(Tea in this article means tea in terms of tea, the old Chinese cult beverage gained from different varieties of the Camellia Sinensis plant and processed in various different ways. Separate considerations would have to be made to cover this question for tisanes instead.)
If you’re a true tea geek, you must have come across this before: you love tea, you are preparing tea for yourself all day trough, you gain up to 10 steeps from your best Oolong teas… and at some point you realize that drinking pure water has come a little short recently. You say to yourself: never mind, there’s all the water of the world in my tea, and all in my tea that is not water is actually even healthy, so tea might just be the ‘better water’. A common perspective with many tea drinkers, but: is it really true? I will try to cover the subject a bit more comprehensively at the expense of the narrative form:
1. Yes, there is a lot of water in tea (as there is a lot of water in coca cola), but out body makes a difference between pure water and water+something regarding the way and method of processing: while both are landing in your stomach first, pure water will be passed on to the cells immediately, while tea will be considered as a “food stuff” by your body and therefore subjected to other processes first.
2. As with coffee, tea has often been claimed to be “dehydrating”. For coffee, research has in the past years demonstrated that earlier the dehydrating effects of coffee established in earlier studies might not be significant for small amounts of coffee up to 4 cups a day. These results must be seen in the light of the fact that
a) The newer studies claiming the insignificance of smaller amounts of coffee regarding dehydration effects have mainly been financed and designed by the coffee industry.
b) “Dehydration” is a much to undefined term here: it is well possible that coffee or tea do not “dehydrate” the human body in terms of withdrawing water from it, but will still affect the way the water in the liquid can be utilized/consumed by the body (see 1.), and/or otherwise compromise on the capacity to which the consumed liquid can be used by the body for any of the multiple functions pure water serves and fulfills.
3. “Theine”, or caffeine, has proven stimulating effects on the nervous system and other physical functions. These can be perceived both as positive (helping to stay awake, focused, etc.) and as negative (nervousness, insomnia). Given that the average adult human in average climate conditions will need 2 L of water per day, it might be worth considering, whether the described effects of theine are really desired to the extent involved with such volume consumption.
4. The Chinese school of tea expressively says that tea is not a replacement for water. It instead refers to tea as a luxury foodstuff or stimulant and emphasizes the importance of unreduced parallel water consumption.
I like to complete these points by adding my own experience as a tea geek, who definitely drinks an average of 2 L of tea or more a day:
When I started to drink a lot of tea a few years ago, automatically my water intake was reduced. While generally the effects were all positive during the day, I after a while realized that a) I still felt thirsty sometimes even during drinking tea, and b) I had often trouble falling asleep at the end of the day. What I did (and do now) is adding the consumption of full 2 L of water every day to my consumption of full 2 l of tea every day, and instead of stopping drinking tea in the evenings, I just drink well half a liter of water after the tea and before going to bed. As a result, my problems falling asleep have disappeared, I never feel thirsty anymore and I still never have to miss or compromise on my tea, in other words: apart from the corresponding increase in diuretic activity, which is probably even healthy, everything seems to be just fine with drinking both a lot of water and a lot of tea. Just like I had found the perfect solution to the problem.
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