We are experiencing the heat and humidity of NYC summer.
So I spent some time thinking about teas that can cool me down from this heat.
And I am not talking about literally cold tea, such as iced tea or cold brew tea.
I am talking about the types of tea with cooling properties.
Have you ever experienced your body feeling much cooler after you’ve had some watermelon?
If yes, you’d better believe that certain teas can achieve the same results!
Just as watermelon is considered a cooling fruit according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), certain types of tea are considered cooling teas.
So let’s talk about which teas are cooling and which are not.
Examples of Cooling Teas for Summer
Cooling teas tend to have the following characteristics:
- Lighter in dry leaf color
- Lighter in brewed tea color
- Lighter in body
- “Fresh,” grassy, or vegetal in flavor
So when in doubt, take this list as a reference guide.
As you prepare for a tea session, see if your tea has any of these characteristics.
Note that this is not a definitive list!
For example, if you have a tea that has three of the four “cooling tea” characteristics, it’s most likely a cooling tea.
Let’s take a look at more concrete examples.
Here are the top three cooling teas:
- Fresh Silver Needle White Tea
- Young Green Tea
- Iron Goddess (or Tieguanyin) Oolong Tea
Can you see how these examples embody the cooling tea characteristics above?
The dry leaves of young Silver Needle have silver and light green shades. They tend to brew light in color. The brewed tea is also light in body and has a hint of freshness and fruity notes.
Yes, cooling teas can also have flavors other than the ones mentioned above!
Can you find other examples of such teas?
What about young green teas?
The dry leaves of young green teas are usually light in color, ranging from yellow-green to pale olive. The brewed tea tends to be light yellow-green with a light body and has grassy or vegetal flavors.
Again, this does not mean there cannot be any exceptions.
For example, matcha can be darker green and have a thicker body. However, you’d still consider matcha to be a cooling tea, not a warming tea.
If you are an aged tea lover like myself, you might be wondering, “what about pu-erh tea and other aged teas?”
Well, let’s discuss pu-erh tea in more detail.
Is Pu-erh Tea a Cooling Tea or a Warming Tea?
You probably heard some people say pu-erh is a warming tea.
But you may have also heard some describe pu-erh as a cooling tea.
So which is it?
It depends on whether you are referring to raw or ripe pu-erh tea.
Let’s refer back to the four cooling tea characteristics mentioned above for both types of pu-erh tea.
Raw pu-erh, especially when young, is lighter in brewed tea color and lighter in its body. When brewed, young raw pu-erh tastes quite vegetal. Also, its dry leaves are typically pale in color, similar to young green tea leaves.
So raw pu-erh is a cooling tea, making it an excellent choice in the summer.
The younger the raw pu-erh, the more cooling properties it has.
On the other hand, raw pu-erh loses its cooling properties as it ages over time.
If you want to take a step further, you can make a cold brew of the Smoky Pu-erh (2017)!
What about ripe pu-erh tea?
Ripe pu-erh is dark in dry leaf color with its reddish-brown color. When brewed, it takes on an even darker rich hue of reddish-brown and has a full-bodied texture. If you've tasted ripe pu-erh before, you won't describe it as vegetal or grassy either.
As you may have guessed, ripe pu-erh has warming properties.
So on a typical summer day, you wouldn’t want to start brewing ripe pu-erh for you and your family in the heat.
In contrast, if you’ve been craving more ripe pu-erh in the winter, your body is already recognizing it as a warming tea.
You may even have noticed your body feeling warm after a ripe pu-erh tea session.
Until now, we used the characteristics of tea that can be observed from dry leaves or brewed tea to determine whether a tea is cooling or not.
But what if you are at a physical store and don't have all the information about the tea?
Is there a way to tell whether your tea is cooling or warming?
In fact, there is!
How to Determine Whether Your Tea is Cooling or Warming
There’s a simple way to tell whether or not your tea has cooling properties.
And you don’t need to observe its dry leaves or taste it.
If you are a more experienced tea lover who understands the primary determinant of six types of tea, you may have already figured this out.
The characteristics of cooling teas closely match the characteristics of teas that are low in oxidation and fermentation.
And the levels of oxidation and fermentation during tea making are the main criteria that determine the type of tea.
Therefore, you can check which type of tea you have to figure out whether your tea is cooling or not.
As a reminder, the six types of tea are:
- White tea
- Yellow tea
- Green tea
- Oolong tea
- Black tea
- Dark tea
Lightly oxidized teas include white tea, yellow tea, green tea, and lighter oolong tea. And these are cooling teas.
On the other hand, heavily oxidized teas include black tea and heavier oolong tea. And these are warming teas.
Dark teas are fully fermented and have warming properties.
Beat the Heat by Cold Brewing Cooling Teas
So on a hot day, you can pick one of the cooling teas to drink, hot or cold.
But on a scorching day, you may want to consider cold brewing a cooling tea.
The cold brew technique extracts less bitter notes from tea leaves, so it is the perfect match for cooling teas that are high in tannin.
Need a recommendation?
One of our favorite teas to cold brew is our Smoky Pu-erh (2017).
Its smoky flavor is very well balanced with its sweet notes, especially when cold brewed. And you’d barely notice its bitterness!
If you need a quick and easy cold brew recipe, head over to our Cold Brew Tea Recipe page here.