Working from Home (in Theory) and Contemplating the Temperature of My Tea

Milo-webWorking from home.

The words alone conjure up such a satisfying picture of amazing creativity, sustained productivity. A steaming cup of tea, natural light, a comfortable workspace, prevailing quiet.

Except when it’s not.

When focused attention is punctuated by

  • the dog needing to go out (my husband’s duty most of the time, until this week’s total knee replacement rendered it my job),
  • the cat persistently trying to sleep on my laptop,
  • my husband needing something he truly can’t do/get on his own,
  • the physical therapist arriving at the door,
  • the sudden and unanticipated assurance by said therapist that she will indeed escort my husband into our basement and help him do the exercise bike in a few days—
  • necessitating an unexpected frenzy of work on my part to clean up the basement enough to retain the veneer of our being a tidy and organized household.

This is definitely not the day to mindfully sip a fine tea.

Rather, this is a {brew up a pot of robust no-nonsense tea that tastes just as good cold} day because anywhere from lukewarm to room temp to ice-cold is how I’m actually going to be drinking it. Which—coincidentally—coincides with all those reports slamming my inbox warning against drinking super hot tea. Ha, no problem here!

But anyway, if you haven’t heard, researchers followed some 50,000 people in Golestan, Iran, because:

Tea and water are the only drinks commonly consumed in Golestan, of which only tea is generally consumed at a high temperature

and because this area reports a high incidence of esophageal cancer, with 90% of that being squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) (Islami et al. 2019).

Results indicated that the risk of ESCC increased when

  • the tea temperature was hot
  • the person preferred drinking very hot tea
  • there was a shorter interval between pouring and drinking the tea

In analysis of the combined effects of measured temperature and amount, drinking 700 mL/day [23 oz/day] tea or more at ≥60°C [140°F] was associated with about 90% higher risk of ESCC (Islami et al. 2019).

But please don’t rush to dump out your tea just yet! There are a couple of things to note in this study.

First, the link between quantity of tea consumed and ESCC is unclear. Tea itself is known to have a lot of antioxidants and many studies have suggested that tea reduces the risk of cancer. However, tea can be contaminated with other substances, as the authors of this study note. They also found that “the amount of tea consumed appeared to be a factor only with drinking high‐temperature tea” (Islami et al. 2019), although more research needs to be done.

Secondly, the association of ESCC isn’t just with tea; rather, maté and coffee have also been implicated. It seems to be the temperature of the beverage that matters.

This is obviously important research and we look forward to follow-up studies that hopefully will tease apart the connections.

Meanwhile, let your tea—or coffee or hot chocolate—cool down some before you drink it. Use that time to appreciate its aroma and, if the weather is cold, warm up your hands! Consider the color of the brew and the beauty of your cup. Then sip.

tea-teapot-3-webSource: “A prospective study of tea drinking temperature and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma,” by Farhad Islami, Hossein Poustchi, Akram Pourshams, et al., International Journal of Cancer, 3/20/2019.

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