Tea, alongside coffee, is one of the world’s most famous beverage. For thousands of years now, tea has been a staple in cultures, traditions, a matter of wars peace treaties, and nowadays, a sign of health, self-care, and harmony of body and mind. Because of the array of different types of teas, flavors, aromas, and ways to make it, tea is being loved by millions of people across the globe. However, the reason we all love tea so much doesn’t lie only in the fact that it is delicious and simply an endearing feeling in a warm cup. We also like tea for its numerous health benefits and the way it affects our body and mind.
However, some people have been complaining about tea; apparently, it can cause or worsen the acid in our stomach (acid reflux), or even cause heartburn. There have been conclusions referring to the acidity of the tea as the main culprit, but, how come? Is tea really acidic, or have we put the blame on the wrong guy? To find out the right answers, we’ll be looking into these eye-opening questions in the following paragraphs.
Tea pH Levels
The acidity of foods and drinks is commonly measured by pH, which is a figure that shows the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a logarithmic scale. On that scale, 7 would be a neutral value, like water, for example, would be a pH 7. Values below 7 are more acidic and values above 7 are more alkaline. At value 1, there is stomach acid, values 3 to 5 are fruit juices, for example, and 6 would be foods and drinks with mild acidity. Now, when it comes to pH levels of different types of tea, we could say that the values could be anywhere between 4 and 5,5. For example, black tea has the acidity value of 4.9 on the pH scale, which would make it mildly acidic.
Most teas actually fall under this umbrella, but their acidity values do depend on some external factors, which can make the tea more or less acidic. Because of this, people are usually advised not to drink tea on an empty stomach. Instead, especially in the morning, it is important to have a glass of water before you drink your tea. This could prevent the acidity in the tea to affect your stomach, which could be a cause of acid reflux and heartburn, as well as bad digestion and bowel movement problems. People, who usually struggle with stomach acidity are recommended to use tea that is not acidic, but rather alkaline in nature. One such tea is Arujn tea or Ajwain tea, which are Indian teas usually consumed with jaggery powder (cane sugar that is consumed in South and Southeast Asia).
Factors Affecting Tea Acidity
As mentioned above, tea acidity does not come solely from tea leaves themselves, but also can be triggered by numerous external factors. So, let’s look at some of the most notable ones;
- Phenolic Acids in tea – green and black tea usually contain high to moderate levels of phenolic acids. These acids affect the flavor and the aftertaste of the tea and are usually considered to bring numerous health benefits. However, these acids can make the tea more bitter to those who are sensitive to acidity and drinks with lower pH levels.
- Tea soils and their microbiological properties – studies have shown that different forms of soil acidity affect the acidity values of tea. The microbiological properties of the soil that were investigated have been closely related to tea acidity. The soil pH largely influences the soil microorganisms, which further affect the higher or lower pH levels of the tea. Tea gardens or tea fields that have acidity pH values are therefore recognized as producing black teas, while tea fields with lower pH values produced teas of milder acidity levels, like green teas or Oolong teas.
- Tea brewing methods – the way one brews their tea can largely affect the tea acidity. If you let your, for example, green tea brew more than the recommended three minutes, you’re more likely to taste bitter and acidic green tea. If you want to avoid enhancing the tea acidity during the brew time, make sure to choose teas that are low in caffeine or do not contain caffeine at all, like Rooibos teas, chamomile green tea, ginger tea, cardamom tea or white teas. These teas require only a few minutes of steeping, but even if you let them steep longer, they won’t produce the acidity that could ruin the taste and experience.
- Sweeteners and other tea additions – tea on its own is mildly acidic, and one of the things that can make it less acidic are surely sweeteners and other additions. For example, you can dilute your tea with water, milk, honey, sugar, jaggery or even cream. In India, people usually add milks and cream to their teas to make chai, and this method has proven successful in the reduction of tea’s ability to stimulate gastric acid.
- Other factors – Other factors, like the amount of tea leaves, brewing temperature, the duration of steeping or even the use of tea bags can affect the tea acidity or its pH levels. For example, the more leaves you’re brewing, the stronger, bitter and acidic the tea will be. Moreover, tea bags are known to release more flavor and components in one brew, which also makes them more acidic than loose leaf tea. And, finally, brewing duration and water temperature can also affect the acidity of the tea.
Is Tea Acidity Harmful?
Tea, in general, is usually considered extremely beneficial for our health. Therefore, the belief that tea could somehow be harmful is usually dismissed. However, some studies have supported the idea of tea acidity being responsible for acid reflux, GERD and heartburn in some people. Of course, if you tend to consume tea more than it is recommended, or if you do not brew it properly, you are going to experience some stomach problems. Also, if you’re prone to stomach acidity, tea will definitely enhance the struggles with reflux and heartburn. However, tea in general, when consumed properly, should not be causing any major issues regarding stomach acid. If you think tea might be the cause of your stomach related problems, make sure to consult a medical professional for further advice.