It doesn’t take any fancy ingredients or kitchen equipment to make a good cup of tea. But would you ever consider swapping out your kettle and teapot to use your microwave if it meant it could make your tea healthier for you?
According to Dr. Quan Vuong, an Australian food scientist who specializes in getting more value out of natural foods, the health benefits of tea are greater when brewed in the microwave. Not surprisingly, tea enthusiasts everywhere are completely outraged by this claim.
In an interview with ABC Radio Sydney, Dr. Vuong explained how the average household microwave can extract up to 80 percent more bioactive compounds including caffeine, theanine and polyphenol compounds from black tea and green tea. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant associated with a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes, while theanine is an amino acid that helps promote relaxation.
Dr. Vuong said that tea drinkers may enjoy these health benefits if their tea consumption is higher than average — at least three cups a day. He recommends adding hot water to a mug along with a green or black teabag and then microwaving it on half power for 30 seconds before letting it sit and cool off for about a minute. It also works with looseleaf tea.
Besides the enhanced health benefits, another interesting claim Dr. Vuong makes about microwaving tea is that it also improves its taste. But in an article published by Slate Magazine, the author argues that microwaves heat water/food unevenly, offering no real way to control the water temperature and resulting in tea that has been brewed with water that’s either too hot or not hot enough. This, of course, affects its taste.
When it comes to brewing up a good cup of black tea, using water that was heated by bringing it to a rolling boil apparently produces the best results. Black tea needs water that’s hot enough to chemically alter certain volatile compounds, which produces the best flavors. If it’s made with water that has been overheated, however, it may lose more dissolved oxygen and certain aromatic compounds may be destroyed.
With green tea, bringing the water to just under its boiling point in the microwave will produce the best flavors and aromas. But if you accidentally boil the water, your green tea might have a bitter taste to it as a result of the amino acids being overwhelmed.
Making tea in the microwave, it seems, is trickier than it seems — especially if taste is important to you. It doesn’t really help that Dr. Vuong’s vague recommendation of using ”hot water” to make tea in the microwave could be interpreted as too hot or not hot enough by anyone willing to try.
However you choose to brew up a cup of tea, rest assured that there are still many potential health benefits to enjoy regardless of whether it’s been brewed with water that was heated to the perfect temperature every single time. Recent research has shown that a daily cup of green, black or oolong tea may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults.