What is a good tea for Summer?
Perhaps some people may say ice tea, or some others may say iced lemon tea etc.
While chilled infusion of Camellia sinensis does offer a soothing sensation under that smothering summer sun, the low temperature also sends a wrong signal to the body that there is the need to conserve heat. This traps heat in your body that otherwise should have been dissipated through the various mechanisms such as dilation of pores and sweating. What makes matter worse, however, is that continual desire to chill down because of this trapped heat. So you drink more ice tea. And more. This taxes on your excretory faculty and makes you feel tired. You become less active. The trapped heat won’t go anywhere. You drink more cold drinks…
Basic physiological principal asides, a warm cup of tea facilitates better heat dissipation than a cold one, the biochemical contents in the leaves are powerful agents in managing excessive energy in the body. A major group of such contents are the tea polyphenols, especially the various catechins. The better the tea quality, the more potent and abundance of them. I have written about this in various articles in the Tea Guardian supported with scientific papers and FDA datas, so I am not repeating myself here. The important thing is, you hardly find much of such salutary material in packaged ice tea.
That’s why if you have to drink ice tea at all, prepare it yourself with better leaves. Better yet, prepare it to an ample strength and drink a small portion, like in a 40ml small cup, to minimise the negative health impact.
The presence of tea polyphenols in the blood stream, as found out in various scientific studies, helps to lower blood sugar level. Sugar is where your calories come from. The less sugar, the less calories to burn, the less heat. These group of flavonoids unique in the leaves of Camellia sinensis also helps the body to store blood sugar away, which is another way to manage the rate of heat production.
Why freshly brewed tea is better
Freshly prepared tea has more potency. When a tea is left to stand for an extended amount of time, such as to cool down for chilling, or worse yet in a bottled tea, the potency decreases, quite dramatically over a day. That is a good reason to switch to gongfu tea-making perhaps?
One other reason that few may have mentioned is the working of theanine. According to findings, this substance is the reason why tea relaxes a person. This state of relaxation is key to counteract the stress that heat has imposed upon one’s adrenal glands, thereby reducing levels of excitative hormones such as cortisone. The body now learns that there is no urgency and can slow down. Energy is properly normalised and no excessive heat energy is produced.
Natural calming effect of tea
Less studied though, is the effects of aromatic substances in tea. While aroma therapy through the olfactory faculty has been a trend, the actual drinking of the more subtle and complex bouquets of really fine teas has not been taken good notice of. To me, a small cup of Eight Immortals after having been under the blazing tropical sun is a touch of heaven. No it does not stop you sweating instantly like a glass of iced water, but it tranquillises you from the heightened heartbeat and anxiety feeling that you get when exposed to those powerful solar rays or heated humidity outdoor. From there, I can dry myself and relax with a few more cups to cool down.
So what teas do I drink hot to cool down?
Yes you guess it right, green tea is amongst my choice, but not all green teas. Here are my picks:
Luan Guapian — this bitter one is my top choice in this category because of its additional TCM cooling effect
Also Taiping Houkui, Huangshan Maofeng and April Mist
You see that heavier roasted teas are not in the list for the obvious reason that I avoid ones with relatively warmer TCM energy. That said, people with weaker constituents, especially those with a weak stomach ( or otherwise ingestion passage ), or women during menstruation should avoid this category. They should, however, avoid any iced drink even more.
Personally, I much preferred the subcategory of bouquet style oolongs for the purpose.
Eight Immortals, as mentioned above, is one of my favourite. Others I really like are:
Song Cultivar, Orchid Literati, Shiguping Wulong; and if you are on a tight budget: Eternal Spring, Big White, or Black Leaf.
We will soon introduce a line of Shengcha Pu’er, which will be good as well. For those with not as robust health, please be reminded to use only well-matured selections.
If you still prefer making your own ice tea, the selection above are effective coolers if you have a very strong stomach. For those who want to play it safe, use a classic style oolong such as Tieguanyin Classic, Honey Orchid, Sacred Lily or other deeper baked versions of the Wuyi, Phoenix and Taiwan lines.
For those who appreciate the ideas of TCM, here is one more note
Iced tea, like other chilled drinks, strengthens humid evils in the body. If where you live it is already humid in summer, the condition gets worse. The worst possible selection of tea to make into an iced one are those that already have more humid nature, namely shu cha pu’er, black teas and lighter baked/roasted green teas. Fresh white tea and new shengcha are as well.
Humid evils, in the eyes of TCM doctors, are the most common cause for many types of ailments. That is why in places with humid summer, various concoctions for driving away humid evil are popular, but that’s another topic.
Again, allow me to repetitive here: if you drink an ice tea at all, prepare it to ample strength, drink only a small serving size. Chill the tea, don’t mix it with ice.