You’re either a “tea pot” or a “coffee addict” – why?

by Carmen Visser

While there are many different hot beverages to choose from, tea and coffee are the most popular two. You are either a tea or a coffee person; few enjoy both. The simple reason for this preference is your genes. Your genes decide whether you are a ‘tea pot’ or a ‘coffee addict’.

Before diving into your tea or coffee preferring genes, here is the history of tea and coffee.


The invention of this brewed beverage occurred about 5000 years ago in Ancient China. Chinese legend states that leaves from a wild tree fell into boiling water. Captivated by the lovely scent, Emperor Shen Nong tasted the tea and fell in love.

While tea was first used for medicinal properties, many in China soon began drinking it as a daily beverage. From there, tourists visiting China and Japan took the idea back home and China gave a Russian Tsar (ruler) tea as a gift. Overall, the creation spread and was soon after transported all around the world.

Today, many different tea plants provide a range of exciting tea flavours (and colours!). There are also several ways in which we make tea and the ingredients we add to it, like sugar and milk. The basic method has not changed though – we still brew our tea leaves in hot water.

“Preparing tea” – Image by author


The invention of coffee is not as straight forward as tea. There are several legends about its’ discovery – none of which are considered fact or history.

One of the most popular legends is that of Kaldi, an Ethiopian goat herder. After noticing that his goats had high energy levels after eating the berries of a certain bush, Kaldi tried the bean-containing berries. He became as active and lively as his goats. A monk passing nearby noticed this interaction and picked some berries for himself and his brothers. From there, the idea of energy enhancing berries spread over the Red Sea.

In Arabia, the beans found in these cherry-coloured berries were roasted and brewed into coffee. The Arabians and Ethiopians kept their find quiet, even resorting to the sale of infertile beans. Baba Budan smuggled beans, strapped around his belly, from Arabia and inspired a new agriculture expansion in Europe.

Today, hot beverages which contain coffee form a long list, including instant coffee, filtered coffee, cappuccino, expresso, latte and americano. A type of coffee drink for each caffeine addict.

“Coffee capsules” – Image by author

Tea or coffee?

A new study has shown that the preference of either tea or coffee is based on bitter taste receptors, located within taste buds on the tongue. Caffeine and quinine are bitter tasting compounds found in tea and coffee. Bitter taste receptors result in the natural enjoyment of either tea or coffee due to their bitter tasting compounds.

If you have bitter taste receptors for quinine, you are likely to love tea. This is mainly because your taste buds are more sensitive to the taste and texture of caffeine. In comparison, if you have bitter taste receptors for caffeine, you are likely to love coffee instead.

The question now is what determines whether your taste buds prefer caffeine or quinine. A study on diverse tastes suggests that our bitter taste receptors may come from our parents and other family members. These receptors will also determine the flavours of juice we prefer and the types of alcohol we enjoy.

Since we can inherit our beverage deciding genes from our parents, it is unsurprising that other taste buds can also be inherited. DNAfit explains that the PTC gene is passed down through genetics. This gene determines whether or not you can taste a certain bitter substance and was discovered in 1931.

However, these genes do not promise your preferred taste. Although you might find it naturally enjoyable to drink coffee, due to your bitter taste receptors for caffeine, you could find yourself becoming a tea person over time. Learning to enjoy a different taste is a normal change and growing step for adults.

Over the years, tea and coffee have also dived into different food and drink markets. Some of these include coffee milkshakes, iced coffee, iced tea and even coffee chocolates. One thing is for sure, tea and coffee have always been and will always be the most popular hot beverages.

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