up

As we acclimatize to working remotely, we may face new challenges and added distractions. We don’t need to compound these by killing our productivity. 

Changing up the way you function while you work from home may be as simple as swapping one beverage for another. Or reducing your coffee intake and upping your cups of tea. 

If you know the facts, you can choose what you drink wisely.

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