What’s better than a lemon? Bright, sharp and sweet, lemon is used in everything from cakes to pasta salads to fish dishes – and tea! But which teas pair best with citrus?
You can add lemon to almost any type of tea, but try it with black tea and green tea: lemon complements the floral notes of Earl Grey tea, and has also been proven to boost antioxidant intake from green tea. The juice and zest of a lemon can be used in place of any conventional sweetener.
That’s not all, however. We’ve put together a complete guide to lemon and tea, including common questions and pairings you might never have considered. Read on to find out more!
Is tea with lemon good for you?
Touted as a detoxifier and all-around amazing replacement for sugar in tea, adding lemon is frequently seen as a great, healthy option. But what’s the science behind lemon tea?
As a general rule, adding lemon to tea aids digestion and improves your body’s intake of antioxidants, which protect against cell damage. Try adding it to green tea, which is rich in antioxidants! Lemon juice is also an excellent source of Vitamin C, which promotes bone growth and gum health.
Additionally, lemon makes for a crisper flavor in your tea, particularly compared to adding sugar or milk. From a taste perspective, the only tea companion that’s better is honey – but you can always add both!
Can you put lemon and milk in tea?
Perhaps the idea of drinking your tea black is off-putting. Maybe you’ve always added milk to tea, but you’d like to try lemon – but can you put lemon and milk in the same cup of tea?
There are several reasons why you shouldn’t add both lemon and milk to your tea. The acidity of lemon juice can cause milk to curdle and go lumpy, which will ruin your cup of tea! The crisp flavor of lemon and the creamy flavor of milk also cancel each other out, so adding both is counterproductive.
There’s nothing worse than curdled milk! It is possible to add lemon juice to plant-based milk without it curdling (coconut milk is just one example), but you’ll much a lemon flavor that isn’t muted by the addition of any kind of milk – we promise!
What are the disadvantages of lemon in tea?
While many tea websites promote lemon as a magic ingredient that’ll solve all of your problems, it’s worth being more balanced when analysing its impact on your cup of tea. That’s why you should consider potential downsides to adding more lemon to your diet.
As a whole, lemon in tea is perfectly safe and even has health benefits. However, the high concentration of citric acid in lemons and limes can lead to a pH imbalance in your stomach, causing heartburn. While this is unlikely to cause serious problems, it may make consuming lemon tea unpleasant.
If you’re already prone to heartburn, lemon juice might not be the sweetener you’re looking for. Thankfully, we’ve already put together a handy guide on how to sweeten tea, including iced tea!
How much lemon should you add to tea?
Lemon is undoubtedly a strong flavor, which means you might be worried about getting the quantities right for your cup of tea. After all, it’s a cup of tea, not a cup of lemon! Thankfully, there’s an easy rule to follow when adding lemon to your tea.
As a general rule, you should add twice as many teaspoons of lemon juice to your cup of tea as you would sugar. In practice, this means you’ll typically add 2-3 teaspoons per cup. This adds an identifiable citrus flavor to your brew without the lemon overpowering your tea.
This means that if you drink four cups of tea per day, you’ll get 31% of your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C. In fact, adding lemon to your tea is one of the easiest way of upping your Vitamin C intake!
Can you put lemon peels in tea?
Lemons are perhaps one of the most frequently wasted fruits. We’ve all been in a situation where the recipe has called for lemon zest and not juice, or the other way around. Thankfully, for tea, there’s no waste involved!
You can add lemon peels and zest to tea. Just like fresh lemon juice, these will infuse the tea with a citrus flavor and boost its Vitamin C content. Zest is preferable to peels because the increased surface area allows the lemon to infuse more easily.
Another downside of using peels, as opposed to zest, is that you’re liable to include some of the pith. This white substance between the waxy outer layer and the flesh contributes a distinctly bitter flavor. If you’re already drinking a tea that’s prone to bitterness, such as a full-bodied black tea, accidentally adding pith is only going to make the bitterness problem worse!
1. Earl Grey tea
There’s a reason why Earl Grey tea is one of the most common teas to pair with lemon. In fact, that’s the classically British way to drink Earl Grey, with the addition of milk primarily being an American invention!
It all comes down to what makes Earl Grey special to begin with: bergamot. This mysterious and potent ingredient is actually a kind of orange, meaning that citrus flavors are already present in the tea blend and are just waiting to be enhanced by a lovely slice of lemon. Tea companies such as Twinings also sell an alternative tea blend called Lady Grey, which contains lemon and orange peel, further elevating the sharper floral notes of the classic Earl Grey – but you can just add lemon yourself at home!
2. Mint tea
There’s nothing fresher than a mint tea… or is there? If you truly want to make you mint tea an invigorating experience, try adding lemon! Water infused with mint and lemon is a common detox recommendation, though it’s worth noting that the idea of a ‘detox’ is scientific nonsense. The benefit you feel from ‘detoxing’ is more likely to be psychosomatic (which is to say, you’re imagining it!) or is simply a consequence of drinking more water, which is almost always what you should be doing. That said, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a refreshing mint tea with lemon and enjoy the hydration and taste!
The sharpness of the lemon cuts through that unique menthol flavor in a way that delights your entire palette. Just think about all of those sophisticated lemonades you’ve had – they always have mint in! It’s a dream team.
3. Chamomile tea
Many swear by chamomile as an effective home remedy for all sorts of ailments, but even the most ardent chamomile fan would admit that its grassy taste isn’t for everyone. Before you reach for sugar or other concentrated sweeteners, however, why not try it with lemon?
Fresh lemon juice or zest goes beautifully with chamomile tea. Chamomile is a flower, after all, and citrus helps take those floral notes and make them feel as crisp as a spring breeze. There is also evidence to suggest that adding lemon to chamomile tea helps soothe sore throats!
4. Green tea
Much like chamomile, green tea is touted as one of those things you really should drink. Sometimes it’s called a “green tea cleanse.” To some, however, the earthiness of green tea can make drinking it arduous, whatever the purported health benefits. Thankfully, there’s a way to revolutionize your habits and start actually enjoying green tea.
You can add lemon to green tea as a natural sweetener. The acidity of fresh lemon juice or zest releases more antioxidants from the tea leaves. They’re proven to ward off cell damage and decrease the risk of conditions such as heart disease. Plus, it helps the tea taste great!
5. Lemon & Ginger tea
We can understand why you might be confused. Why add more lemon to a ‘Lemon & Ginger’ tea? If anything, that’s the one tea you shouldn’t need to add lemon to! Hear us out: this might be a point of personal preference, but in the highly-saturated market of Lemon & Ginger infusions, not many of them taste… well, lemony!
Adding fresh lemon juice or zest to your existing Lemon & Ginger blend is a great way to balance the tea to your preference, especially if the ginger flavor is quite overpowering. Plus, the lemon pieces used in these premade infusions are often low quality and need their taste to be reinforced.
6. Hibiscus tea
Hibiscus tea could be said to have a similar flavor profile to lemon: it’s tart but also incredibly sweet. It makes sense, then, that adding lemon juice or zest would enhance what already makes hibiscus tea great. Even better, the sharpness doesn’t become sour, nor does the sweetness become cloying: instead, the two flavors of hibiscus and lemon run parallel to each other on your palette.
In fact, lemon is commonly added to hibiscus tea in Italy. Known as carcadè, the blend of hibiscus, sugar and lemon is served hot – though it sounds like it’d be just as tasty as a cold brew!
7. Cardamom tea
Cardamom (or cardamon) is a mainstay of Arab cookery, and this includes tea! While it’s often blended with black tea, it is possible to drink an infusion solely of hot water and cardamom for an incredibly intense taste. Regardless of how you drink it, lemon and cardamom makes for a fantastic flavor combination.
It’s quite difficult to describe the flavor of cardamom: it has notes of aniseed, licorice, pine, and even mint. Thankfully, all of these pair beautifully with fresh lemon juice and zest. The lemon cuts through the headier flavors and adds sweetness to what can sometimes be a bitter beverage. That’s especially true if the cardamom is blended with an earthier tea like Assam – and it often is!
8. Ceylon (Sri Lankan) tea
If you ask anyone who knows their tea about the defining features of Ceylon (or Sri Lankan) tea, and you’ll probably hear the same two words crop up quite often: bright and crisp. You could say the same about lemon, which is why Ceylon and fresh lemon juice or zest makes for a beautiful cup of tea in the morning.
Even better, Ceylon already packs notes of citrus, which the addition of lemon further enhances. It wakes you up, delights your tastebuds, and looks clear and honeyed as the rising sun. Who could resist trying Ceylon with lemon as their new breakfast blend?
9. Blue Raspberry tea
Probably the most adventurous tea blend on this list, Blue Raspberry from Bird & Blend is also the most remarkable when it comes to adding lemon. A Chinese Sencha green tea blended with blue pea flowers and freeze-dried raspberries, it would already be an excellent candidate for adding lemon – who doesn’t like lemon and raspberry? – without even taking its superpower into account.
Because lemon juice is predominantly composed of citric acid, adding it to anything soluble will lower the pH of the mixture. In this blend, that property is put to spectacular effect: after adding lemon juice, the color of the tea will change before your eyes! It just goes to show that adding a little bit of lemon juice goes a long way in livening up your cup of tea!
10. Milk Oolong tea
You can add fresh lemon juice or zest to any kind of oolong tea, but there’s something special about adding it to milk oolong tea. “Wait a minute,” you might be asking; “didn’t you say you shouldn’t add milk and lemon to tea?” That’s correct. However, milk oolong tea contains no milk: it acquired the name for its smooth and creamy taste.
While this is a noble end in and of itself – milk oolong teas with chocolate taste just like hot milk chocolate, which is as sumptuous and luxurious as it sounds – the sharp contrast of lemon can often be just the thing to electrify your palette. Milk oolongs with coconut become brighter with added lemon, giving it that extra tropical zing!