Drinking Tea This Way May Be Harmful — Here's What To Do Instead

RYT-200 By Caroline Muggia
Caroline Muggia is a writer and environmental advocate with a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College.
Expert review by Abby Cannon, J.D., R.D., CDN
Attorney & dietitian, RYT 200
Abby K. Cannon, JD, RD is an attorney turned dietitian who lives a very low waste lifestyle. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in psychology and received her law degree from Brooklyn Law School cum laude. She graduated from Queens College and became a registered dietitian in 2016.

Image by Lauren Naefe / Stocksy

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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