You have a lot of options when it comes to preparing your coffee, and fewer options for tea. Why is that? After all, they're both tasty drinks many of us use to kick off our mornings and relax during a busy day. Turns out, it all comes down to what flavours you're trying to get out of each plant.
Image from agirlwithtea.
What goes into the flavour of a cup of coffee or tea is a huge topic, so let's just dive into the differences between the brewing processes. The main difference in process is a result of which part of the plant we're processing since ground coffee beans are more water soluble than tea leaves.
Coffee is usually prepared by either drip brewing or immersion, and a variety of filters, grinds and containers are used to extract different flavour notes. Serious Eats explains the factors you can adjust to influence your coffee's taste:
...with the behaviour of the coffee's components in mind, we can control how our finished cup tastes by influencing the speed at which those solubles dissolve. We do that by playing with five major variables: ratio of coffee to water, size of the coffee grounds, brewing time, water temperature, and degree of agitation during brewing.
When it comes to tea, you pretty much have one option to extract flavour: Immersion (AKA steeping). Even though there are different kinds of pots or other steeping containers, filters and other accessories found in coffee brewing aren't frequently used. One reason for tea's simple brewing technique is that you want to give essential oils time to transfer from the leaf into the water so that you get the delicate flavours and aromas they contribute. You also want to give the tea leaf time to re-absorb water, and in cases where you're steeping full leaves, they need time to unfurl and expose more surface area.
Despite drinking three to five cups of tea a day, and watching my boyfriend prepare his coffee every morning, I never thought about why the brewing processes evolved to what they are and why they're so different. Knowing that I'll get a less tasty cup of tea (those essential oils add so much flavour!) if I rush the steeping process, I'm more motivated to give my drink the time it needs to brew.