Good for Hydration: Tea or Coffee?

tea or coffee better for hydration

The advice to drink “enough” fluid every day is confusing. We hear that eight 8-ounce glasses or more of water a day should be a goal, but what if you drink tea or coffee every day? Does that count? Is one beverage better than the other? Let’s sip on some infused water while we explore these questions.

Staying hydrated

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), about 20 percent of the fluid we take in every day comes from food and the rest from beverages. Generally, the NASEM recommends women get about 2.7 liters of fluid daily and men about 3.7 liters per day. Naturally, intake also depends on weight (a 95-lb woman needs less than one who weighs 160 lb), activity level, and life stage. You can refer to a hydration calculator to help you determine your specific needs.

Read about are you dehydrated? How dehydration affects health

In addition to water, many other beverages can count toward your daily fluid needs. Some of them include tea, coffee, sparkling water, milk and plant-based beverages, kombucha, and coconut water. Alcohol is dehydrating, so it doesn’t count as a fluid. Soda is a fluid and does count, but since it is an unhealthy choice we try and steer clear of it.

The 20 percent or so that you get from foods can come from a variety of sources. Many vegetables have a 90 percent or greater water content, and fruits are also high. Some of the top foods for hydration, ranging from those containing about 85 percent water to 96 percent, are apples, pineapples, oranges, carrots, peaches, broccoli, kale, honeydew, cantaloupe, soy milk, skim milk, strawberries, spinach, watermelon, zucchini, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, celery, iceberg lettuce, and cucumbers.

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Coffee vs tea

According to the NASEM, “caffeinated beverages can contribute as much as noncaffeinated options when it comes to counting fluids. But not everyone agrees. According to Catherine Waldrop, MD, coffee is not as hydrating as drinking a glass of water. “Because it acts as a diuretic, I would count coffee as about half as much liquid as it really is.” Therefore an 8-ounce cup of coffee counts as 4 ounces of fluid.

If you are concerned about caffeine, however, brewed regular tea contains less caffeine than brewed regular coffee plus it contains l-theanine which won't leave you jittery, and herbal teas typically are caffeine-free. Research shows that caffeine may not show its diuretic effects until you consume about 500 milligrams or more daily. That equals about 10 or more cups of caffeinated tea daily.

For the best hydrating benefits, therefore, herbal teas could be your best choice when considering coffees and teas, followed by decaf tea and coffee. Herbal teas are not made from tea leaves and so technically not teas, but they are made from dried flowers, roots, leaves, and seeds and are naturally free of caffeine. Therefore your cup of herbal tea can be counted the same as a cup of water for purposes of hydration.

Other benefits of tea

Numerous health benefits have been attributed to both hot and cold regular teas and herbal teas. Black, green, white, and oolong teas contain potent antioxidants called catechins that may help decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health issues.

Read about drink a cup of tea for your heart

Research shows, for example, that the polyphenols (plant compounds) in green tea can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 22 percent. Drinking three or more cups of green or black daily can reduce the risk of stroke by 21 percent. Herbal teas can provide a wide range of health benefits, depending on the tea you choose.

And then there’s water

Yes, water is the best hydrating fluid you can drink. Remembering to drink throughout the day is challenging for many people, so we suggest you bring an eco-friendly water bottle with you to work, in your car, to school, and on errands. If regular water is too boring for you, add lemon or lime slices, strawberries, or mint to liven it up. If you want to bypass the work of cutting up fruit, you can try Bigelow Botanicals Cold Water Infusions, which puts all the fruity goodness into one convenient infusion tea bag that you can add to your cold water.

Bottom line

Staying well-hydrated is essential for overall health. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to function properly. Even a 2 percent decline in hydration can cause symptoms such as mental confusion, weakness, dry mouth, fatigue, heart palpitations, headache, and dark urine. Know your fluid needs and follow them by drinking water, choosing tea over coffee at least part of the time, and eating foods high in water.

Arab L et al. Green and black tea consumption and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis. Stroke 2009 May; 40(5):1786-92.
Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more. Mayo Clinic 2022 Apr 6
Kennedy K. Does tea count as a fluid? Everyday Health 2021 Oct 8
Kennedy K. Hydration calculator: How much water do you need to drink a day? Everyday Health 2022 Jun 30
Killer SC et al. No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake: a counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS One 2014 Jan 9; 9(1):e84154.
Moore A. Do coffee & tea count as water? MDs spill the (surprising) answer. MindBodyGreen 2020 Nov 18
Report sets dietary intake levels for water, salt, and potassium to maintain health and reduce chronic disease risk. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2004 Feb 11
Sun CL et al. Green tea, black tea and breast cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. Carcinogenesis 2006 Jul; 27(7):1310-15.
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Lisa Roth Collins is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and is the Marketing Manager at She is passionate about health and wellness and tries her best to make healthier choices every day for herself and her family. Her journey to natural health was driven by her own struggles with digestive discomfort, depression, and anxiety. Lisa returned to school in 2014 to study nutrition at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition. She threw herself into her studies so she could learn as much as she could to help herself feel better and thrive. Upon completing the program and being certified as an RHN, Lisa began her work at Naturally Savvy where she has been able to help so many people learn to make healthier choices for themselves. Through her work, she has connected with so many incredible people in the industry whether other authors, influencers, or brands. Plus, she is affectionately known as "Techie Spice" because of her ability to wrap her head around technology. Every day she gets up with a renewed sense of energy and ready to make a difference. You can read all of Lisa's content here. In her spare time, Lisa loves to try new recipes, make delicious and nourishing meals, and she is an avid reader. For more information about Lisa, check out her profile on here.