We hate to say anything bad about tea. Brewing a cup of herbal tea can be the perfect solution to a number of ailments. A cup of green tea can provide both the perfect 3 p.m. pick-me-up and help soothe our digestive issues. So how can it be harmful? Well, it turns out, the temperature of hot tea could cause problem besides a burned tongue.
A new study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that people who drink steaming hot tea could be at a higher risk for esophageal cancer. Previous studies have linked hot beverages with esophageal cancer but up until this point have not pointed to a specific temperature. The researchers of this new study decided to investigate and collected 10 years of data on tea temperatures and the rate of esophageal cancer in 50,045 people in Iran.
They found that people who drank two cups of tea or more at a temp of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher had a 90 percent increased risk of esophageal cancer compared to those who drank fewer cups and cooled tea.
Before you put down your steaming cup of tea, you'll want to know that a typical cup of tea served in the United States is usually well under 149 degrees Fahrenheit. So there's a high chance you're not commonly exposing yourself to extremely hot temps. That being said, the study authors suggest waiting a few minutes for your tea to cool after it starts boiling, especially if you live in countries like Russia, Iran, or Turkey where tea is often consumed at much higher temps.
If you're wondering if this recommendation should be generalized to all hot beverages, you're spot on. The researchers suggest that more research needs to be done to determine why hot tea specifically is linked to a risk of esophageal cancer, but that it likely has to do with the temperature of the hot liquid, and therefore waiting for hot drinks to cool down can't hurt.
We're not jumping off the tea train anytime soon, but we are taking a few minutes before that first sip. Here's to cooling it!
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Caroline Muggia has a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College. She received her E-RYT with Yoga Works and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. A writer and environmental advocate, she is passionate about helping people live healthier and more sustainable lives. You can usually find her drinking matcha or spending time by the ocean.