It’s not enough that I’m underemployed, facing an old age in the poor house and that I so messed up my hair highlights that my tresses now look as blotchy as my future. Now they’re telling me that drinking hot tea over a long period can cause “an eightfold increased risk of cancer of the oesophagus.”
My attitude towards food-dooms is to ignore them. Years after I did not switch from butter to margarine, I was right in place when everyone was told to switch back. I never contributed to that pile of discarded egg yokes. I’m old enough to notice the cycles: sometimes one’s very survival is tied to consuming (or not consuming) chocolate, coffee, carbs, calories and cow.
But don’t mess with my tea. Step back from those bags. I was raised in a house of tea-with-lemon-and-sugar drinkers and that is, in fact, probably my primary, if not only, valuable inheritance from that quarter. I never tasted coffee until my fabulous freshman (sic) college roommate Abby brewed me a mug in the corner of our dorm room. I persisted with my tea-with-lemon-and-sugar habit through 14 years in Israel where instant coffee was the ubiquitous art.
Then I moved to Britain where you probably suspect I found acceptance. But actually, tea-with-lemon is not the British idea of a good time. It’s a splash of the milk that is fundamental. (And which, in the context of this study, brings down the temperature of the liquid.)
I am a tea snob and cannot abide the weak American brands that seem only to color the water. My friends from the UK keep me supplied with that basic working-class brew PG Tips or, when they really want to indulge me, with the luxury Yorkshire Gold (thanks Sue and Nancy). When I used to regularly make it over to London – before traveling became quite an impossibility – I brought along the fold-up suitcase I could pack into the bottom of my wheelie in order to fill it, for the return trip, with thousands of quality tea bags.
So imagine my distress when I awoke to headlines of throat cancer, just as I was sipping my morning leaves. I feel like many coffee addicts – my cells remain in a state of freaky dehydration until I have a cuppa or three. And as someone who doesn’t drink water – it makes me sick, upsets my stomach – tea is my day and night refreshment.
However, my life is saved. I don’t drink it super-hot. By the time I’ve left it to brew and returned to add my sweetener and my lemon, it is no longer, I’m convinced, in the danger zone of degrees. In fact, I store up my brewed tea and keep a constant pot-full in the fridge as cold tea works for me as well as hot.
The study was carried out in northern Iran where hot, black tea is the basic life liquid. They examined the drinking habits of 300 throat cancer sufferers and 571 people with no throat cancer.
But hold on a minute. Should we be saying to our tea: I don’t want another seep out of you? Is it the tea or is it the heat?
According to ABC news, Professor Reza Malekzadeh, the author of the study, “said evidence in his study showed it's not the chemicals in the tea that matters. ‘It doesn't seem to be that,’ he said. ‘Especially this specific type of cancer -- the so called squamous cell cancer.’"
In fact, previous studies in other Iranian regions showed, “Esophageal cancer numbers rose in regions where people preferred their tea very hot, and dropped where tea was served at a cooler temperature.”
So here we go again. No, it’s not the tea, necessarily; it’s just that the esophagus rebels against being doused with burning liquids. Duh.
Someone should probably let the right-wingers know what’s going on. I’ve just heard that: “Critics of President Barack Obama's stimulus plan took to the streets in St. Louis to protest his stimulus package and symbolically toss tea into the Mississippi River.”
For a full eight-minute video report (not particularly riveting) on the findings, check out the clip below.