Monday, May 14, 2012

Whoops I Did It Again: Tea Does Not Go Well With Grapefruit

Back in December of 2010, I wrote about Grapefruit and Tea, describing how I found that grapefruit did not go well with tea. If you missed that post, there's some interesting material in there both about tea and grapefruit, and about grapefruit's strange drug interactions.

I like grapefruit a lot, and I like eating it in the morning, close to when I drink my tea. Grapefruits have also been in season for some time, although we're nearing the end of the US season and I've found the quality has declined (and price increased) in recent weeks. But when grapefruit is in season, I seem to have a problem, which is that I keep end up consuming tea and grapefruit together, even though I know that I don't like the results.

Photo by J. Smith, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

What happens?

I've recently sampled a lot of teas alongside grapefruit, as grapefruits are in season. I was particularly struck by the effect grapefruit had on TeaVivre's Xin Yang Mao Jian, a brisk green tea that I liked very much. I found the grapefruit took away all the bite from this tea...there was none of the pleasing bitterness that I find so appealing about this tea. But I also found that the aroma was also somehow lost.

I would really like to find a tea that goes well with grapefruit but I have yet to discover one, a year and a half (and two grapefruit seasons) after writing that original post. Any recommendations? Or is this just the way it is?

Interestingly, I never seem to have the same problem with oranges.


  1. You could switch to pomelos. Much sweeter. I personally don't understand the power of the grapefruit lobby in the USA (ha ha). Grapefruits are actually a cross between oranges and pomelos, but I like pomelos much more.

    In general, I advise people not to drink tea with any food. As 1) The mixing of flavors will diminish the full flavor of the tea, no matter how well the pairing, and 2) as you probably know, caffeine and other stimulants inhibit nutrient absorption within a certain window.

    However, if you insist on drinking grapefuit while simultaneously drinking my mind, a wuyi wulong might make sense, as it's thick and deep, to counter and compliment the bitter/astringency of grapefruit.

    There's also a Pomelo flower fragrance Phoenix tea in existence, but I don't think you should drink it with pomelo (or grapefruit)!

    1. I actually have never tried a pomelo! I see them for sale but they're so expensive usually, I haven't ever bought one...but I'm curious about them and I'm probably going to try them eventually, as I love trying new kinds of fruit.

      It's interesting, there are some teas that I find actually taste considerably better to me when paired with the right foods, than they do on their own. The most remarkable case of this, I wrote about in my post Tea-Food Pairings: Spicy Food Enhances an Otherwise Undesirable Tea -- this was a broken-leaf Darjeeling first flush that I did not like on its own, but loved when paired with spicy foods.

      I also found that black grapes enhanced my appreciation of an Assam in one case.

      Is it caffeine that inhibits the absorption of nutrients? I haven't seen evidence about that. But I have seen evidence that the antioxidants in tea can inhibit absorption of mineral nutrients (like iron) by binding to them. However...when I started researching this in more depth, I found that there's no evidence that this inhibition of iron absorption is actually a matter of concern in the long-run. The body and the diet are very complex and there are so many different interactions. In many cases, the body becomes better at absorbing nutrients when it is deficient in those nutrients, so what seems like an inhibition of nutrients under normal conditions does not actually pose problems when people actually need that nutrient.

      I also generally trust traditional cultures...there are a lot of traditional cultures that consume tea with food and have done so for generations. It's not a guarantee that it's the healthiest thing, but I think it's a pretty solid pointer that it's not going to have serious detrimental effects!

    2. Well, I think your previous post title says it all; while synergistic effects can be used to increase the appreciation of low quality items (i.e. run of the mill tomatoes, onions and eggplant can be combined to make a tasty stir-fry), I think you'll find that for a high quality tea, most food items will subtract from the depth of tea unless of a similarly high quality and carefully used.

      Yes, that's my understanding based on what I've read in the past, that it was the caffeine. I also trust traditional cultures, and traditionally, in Chinese culture, you consume tea after a meal.