Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Influence of Weather on Tea – A Hot Summer

A blue sky that provides little shade from the sweltering sun means that rising temperatures are close to 40C in high humidity.

This year’s hot and humid summer in Bangkok has been stifling and things will only become more heated as we enter the peak months of April and May. As a result I can feel myself becoming more and more drawn to bitter and astringent teas as a means to help dispel the buildup of heat from inside the body. Over the years I have noticed this craving for bitter and astringent tea to come more regularly as the thermometer starts rocketing up. Despite tea being a hot beverage I find that brewing and drinking bitter tea is deeply satisfying to my body at this time.

The 2005 Mengsong Peacock from Menghai Tea Factory has just the right amount of bitter and astringent potency at this stage of age to become one of my go to teas. Being semi-aged the tea does not present any of the uncomfortable cold harshness of a young tea that I prefer to avoid. The brew presents good depth and body together with an emerging dark sweetness that adds to its charm. 

Chinese food culture is influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is a belief, incorporated into a lifestyle that is based on consuming the right food at the right time to keep the body in balance and in harmony with the changing conditions of our environment. During summer it is a Chinese tradition to serve bitter soup. The bitter soup is often made with bitter melon as the key ingredient and is believed to assist in clearing heat and eliminating dampness from the body. It is an old remedy that has been ingrained in the diets of many families for multiple generations. For me bitter tea serves the same purpose and whilst a hot brew may feel like you are adding to the boiling cauldron inside, I have always noticed that my body feels better regulated during the days when I am drinking bitter and astringent tea.

Whilst I share my experiences through this blog I would also like to remind my readers that individually our bodies are unique and what works for one person may not be effective for another. That said I believe our body is constantly trying to communicate with us and it is worth exploring and coming to an understanding of the little signs and signals that are given. When we are able to separate our own personal desires and whims from the true signals our body is giving us - especially in the area of food and nutrition - things will begin to appear in a new light. The experience of recognizing our body’s need, fulfilling it and being rewarded is highly gratifying. It is also a practice that will keep you better nourished and as a result in better health.

Additional Note: I have been studying the effects of different foods and making a conscious effort to observe my body’s reactions for a number of years. These observations have convinced me that choosing the right diet can greatly contribute towards keeping my body functioning at its optimum. During the very hot months I have learned to minimize the strain on the body by limiting my consumption of “hot food” and food that requires the body to work harder to process. I find that minimizing my consumption of fatty and sugary processed food, white flour, meat, dairy product and alcohol plays an important part towards how well my body is able to cope and thus affecting my level of physical comfort when faced with trying conditions like Thailand’s hot and humid summer.


  1. I have been investigating this as well. The elimination of water from the kidneys is greatly assisted by bitter and sour foods (like citrus). Fermented foods like sauerkraut assist the gall bladder which is responsible for clearing fats. Fresh green puerh tea provides both, But if someone doesn't need these helps, s/he does not suffer from edema or digestive distress, then bitter puerh if overconsumed can lead to a different sort of distress. I do have edema and in hot weather particularly, I find bitter green puerh cooling and eliminating even when taken hot.

    One odd issue is that not all fresh green puerh works. Sweeter puerh doesn't work. It has to be bitter and green as opposed to sweet and yellow. Aged or shou puerh are fine for digesting fats but don't help with edema. It needs to be bitter and fresh green, and not all teas qualify.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences Cwyn.

      Not all puerh tea is bitter and astringent as you have rightly mentioned. For this particular situation I like teas that possess a stronger and heavier character that have a notable bitter astringency when young. At semi age a lot of that initial bitter astringency will have mellowed and the tea becomes more approachable. My current list of bitter teas for the summer comes from areas in Bulang, Menghai and Simao.

      The following is a link to a well written article on the 6 tastes and their nutritional value defined under Ayurveda. Well worth a look.

      Best, VP