Whenever I see my Grandmother, she is always drinking hot tea (or just hot water). It doesn’t matter if it is the dead of winter or the middle of the summer – a Hong Kong summer, which are notoriously brutal. I always wondered why she did this. Her answer was always that drinking tea during the summer is just what Chinese people do.
Recently, I looked into the phenomena of drinking hot beverages on a hot day. To my surprise, there is actually some science behind the cooling effects of hot tea when it is hot outside.
Receptors turn on your body’s internal air conditioning
All of our tongues have these special little molecules in them called receptors. Among these receptors, there are special ones that respond to heat. When you drink something hot, these receptors let your body know that it is time to cool off.
“The hot drink somehow has an effect on your systemic cooling mechanisms, which exceeds its actual effect in terms of heating your body,” says Peter McNaughton, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge. Think of it as our own internal air conditioning. In our houses we set the air conditioning terminal to cool our house when the temperature rises above a certain point. Our bodies work the same way.
There is also pseudoscience to back this up
The old thinking on this issue concerns the difference between the external temperature and internal temperature. For example, if I drink cold tea on a hot day, it makes the heat outside feel hotter because my internal body feels cooler. If I drink a hot beverage, my internal body feels warmer, making the heat outside less extreme.
Really? Drink Hot Tea when it is 100 degrees outside?
No, I am not completely crazy, but this really comes down to a personal preference. Americans like iced beverages in the summer, but people from the southern parts of Asia all drink hot beverages in the summer. That’s a lot of people on the totally opposite side of the spectrum. The only way to really know which one works better for you is to try both. You may be surprised that you end up requesting hot tea at your next outdoor BBQ!