Cooling Down with Hot Tea?

Blackcurrant Naturally Flavored Black Tea - great hot or cold! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)
Blackcurrant Naturally Flavored Black Tea – great hot or cold! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Although Americans drink about eighty percent of their tea iced rather than hot, for hot tea drinkers the arrival of summer can be bad news. Although it may be nice to gulp down some iced green tea when parched and overheated, it is just not the same as slowly savouring a cup of hot tea. It is something I just do not want to give up when the seasons change, and many is the time that I’ve brewed a pot of hot tea on a sweltering summer day and stubbornly drunk every drop, despite sweating profusely.

Hot tea in hot weather has been a bone of contention among some of my tea-drinking friends. I have several who balk at even the idea of a hot drink on a hot day. However, I also know those who persevere with their hot tea as I do. The anti-hot-tea-in-summer group ask how I can even think of drinking something so hot in warm weather. And I’ll admit: it’s not half as satisfying as huddling around a hot pot of tea on a cold winter’s day. Nevertheless, I won’t do without my hot tea in summer and the interesting thing is that, often, despite all expectations to the contrary, I find myself feeling cooler afterwards.

I have tended to put this down to the theory of relativity: since the hot tea is hotter than the air temperature, the air temperature feels cooler after drinking the tea. However, a recent story on NPR suggests that drinking hot tea on a hot day can actually lower your body temperature, not just make the temperature seem cooler.

The basic premise is that drinking a hot drink triggers your body’s cooling mechanisms (for example, sweating). Once your cooling mechanisms are activated, the overall effect of your body cooling itself outweighs the heat introduced into your body through the hot tea; ultimately, you end up cooler (you can read the full story here).

So maybe my persistence in drinking hot tea in hot weather is not so crazy after all. But I still have friends who loudly protest that this doesn’t work for them, and who are dubious of the science behind this claim. But maybe it has nothing to do with the science and everything to do with the individual. After all, every body is different and responds to external stimuli differently. Perhaps my body’s cooling mechanisms are just more effective than those of others…

In any case, if you are a tea-drinker who stays away from hot tea in summer months for fear of overheating, maybe give it a try—it might actually help you cool down!

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