Here's the situation: you heard of tea's soothing and calming effects and decided to give it a try. But then, you remembered that you have acid reflux. You also recalled the idea of tea being acidic. So does this mean you can't drink tea?
What is acid reflux?
First things first, let's identify the problem.
Acid reflux is a condition that involves heartburn. It happens when your stomach acid goes up to your esophagus, which is where the food we eat usually passes through. This also causes a scratchy throat and stomach pain. If your acid reflux occurs more than twice a week, then it can be diagnosed as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
This is actually a painful experience and it will leave you feeling discomforted for quite a period of time. So, it would be best to avoid foods and drinks that would trigger your stomach acid to go up.
But the real question is, is tea one of them?
Is tea acidic or not?
Yes, most teas are mildly acidic, especially caffeinated teas. However, the level of acidity varies on the type of tea leaves used to make the tea or how properly the tea was brewed. Teas that are oxidized are more or less acidic compared to ones that are not. Examples of this would be black tea and oolong tea. Also, the addition of spices and fruits to your tea (especially citrus ones) can also make acidic teas. Lemon tea is a good example of an acidic tea because of the presence of—yep, you guessed it—lemon extract.
What makes tea acidic?
Acidic teas come as they are due to the oxidation process they undergo. This means that the more matured or processed the tea is, the more acidic it will be. This is even before anything else is added to it.
Having caffeine content is also a defining key to a tea's acidity level. Caffeine, a major component of both tea and coffee, is known to possibly trigger heartburn and GERD symptoms because it causes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax or weaken. Thus, this allows the backward flow of stomach contents, including the stomach acid.
A tea can also become an acidic one depending on the type of blend. As previously mentioned above, adding spices and fruits will only make your tea more acidic. This is why the most acidic tea blends are spiced chai tea, black tea blends with berries, and citrus-blended teas.
You also have to consider the time of steeping. The longer you steep your tea, the more acidic it can be, even if it was only fairly acidic in the first place. And don't forget, oversteeping may also cause your tea to be more bitter.
If you are experiencing acid reflux or GERD, then it would be best to avoid this type of tea.
Understanding the pH scale
There's another easy way to determine whether or not a tea is acidic: it's by using pH scale! This scale will show in the form of numbers how a particular type of tea is acidic by measuring its pH level.
To put it simply, the neutral point on the scale is 7. Most herbal teas fall under this category. However, if the tea (or any food or beverage in that matter) falls below 4 in the scale is considered to be highly acidic and might leave a negative effect on digestion. Highly acidic teas can trigger acid reflux and even tooth decay. For instance, lemon tea is at number 2 on the scale which is a clear indication of its high acidity level.
For more info about the pH scale, check here.
Are herbal teas acidic too?
Interestingly, herbal teas or caffeine-free teas are much milder, acidic or neutral compared to those that are not. Some of them are even recommended to drink to treat or relieve heartburn (like ginger tea).
Again, when it comes to the level of their acidity, the type of tea leaves and how and where they were harvested should be taken into consideration. For instance, green tea also has caffeine but it is mildly acidic compared to black tea. It only has a pH of 7 to 10 which ranges from neutral to slightly acidic on the scale. The same goes for chamomile tea, mint tea, rooibos tea, dandelion tea, chicory tea, and fennel teas that are only considered neutral.
Additionally, herbal teas are also prominent for providing soothing and calming effects to upset stomachs. They're generally an aid for digestion, cleansing our guts, and reducing cases of bloating, vomiting, and nausea.
So to our dear tea lovers and wannabe tea lovers, if you're straying away from acidic drinks but still want a taste of tea, then herbal teas are your best option.
To make it easier for you, here’s a table showing each tea and its respective acidity level:
Type of tea
7 - 10
6 - 7
Other herbal teas
4.9 - 6
3 - 4
Which triggers acid reflux more, tea or coffee?
Both coffee and tea are dietary sources of caffeine. Caffeine is known to trigger heartburn and acid reflux for its effects on the LES. Before they’re brewed, tea leaves contain more caffeine than coffee. (Shocking, we know.) But once they’re brewed, coffee beans extract more caffeine which makes it an even more acidic drink compared to tea.
If you’re a frequent coffee and tea drinker but need to reduce caffeine intake due to your acid reflux, you can try out various caffeine-free teas like chamomile. There are also teas that are treated as healthier substitutes for coffee such as rooibos tea and dandelion root tea!
How can I make tea less acidic?
Surely there's still something you can do to make your favorite teas less acidic. What if you're in the mood for black tea or fruit teas that taste even more incredible when they're iced cold?
It's simple really. To reduce the acidity in tea, all you have to do is to add something to alkaline that's more neutral.
One great example would be the addition of milk.
Adding milk is said to balance out acidic teas. However, you should also be careful in choosing the type of milk that you add. Because while milk can help reduce the acidity of teas, thoroughly processed or pasteurized milks happen to be a lot more acidic than regular milk due to the lack of their natural bacteria.
Also, diluting your tea with alkaline water may also help lessen its acidity. But since some water can be acidic too, it would be best to use a pH tester kit to measure the water that you add to your tea.
Is drinking tea bad for me if they're acidic?
In general, tea is deemed safe to drink. However, you should also remember to drink it in moderation. Drinking it too much in one day on a regular basis may not also be good for you, especially if you have acid reflux or GERD.
If you know you're sensitive to acidic drinks, we suggest sticking to herbal teas or less acidic teas like green tea, chamomile, ginger, and others. But if you still insist on drinking black tea or lemon tea, make them less acidic by adding the things we mentioned above. We all love tea but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Also, if you are having a difficult time gauging whether or not this type of tea is safe for you to drink, you can consult your doctor first. GERD is not an easy condition to be living with and should not be taken lightly. It would be best to get the perspective of a medical professional just to make sure that you won't be putting yourself at risk.
Enjoy your tea but don't forget that your health is your responsibility!
If you want to know more about exquisite herbal teas and their recipes, we have a great selection that you will find here.