Tea Doesn’t Have To Be Hot – But It Helps

What do we think about when we think about tea? A source of calm in an ever-chaotic world, the image of steaming hot mug of your favorite brew — like a flying dove — has come to represent peace and tranquillity. But what if I were to tell you tea doesn’t have to be hot? Not only that, but you might be well-advised to avoid such a temperature?

Consuming tea at the right temp is very important, and can even reduce your risk of developing certain cancers. Drinking tea too hot can cause oesophageal cancer, so always be careful when preparing a pot of this beloved beverage.

So what should you do? Avoid hot tea and hot drinks altogether? Not quite. It’s safe to drink a warmer cup of tea, so long as it doesn’t have the capacity to scold your insides. 

Below are the answers to all your tea temperature anxieties, so flick on the kettle and let us do the rest.

Can tea be too hot?

Yes, tea can be too hot. To be on the safe side, make sure your tea is under one hundred and fifty degrees. Anything below that, you can sleep well knowing you aren’t causing harm to your throat. This doesn’t mean you have to change the temperature at which certain teas are brewed, just that you should allow enough time for it to cool down.

Black teas and herbal blends, for example, are brewed at a hotter temperature and will require a longer resting period prior to consumption. For most, having a little patience shouldn’t pose much of a problem as tea is often enjoyed casually in a relaxed environment. However, if you are in a rush, you could add a simple drop or two of cold water, or even ice — though this could water down the tea and effect the taste. 

How do you go about monitoring the temperature of your brew? Well, generally speaking, waiting just a few minutes is a simple, carefree method. 

But for the perfectionists among you, buying a thermometer wouldn’t go amiss. 

Is cold tea better for you?

If online consensus and memes are anything to go by, cold tea is sacrilegious – a nasty surprise capable of ruining your day. But while it may be unpopular to drink cold tea, steeping your bag or leaves in cold water may have more health benefits than doing so in hot water.

Brewing cold tea the right way releases the catechins all the same, though you have to brew the tea for longer. However, the cold water fails to release any tannins, leaving you with a sweet tea, lacking in any off-putting bitterness. 

More on those healthy catechins for a moment. If you’re looking to combat aging, cell damage and help prevent disease as a whole, you’re gonna want some of these in your life. 

Now be careful. Catechins are released at higher temperatures but tend to disappear during drops in temperature. Green tea, for example, loses a lot of its catechin content if allowed to cool. So while steeping your tea in cold water may have its benefits, if you’re after a hot cup of tea, strike while the iron is (acceptably) hot rather than waiting for it to become cold. 

Is tea better for a sore throat when hot?

Plenty of studies have looked into the health benefits and negatives of hot drinks, particularly caffeinated ones. While caffeine is certainly not something to be over-indulged, it isn’t mainly the contents of the hot drinks that is the problem, but rather the temperature of the drink itself. Regularly consuming beverages over one hundred and fifty degrees can increase your risk of oesophageal cancer. 

So long as the hot tea isn’t piping hot, then yes, hotter teas are better for easing the pain of a sore throat than colder teas, given that they promote salivation and assist in lubricating the throat. 

Professor Ron Eccles — the former director of the Common Cold Centre in the School of Biosciences at the University of Cardiff — told Medical News Today what happens when we consume hot drinks with sore throats. “Hot drinks are more tasty than cool drinks and promote more salivation and the sensory impact may provide a greater placebo effect in soothing pain,” he explained.

Though colder treats, such as ice pops, are also known to relieve symptoms, it’s the hot stuff we’re truly after. Professor Eccles ran tests on 30 patients, who reported that a hot fruit drink gave them an “immediate” and durable relief from their sore throat. “Hot sweet drinks may work by increasing the levels of opioid pain killers in the pain areas of the brain,” he added. 

What’s the best temperature for tea, taste-wise?

Okay, so you’ve heard a lot about temperature already, but it really is crucial to enjoying a cup of tea. By brewing it at the right temperature you can release so many important, nutritious and tasty compounds. 

Each tea has its own ideal temperature in terms of infusion and the tea’s level of oxidation. But the temperature at which it should be consumed has a universal answer. As a rule, allow your tea to cool between 135° and 150° F (57° to 65° C) before taking a sip.

The best way to get the right temperature water for each different blend of tea, make sure to use a water boiler with variable temp settings. Some electric kettles are known to provide the same tool. 

To get the best out of green teas, you want to be brewing them in 140–185°F water. For yellow tea, between 165 and 180°F, white tea between 170 and 185°F, oolong tea between 185 and 195°F, and black tea between 180 and 200°F. 

Can you drink tea that’s been left out overnight?

Let’s say you come home late at night and fancy a nice cup of tea to bring you back down to earth, if not sober you up. Let’s say you manage to brew this cup of tea, adding milk and all rest of it, only to fall asleep on the sofa. Let’s say you wake up the next day and for whatever reason, you cannot find the strength to pop the kettle on again and brew another cup of tea. Why? Cause there’s one right there, from the night before, untouched. Would that be acceptable to drink? Would it be safe?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that brewed tea should not be left uncovered on a counter for more than 8 hours. Your tea is no longer safe to consume after this time slot. To get the best taste, you should drink it within 6 hours at room temperature.

Josh Teal

Josh Teal is a freelance writer with wit and verve, powered by copious amounts of tea and coffee. That makes him something of an expert in all things brewing, whether it's for you or for your pets!

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