Whenever I meet up with my best friend to catch up over a drink after a long week of work at the office, we’ll inadvertently get into an argument about which beverage is better: coffee or tea. As a staunch coffee lover, I have to admit that it hurts just a little, when someone you care for viciously insults your morning lifeline with no hesitation. And as I am a firm believer in defending what’s right, I’d fire back about her sorry excuse of caffeine for tea, and we’d be right back at where we started; unable to compromise on the goodness of either coffee or tea.

Just because I think tea, in any shape of form, is infinitely inferior to coffee, doesn’t mean I’m right.

I love the bitterness that is tempered by a hint of sugar, and the rush it gives me on those days when I just need an extra caffeine kick to perk me up right away. There are days where I’d get a mocha just to indulge my sweet tooth tendencies, and other days when I would drown a double shot espresso after a sleepless night. It’s a drink that’s delicious and pragmatic, and there really isn’t any reason to detest it. So, I can’t understand the way my best friend talks of tea like it’s the greatest thing to happen since we discovered sliced bread, because to me, it’s pretty much leafy water. For that, I apologise, tea lovers; I’m completely aware of the wrath that I’ve inevitably just incurred.

On the other hand, I know people who splurge on boba teas without a care in the world and those who have stacks upon stacks of tea bags and tea leaves proudly displayed in the kitchen. They are at their happiest with a hot mug of tea in their hands, and it baffles me. My own addiction to coffee seems almost normal in my eyes when I think about the way some people treat their bags and leaves like sacred treasures. Even casual tea-lovers like my best friend, who turns her nose up at the scent of roasted coffee beans, are an anomaly to me when I walk into a coffee shop and am instantly soothed by that very scent.

I have had tea, in a few forms. I’ve had plain hot water in a cup with a teabag, to Japanese green tea, to sugary fruit teas (probably my favourite kind, if I absolutely had to choose). And yet; and yet, my experiences don’t actually justify the experiences of those who actually do love tea. Just because I think tea, in any shape of form, is infinitely inferior to coffee, doesn’t mean I’m right.

There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone, but sometimes it comes at a cost of essentially shutting that person out when neither party is willing to give in to the other.

Too often, we fight to push our opinions forward, without thinking of the effect they may have on anyone else. The media tells us to be unapologetic in our attitude and to live for yourself, as if no one else gets affected by anything that you think, say, or do. We consume the words of jaded people who tell us that if you don’t speak for yourself in everything, you’re a coward, without a backbone to support any of your own thoughts or beliefs. We grow up thinking the world is completely against us and it is our duty to rebel against anything and everything in it.

And so we learned to tune out every voice that isn’t our own.

How sad, and dangerous, and lonely an existence is that?

The lives that we live are meant to be intertwined in fantastically chaotic ways, not segregated by different ideals and sheer stubborn pride. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone, but sometimes it comes at a cost of essentially shutting that person out when neither party is willing to give in to the other. A life without empathy is not a life worth living. Empathy doesn’t necessarily need understanding to function; merely an open mind and a tentative compromise. Empathy is free, and all too lacking in a world where the rat race is imminent from the moment we encounter our peers and are placed in position, forced to run for a future that’s still unclear for most of us, even in our twenties and thirties.

So, the next time a debate crops about which beverage is superior, perhaps you could pay for each other’s drinks and call it a day, happy in the knowledge that even if you hate each other’s cup of tea or coffee, you’d still support them in their completely healthy addiction for caffeine in all its forms.