Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hot tea in the tropics

The sun has finally arrived in my (cold) neck of the woods. Vancouver has simply had the coldest spring on record. Filled with rain and cold weather, it was a very depressing and discouraging season. So now that it has begun to warm up, and I can go running outside without two layers and a sweater, there is much rejoicing. But there is always a problem for me… with such warm weather, who wants to drink a hot cup of tea? It’s true that sometimes I can only have that hot cuppa early in the morning, or late into the evening (though sometimes caffeine has been known to keep me long awake.)

So would I partake in tea at the proper afternoon tea-time?
Goodness me no.

And yet……

I have heard of people who drink hot things in summer, and consume cold things in the winter. I’ve even sold ice cream bars in the dead of winter to people who are going outside to go play mini golf. They claim it is the best way to keep cool and warm, respectively. I was decidedly thinking it was a bunch of hooey, but more and more people came through swearing by it. Was it all hogwash, or did it have some merit in reality.
Perhaps there was some truth to the theory, because when you think about it the places hot beverages originate from tend to be very hot locations.

Coffee is produce in quite warm climates, and thought to originate in Ethiopia. Chocolate, and the chocolate drink that inevitable followed, were first consumed by the Mayans. Ancient Mayan pots with remnants point to Honduras as being another hot drink origin. Finally botanists suggesting tea first grew wild in Assam, India. Of course the drink was cultivated by the Chinese, and now there are the largest crops grown in India, Southern China and Sri Lanka. All of which are hot places.

So what are they doing drinking such hot beverages in these hot locations? Well I’ve read one theory that these places originally were quite rustic, and water was boiled to clear out organic contaminates. If you put your ingredients (tea leaves, coffee, or chocolate) inside to flavour the water, would you want to wait for it to cool down first? Still, I have my doubts. In some of the hottest places, the liquid would take its sweet time to cool, and would end up not cooling all that much. So, rather than decontamination, would people drink it hot to cool themselves down? Would it really work?

Theory would suggest that no, it can't. It would then suggest that yes, it can.
After hearing about the act of drinking a hot liquid on a hot day numerous of times, I decided to do a little research. There are lots of theories on why it would work – and why it wouldn't.
Some would say a cold drink is simply better, because your body puts its own heat into it.
Then I'd read hot drinks would work better because your body doesn’t have to heat the liquid up, therefore using less energy.
Cold drinks will cool you down through you core body.
Hot drinks will warm the body, to equal the heat you feel on your skin, and that would feel less intense.
The back and forth continued on.

But the best theory, the one that had some science to it, was that a hot drink heats up the core of your body. Your brain, which is hypersensitive to the temperature of your body’s core, reacts by putting the rest of your body into hyper self-cooling mode: mostly by sweating.
So the sweat helps cool your body, but it isn’t all that much better than cooling down your core via a cold drink instead.

So then, what will you do? Will you go the way of many South Americans and have their ice tea? I personally don’t like it because of the lack of sugar. The Canadian version I prefer, but to me it doesn’t even belong in the category of tea – the taste is so dissimilar. What about taking one of my hot teas with all the fixin’s and putting it into the fridge for later? Like an iced coffee? Well luckily for me I found a company willing to do that for me.

I saw this in a grocery store and had to buy it. It's made with tea extract and powdered milk.
It tastes awful.
Of course it does, and I was expecting it. But, more importantly, there was also a wrongness of the coldness. Ever distractedly drink from a mug of cold tea that you’d forgotten about while surfing the internet? It is gross and this is the same. The only tea beverage that could be cold and tasty would be Chai, and I have personally had very good frozen chai’s before.

It looks like a hot tea will be the only solution for my afternoon tea, but it can’t be just any tea. It has to be a summer inspired tea. Luckily for me, Murchie’s recently came out with a new tea called Coconut Cream Banana.

Coconut and banana are the main players, but it also has the smooth flavour of vanilla, and everything mixes so perfectly together. This doesn’t taste like artificial coconut that invades many of our baked culinary foods. It doesn’t taste like bad artificial banana you find in terrible hard candies. It tastes like you are in a hammock in the tropics, and someone just offered you a hot drink of paradise. It is by far my favourite tea I own at the moment, and I honestly had to keep from shouting “Day-O” between sips while drinking it. My mother can attest that I wasn’t always successful. My only complaint is that it is a very light tea : I have to let it steep quite a bit before it reached even a medium dark flavour and colour.

So if you are going to do something that feels completely unnatural – that is drink a hot beverage on a hot day—then at least find yourself a spectacular summer inspired tea. I obviously recommend this one, though I probably could drink Coconut Cream Banana tea on the sun and still be contented.

You can buy Murchie’s Coconut Cream Banana in store or online.
I don’t know if they will always carry it, as it could just be the fad of the season. It hasn’t gotten its own packaging yet, being sold only in bulk. Let’s hope it becomes a Murchie’s staple though.

You can find that Cold Earl Grey Boxed tea at grocery stores, though I found this one at T&T Supermarket. I don’t know why you’d want to, however.