Food and Drink

Want to Cool Down? Have a Nice Hot Cuppa Cha!

Hey, guess what? My Granny knew what she was talking about! About lots of things actually, but in relation to this post, about only one. She was a great believer, on a stinking hot day (remember, we’re taking about England, so any day on which the temperature goes above 60 degrees Fahrenheit qualifies as scorchio), in having a nice hot cup of tea to help one cool down.

I know. Crazy, right? But now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, science has spoken! This article from The Smithsonian, explains, in layman’s terms, the results of a study that was done at the University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics in 2012. Although there are some exceptions, in general, it works like this: When you drink a hot beverage, it makes you sweat more than usual. That additional sweat, as it evaporates, cools you down, and more than compensates for the additional heat that’s added to, and dissipated throughout, your body by the heat of the drink itself.

The catch is that your increased sweat (such an inelegant word–channeling Granny again–“Horses sweat; men perspire; women merely glow.” I must remember that next time I’ve worked myself into a dripping puddle of “glow” shoveling out the barn. Perhaps I’ll even smell better to myself if I start to call it that)–erm, sorry, got myself in a lather, lost the thread, starting the sentence over:

The catch is that your increased sweat (that’s what the scientific study calls it–sweat) must be able to evaporate efficiently. So not too much clothing which will trap your sweat and, according to the linked article, will prevent you from cooling off. On the other hand, there’s evidence elsewhere that wearing a full body covering, such as the burka, actually does help one cool off exactly because it traps the sweat, which dampens the clothing, the moisture in which then cools one down. (This is where I start to have trouble holding two opposing thoughts in my head at the same time, and probably explains why I was an English major, and didn’t pursue a career as a chemical engineer. All I know is that sweaty clothing is stinky clothing. That’s empirically verifiable and scientifically methodical enough for me. It makes my decision easy (nix on the stinky clothing), and I don’t need to know any more.)

The other key factor in the success of this “drink hot to stay cool” technique is humidity. If your skin is already being gently steamed in a hot, very humid climate, then your sweat won’t evaporate easily, and a hot drink won’t cool you down. But if you’re in the desert, or any other area on a hot, clear, dry day, a nice hot cup of tea will help you chill out.

Let’s find out how to make a proper one:

The last word in how to make a good cup of tea comes from George Orwell, in an Evening Standard column from 1946. It’s well worth reading. Here’s a short excerpt, wherein it may be seen that he has very definite ideas on the subject:

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

*First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

*Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Other than my strong preference that the milk goes in the cup first (a hill that it doesn’t look as if George is anxious to die on), I learned to make tea pretty much in the “Orwell” style. (I do only boil the water once, though.)

Here’s a more modern take, incorporating that horrible American invention, the tea bag:


And do whatever you need to, to keep cool. Carry on.

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