Always Drink Tea at this Temperature and Other “Tea Time” Tips

Tea offers so many health benefits, but if you’re drinking it at the wrong temperature, you may be doing your body more harm than good. In fact, even brief exposure to certain temps when drinking tea may increase your risk of esophageal cancer. Read on to find the perfect temperature for drinking tea and “tea time” tips for brewing the perfect cup.

The danger of drinking your tea too hot

Hot beverages such as tea, coffee, and hot chocolate are often served at temperatures between 160- and 185-degrees F. But even short-term exposure to liquids this hot may cause significant scald burns. So much so, that the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to conduct research to determine what repercussions may occur when drinking liquids to these degrees. IARC, the cancer agency of WHO classified drinking beverages at 149 degrees F as a probable carcinogen — meaning something that may cause cancer. 

When it comes specifically to tea, recently, the International Journal of Cancer monitored the tea-drinking habits of more than 50,000 people in Golestan, Iran, for 10 years. Among the tea drinkers, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer developed. According to the study, those who drank more than 24 ounces (or three cups) of tea a day at temperatures of 140 degrees F had a 90 percent higher chance of developing esophageal cancer.

The optimal tea temperature

Research conducted by the University of Texas; Department of Mechanical Engineering, set out to find the optimal hot beverage temperatures. To identify the best serving temperature, researchers had to find the perfect temp that falls somewhere between scalding and the ability to actually taste the nuances of the beverage. They found that the average person preferred the drinking temperature of coffee at about 140 degrees F. Additionally, the British tea-drinking experts — the Royal Society of Chemistry — suggest the optimal temperature for drinking tea is also 140 degrees F.

Bottom line: If you enjoy one to two cups of brewed tea per day, research suggests the perfect temperature lies between 140- and 149-degrees F. Higher temperatures, say the Royal Society, requires the drinker to engage in the distasteful habit of “slurping.”

However, if you’re drinking more than three cups per day, according to the cancer research above, 140 degrees may be dangerous for your health. So, cool your tea slightly below 140 degrees F — just enough to keep it palatable — by leaving a teaspoon in your tea for a few seconds. This will effectively cool your tea.    

Tips for making the perfect cup of tea

Americans love their tea. So much so that they’re consuming over 3.8 billion gallons of tea a year! In fact, after water, tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world. It makes sense, since tea can be served hot and cold and is available everywhere these days. But for some, brewing the perfect cup of tea can be anything but perfect. In fact, it’s as much of a science as it is an art. Here are some tips from a “tea master” that will help you bring out the best flavor possible.

Teabags vs. loose-leaf

Sure, tea bags are convenient, but for a great cup of tea, loose leaf is the way to go. In actual fact, instant tea is on a downward trend, and loose tea is quickly gaining in popularity, particularly in specialty tea and coffee shops. And there’s a good reason for that. A long time ago, tea bags were made from silk and muslin. Today, however, tea bags are made from paper via wood and vegetable pulp. The pulp is usually chlorine-bleached, which means low levels of toxins can end up in the teabag paper — and of course, leaching into your tea.

  • Ditch whatever toxic chemicals you can and buy loose-leaf tea, instead. It’s just as easy to make as bagged tea but requires the addition of a teapot and strainer.
  • Better yet, grow your own non-GMO, organic herbs, and brew your own loose-leaf teas without pesticides.
  • Keep your loose-leaf tea in an airtight container to prevent spoiling.

Boiling your water

  • Ask any tea master, and he or she will tell you, warm the pot with hot water first. This prevents the hot water from cooling too quickly, and allows the tea to brew properly. 
  • Simply swirl your pot with hot water, and pour it out.
  • You can use as much tea as you prefer, depending on your taste, but the traditional measurement calls for one rounded teaspoon per person and one extra rounded teaspoon for the pot.
  • When boiling your water, use fresh water. Never re-boil old water as it will give your tea a flat taste. Additionally, always use filtered water, because any impurities in the water will change the flavor of the tea as well.
  • Allow your water to come to a full rolling boil. However, don’t over-boil, which will only serve to boil the oxygen out — changing the flavor.

Brewing the perfect cup

  • Pour your hot water into the pot directly onto the tea.
  • Cover the teapot and even throw on a tea-cozy if you have one.  A tea cozy is a soft fabric insulator cover that is placed over a teapot to keep the tea hot while it steeps. If you don’t have a cozy, you can wrap a tea towel around the pot instead.
  • Steep your tea for a minimum of five minutes. The color may develop quickly, but to reach full flavor, you’ll need to steep your tea for a full five minutes.
  • After steeping, stir the loose-leaf tea in the pot a few times, and then pour it into the cup.  Use a strainer to capture the loose tea. Drink it black or add sugar, honey, milk, or lemon as desired.

Remember, scalding tea may cause long-term damage. Cool your tea to about 140 degrees F. If you’re a tea-fanatic and enjoy drinking tea throughout the day. Make sure the temperature is below 140 degrees F. Enjoy!

-Katherine Marko                                            

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