Friday, December 17, 2010

Grapefruit and Tea

I love grapefruit, and I love tea. Here is a red grapefruit that is one of many I've been purchasing for the wonderful price of 2 for $1 at the Newark Farmer's Market:

Grapefruit's Strange Interactions:

Grapefruit is a bit of an odd fruit, and it has strange effects on the body. There is a long list of drugs that are known to interact with grapefruit. Fascinatingly, and perhaps disturbingly, this interaction was discovered by accident, when experimenters used grapefruit juice to mask the taste of alcohol in order to design a controlled study of alcohol's interactions with a certain drug. In case anyone is interested, here's a link to the 1989 study (not public access). Since then, a long list of potentially dangerous interactions with many other drugs has been discovered.

I find this story disturbing because it highlights how very little is known about the interactions of modern pharmaceuticals with food and drink. Grapefruit is a common food, and its drug interactions are numerous and dangerous. Given that these interactions were only discovered by accident, it seems highly likely to me that there may be hundreds if not thousands of other such interactions with various common foods. This is one of many compelling reasons behind my skepticism towards the drug-heavy approach to medicine that sadly dominates the United States medical establishment, and my personal belief in using prescription drugs only when no feasible alternatives exist.

Grapefruit's Interactions with Tea:

Many foods can leave a lingering taste on the palate which can shape, and sometimes either enhance or spoil, one's appreciation of a given tea. I've found that, more than any other foods, grapefruit tends to have this effect. There are many teas whose subtleties are eliminated and which even become bland or tasteless if I sip them immediately after eating a grapefruit.

This morning, I am drinking hojicha. Hojicha normally has a pleasing roasted aroma, almost suggestive of coffee, and a smooth flavor, with some of the fresh green tea characteristics still remaining, especially in teas with a lighter roast. However, after eating my grapefruit and sipping my hojicha, I notice none of this. Instead I notice...guess what? Grapefruit, even though my grapefruit is long gone. And I also notice a muted, rather bland finish, that I can only really describe as gray like the sky. A faint hint of roast emerges at the end, but the grapefruit still leaves a tingle in my mouth.

Any recommendations of teas to try with grapefruit?

Perhaps grapefruit is best avoided before drinking tea. But if anyone has any recommendations of teas that are a good idea to drink after eating grapefruit, I'd be open to suggestions, and perhaps I can write about my experiences in the future.


  1. Interesting post - I've definitely noticed that grapefruit and other citrusy fruits are difficult to pair with other foods because they can be overwhelming in their taste. The smell also seems to cling to my fingers for the whole day after eating it.

    Maybe it has something to do with how alkaline grapefruit juice is and how it interacts with the acid nature? Maybe a neutralizing effect?

  2. From what I've read, grapefruit juice is not alkaline, but rather, very acidic: it has a ph. of about 3 (lemon juice is more acidic, at about 2) and orange juice is similar but slightly less than grapefruit.

    I also think that, from my experience, it's only grapefruit that has the real pervasive effects that I describe in this post. I regularly eat other citrus, including oranges and tangerines, and I use a lot of lime in foods I prepare, and I never have the same sort of problem with any of these other citrus.

    I think it's something peculiar about grapefruit. And the drug interactions I prescribed reinforce this--they are specific to grapefruit, and are not an issue with other common types of citrus.

    I also think that it doesn't have much to do with the overwhelming nature of the taste. I can think of a lot of foods which are outright dominating in flavor and aroma which do not have this effect. For example, I regularly eat hot peppers, and I eat all sorts of strongly spiced foods, vegetables, herbs. While any have dominating effects and lingering flavors and aromas, nothing has an effect anything like grapefruit.

  3. I love grapefruit! I use a lot of grapefruit fragrant shampoo and lotion too, just because the scent is so refreshing!

    I've never tried having it with tea though. I don't know how to have a grapefruit without having both of my hands occupied :-p