Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tea On A Very Cold Day

Last night and this morning it was very cold where I live. I don't know the exact low but it was forecasted to be around 17 degrees F, and it felt like it. Not only was it the coldest night of the year so far, but it well over 10 degrees (F) colder than the coldest night we have had up until this point, making it feel like a bit of a shock. Living in the city now, there are fewer natural things that I was able to photograph to capture the cold; without any visible ice or frost, this is the best I could come up with:

Bare branches against a blue sky often evoke the association of cold for me, as the coldest days in winter tend to be the clear ones.

I sometimes check the weather in different parts of the country, to get a sense of perspective. I was surprised that it was significantly warmer this morning in Minneapolis, which tends to average about 15-20 degrees colder than Philly in the month of January.

Tea when it is cold:

When it is very cold, I tend to want to drink a greater volume of hot liquids just to stay warm. This includes tea. However, because I don't like consuming additional caffeine, I tend to brew the tea more weakly. Often I achieve this by using a larger brewing vessel. Usually, my default mugs to make tea in hold about 12 ounces of water. On cold mornings, such as this one, I often prefer a larger this case, one that holds about 16 ounces, or two cups. I have one mug that I bought recently that I drank from today:

This mug was produced by a local potter who sells his pottery at the Clark Park Farmer's Market in West Philadelphia, every saturday. I really like his work, and it is very reasonably priced. His work is very clean and neat looking, yet simultaneously earthy and organic. Much of his work has a pattern of overlapping colors, blending to produce even more colors, produced by dipping the work in glazes covering part of it, and then repeating at a different angle. I hope to return to highlight more of his work because I think he has some genuine artistic flair; this simple photo doesn't really do justice to his creations.

Another thing I do on cold days:

Another thing I do when it's very cold is to stretch tea one infusion beyond when I would normally steep it. For example, if I would normally steep an oolong (western-style brewing) twice, before discarding the leaves, I steep it a third time, and enjoy the last infusion for its warmth, even if it is somewhat bland.

Do you drink more tea when it is very cold?

Do you drink more tea when it is very cold? Do you just deal with the additional caffeine, or do you brew the tea more weakly like I do? Or do you drink other hot liquids like hot fruit juice or herbal teas?


  1. I live in Minneapolis and I have a theory that people get sick less when it stays below freezing outside. Last year it seemed to be in the teens and 20s (if not single digits) for months, and when spring finally started to melt all the snow, that's when everybody got sick. I've read that there is a kind of virus research only the U of MN and some university in Winnepeg are allowed to do, since if the virus spores got out in the winter, they would be neutralized by the cold. So it wouldn't surprise me if cold-causing viruses freeze to death, too.

    Anyway, as I type this it's ridiculously warm, we've had an extremely mild winter so far, the high tomorrow is predicted to be 45 which is insane, ... and I have a runny nose.

    But yes, hot drinks are great when it's cold. I would rather opt for a lower-caffeine tea like lapsang souchong, bancha or white peony instead of brewing weak tea. Low-caf need not mean low flavor.

  2. This is fascinating. I did some brief research and I found that it is well-documented that, to a point, colds are more infectious. The reason for this, apparently, is that the outer shell of the virus, made of oily substances, becomes solid at lower temperatures, making the virus less susceptible to being broken down by the elements or washed away by soap or detergent. There is epidemiological evidence too to back up that there are more colds in colder weather.

    It makes sense too that there would be a lower range to the transmissibility of the virus. Although some life forms can be preserved after freezing, eventually, a lot of them break down. I don't know much about what happens to viruses, because they are not living cells so much as DNA or RNA fragments carried in a protective coating...but I'd imagine some of them might be damaged by cold as well.

    There also might be a point at which at cold temperatures, transmissibility is reduced to almost zero, and then the virus is unable to be transmitted before it breaks down due to exposure to the elements. If anyone has any sources to clarify this, I'd be curious about it! If you do a quick google search you'll find a lot of good resources explaining why the cold virus (and flu as well) doesn't do well in warm temperatures -- although there are different varieties of virus that thrive in tropical climates.

  3. I wouldn't say I drink more tea when it's cold, rather I drink less when it's hot outside, I don't cope well with temperatures over, say +25°C/80F and drinking hot tea just adds to the discomfort.

    That said I perhaps tend to choose more warming teas if I feel cold, Japanese greens and certain oolongs seem to increase circulation, especially in my hands and feet.