Are you a tea person or a coffee person? When you wake up in the morning, do you often joke about feeling like you aren't even alive until you've had your first cup of joe? Do you like to sip on a nice warm cup of fragrant green tea? Which one is your go-to beverage when you need that infusion of caffeine?
All too often, it seems as though we are forced to choose, one or the other. But what if we told you that you don't have to?
No, we don't mean just drinking them both throughout the day. Sure, plenty of people wake up with a cup or two of coffee and drink tea throughout the day to steady their nerves and keep them calmer. Many people drink both. What we're talking about is mixing the two together.
Wait, what? People DO that? We were surprised too! Turns out, though, it's actually pretty good, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The Origins of the Beverage
While both coffee and tea are beverages that have been consumed for centuries, mixing the two is a relatively modern invention. There's actually some dispute over where it came from, and it's possible that it was "invented" more than once, independently.
In Hong Kong, the beverage was invented with a Chinese inspiration and is known as Yuenyeung. It was invented for a restaurant, with the owner of the said restaurant claiming to have invented the combination way back in 1952. There's no real proof that this is true, but it's one of the oldest accounts of the combo.
In the west, mixing tea and coffee has been found in several countries, but is primarily associated with the Dutch as a particular serving method. It's often found under the name Coff-Tea or Tea-Espresso.
Elsewhere, Peter Andre, a singer from London, claims to have invented the combination, though his "invention" comes a full 50 years after the Hong Kong invention. Many others have also come forward over the years, one claimed they saw the beverage invented by a nun in 1936.
In all cases, the beverage has been around and been served under many names for a long time. In Malaysia, it is known by the name Kopi Cham. In Ethiopia, it is known as 'Spreeze'. Even Starbucks has given the combo a try, in the Hong Kong market.
So, what's the point? Other than mixing the two beverages, do you get anything special out of it?
The Benefits of Mixing Tea and Coffee
Let's look at coffee. Coffee is full of known health benefits. The antioxidants, tannins, and flavonoids in the beverage are responsible for all manner of benefits. Caffeine gives you energy, antioxidants help fight off diseases, and the other nutrients are beneficial in other ways. People use it for energy, to help burn fat, and for a range of other boosts. Be sure to check out our coffee blend for similar benefits!
Now, look at tea. The plant is full of a similar range of ingredients, caffeine, phytonutrients with various health benefits, and more.
Both beverages have numerous studies that have been performed over the years proving their health benefits. Drinking these over the long term – assuming no other confounding factors – gives you a host of lifelong benefits. They reduce the risk of certain diseases, they help keep you feeling youthful, and they give you a constant supply of energy.
Together, they augment one another. You get the health benefits of both, and the same amount of caffeine, for the same boost of energy.
The Issue of Bitterness
Both tea and coffee can be bitter. So why would anyone enjoy combining them into an even more bitter drink?
The fact is, both of them are bitter in different ways. Their bitterness complements and cancels each other out. You end up with some unique flavor profiles that you can't find anywhere else.
There's also the fact that the bitterness of both beverages comes from how they are prepared, and it's entirely possible to minimize bitterness before drinking if you prepare them right.
Green tea is bitter naturally, but it's less bitter when it is prepared at a slightly lower temperature and not steeped as long. Green tea gets more bitter when the water is boiled first, and it gets more bitter when it is steeped for a long time. A highly bitter green tea might have more health benefits leeched out of the leaves, but that becomes more of a health tonic than a drink.
Coffee, meanwhile, is all about the roast. A dark roast of low-quality coffee beans is what many people think of when they think of coffee. This is easy to mass-produce and can hide imperfections in the quality of the coffee. Additionally, when coffee is ground before it is stored, it loses a lot of its potency. You're left with the remnants, while all the best flavors evaporated into that delicious smell.
If you're careful with coffee, by buying high-quality whole beans in a light roast, and grinding them yourself before you brew a cup, you're going to have a much better, more transcendent experience with your coffee.
The truth is, there's a lot more to mixing coffee and tea than just pouring both into a cup and calling it a day.
Adulterations in the Formula
People love to add things to both tea and coffee. Tea blends are more common than pure green tea by a long shot. There are hundreds of different plants that can be brewed into tea, for health and nutritional benefits as well as for flavor. They can lend their own flavors to empower, mask, or change the flavor of the tea at the core.
While the primary combination of tea and coffee just uses a green or black tea, you can accentuate the flavor using other kinds of teas. Mint tea can add a bit of a kick to the combo. Ginger and lemon can make it a more digestive concoction. There are tons of options, and you're free to explore them all.
On the coffee side of things, unfortunately, it becomes clear that many people who claim they like coffee don't actually like coffee. They pour so much milk, sugar, creamer, and flavoring syrups into their coffees that it's like drinking a milkshake instead.
Now, don't get us wrong; those are delicious. They're just not coffee. And sure, a little bit of chocolate can have health benefits of its own, but not when mixed in the quantities we're talking about here. You're not going to buy a rainbow frappe from Starbucks and get any reasonable health benefits out of it.
When we talk about mixing coffee and tea, we're talking about pure coffee and pure tea. You can add a little bit of something to tone it down and add flavor – a bit of coconut oil, a bit of a different tea, a bit of creamer – but you want to keep your beverage as healthy as possible.
Picking the Right Tea
We talk about green tea, but any of the core "teas" work. By that, we mean the 'Camellia Sinensis' plant itself. Green tea, white tea, and black tea are all good options.
For a seamless blend with the most flavor to compete with the powerful taste of coffee, we recommend using ground leaves instead of flakes. In other words, something similar to matcha, not your traditional tea bags.
As for coffee, pick your favorite. If you want to use instant coffee, that's fine. If you want to use your Aeropress to brew the perfect cup of lightly roasted, home-ground civet cat coffee, you're free to do that too. The coffee is very important, but it's the strongest base flavor in the beverage, so it's not going to be as important as the subtle flavors the tea brings.
Most of the time (though not all of the time), a coffee-tea blend beverage will use some kind of milk as a base. Normal cow's milk is fine, but you might also want to try milk with a core flavor like almond milk. Your favorite soy milk, cashew milk, or other milk substitute works fine too. You have flexibility here! Just don't add too much, you don't want to eliminate the health benefits of your beverage.
That's it! Brew up some coffee, brew up some tea, mix the two with a bit of milk, stir, and enjoy. Everything else? Well, that comes down to fine-tuning.
How to Fine Tune the Drink
So how do you go about tuning the beverage into something you want to enjoy? You can tune it in a lot of different ways.
Adjust the balance. Start by adjusting how much coffee, how much tea, and how much milk you add. We start with a 1:1:1 ratio for it, but you can adjust for flavor balance within your cup. Some people prefer more tea, some like more coffee, and some want more milk. It's really up to you.
Use a flavored tea. Various flavored teas can go well with this beverage. Black tea, with various spices, is a time-honored option, and makes what we all know as a "dirty chai". Citrus teas can give a strange and potent kick to the coffee, while mint gives it a bit of an almost peppery mouthfeel. Just make sure to think about how flavor profiles might mix, because coffee can make a few kinds of flavors unpalatable.
Adjust the type of coffee. Using different kinds of coffee will give you different kinds of results. A lighter roast and a darker roast will make a different resulting beverage. Using a shot of espresso instead of a full brewed coffee can be very tasty and more potent, but also harder to work with due to bitterness. A lot of this comes down to personal preference and the kind of coffee you want to prepare.
Add an extra. A little bit of flavored syrup, candied sugar, or a sweetener can help liven up the beverage. Just remember not to add too much! Adding a bunch of sugar and flavoring to your beverage removes the health benefits from it.
Try it iced. Iced chai, iced tea, iced lattes; coffee goes good cold as well as hot. You can get a different flavor profile out of both coffee and tea when you brew them cold, and a lot of people find they prefer the combination more when it's cold than they do when it's hot.
Try something more exotic. There are a few more esoteric options you can try, though they might be more like the kinds of things you get at an Asian food court than a homemade option. For example, bubble tea isn't usually something most of us make at home, but adding those little boba pearls to a dirty chai can be delicious. Here are a few ideas.
Brew your tea directly in the coffee. Some people just mix the two by brewing one in already-brewed other. This isn't your traditional beverage, but there's nothing wrong with it.
So here's the thing; the mixture of coffee and tea is very flexible. Just about everyone who has "invented" the combo, whether it was in the 1950s or last week on Instagram, has their own combination. A lot of people don't like it. Some people do but have a very particular kind of mixture they use. Some are open to anything and like both at all times.
We'd like to ask you what you like. Have you tried out mixing coffee and tea? If so, how did you do it? A simple 1:1 mixture, with or without milk? Did you use herbal-infused teas? Spiced teas? What about coffee; what kind of coffee did you use, and how did you prepare it?
Tell us all about your coffee and tea adventures in the comments below. We'd love to hear what you have to say! Give us your recipes, even if you didn't really like them, and tell us how you liked them. Other people can experiment and try them too, and we can all learn a little bit more about this combination together.