Beverage Personalities:  Coffee People vs. Tea People

Beverage Personalities:  Coffee People vs. Tea People

Faced with a list of characteristics—for example, “bookish,” “reserved,” “conventional” and “meditative”—and asked whether this describes a tea drinker or a coffee drinker, which would you choose? How about if the descriptors were “tech-savvy,” “Bohemian” and “wired”? It seems clear that your preference of coffee or tea says a bit (or more) about you as a person; while there are exceptions to every rule, each beverage tends to attract a certain group of personality types. Consumption of both drinks is so thoroughly widespread it would be foolhardy to draw any hard and fast conclusions—and yet, patterns emerge.

In a recent work, entitled The World of Caffeine: The Science And Culture of The World’s Most Popular Drug, authors Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer claim that drinkers of coffee and tea exhibit very different—even opposite—personalities. Moreover, they seem to regard this specific question as a way to categorize life itself. Delving into music, citizenship, energy, attire and a host of basic traits, Weinberg and Bealer set the mood for each side of this most important equation:

Coffee vs. Tea

  • Male vs. female (in terms of Chinese philosophy, Yang vs. Yin)
  • Beethoven vs. Mozart
  • Casual vs. Formal
  • American vs. English
  • Morning vs. Afternoon
  • Excess vs. Moderation
  • Common vs. Refined
  • Extroverted vs. Introverted
  • Earthiness vs. Spirituality
  • Doing vs. Thinking

Of course, such observations are only generalities. But one can draw some factual conclusions based on the caffeine content of each beverage—tea has about 40% of the caffeine contained in a similar amount of coffee. Caffeine, the world’s most popular drug, acts as a stimulant on the brain and the body; thus, those who drink more of it are in pursuit of more stimulation and assistance in navigating the kinds of schedules and completing the kind of work that implies. In a way, this underscores the final comparison above: the levels of caffeine in coffee enable drinkers to do more things; the lower content in tea may allow those drinkers to think more clearly. Interestingly, this last notion may bear relevance to a U.K. study that found that coffee drinkers make more money than tea drinkers.

A Case of Custom

People within nations can be culturally more inclined to drink coffee or a tea as a country overall. England and China, while showing interest in coffee, are firmly “tea” countries; whereas Italy, the United States and Brazil—to name but a few—are very much in the “coffee” camp. This suggests that “coffee versus tea” is not solely at the whim of one person’s tastes, but is also a matter of custom.

The Influence of Genetics

However, it may not exactly be a personality trait that chooses tea over coffee (or vice versa). A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health identified six different regions of DNA that could be influential in selecting coffee over tea, possibly implying a genetic predisposition toward or away from caffeine. The assumption that everyone responds the same way to the same amount of coffee is now highly suspect; a choice for tea may have more to do with genes than once thought.


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