I do not own a microwave, but in light of a recent Twitter debate, I am now reevaluating my preferred methods of food and drink heating and re-heating. According to a 2012 study which has recently resurfaced, the best way to make tea is in the microwave — and while I had completely forgotten this scientifically-proven tidbit, the internet has not. In fact, it is once again relevant for tea-lovers everywhere, thanks to a scene from the popular British crime drama Broadchurch, where David Tennant's character DI Hardy (shockingly) heats a cup of tea in the microwave. The episode that premiered to UK audiences in mid-March has since caused a social media frenzy, reigniting the age-old debate over how to make the perfect cup of tea.
If there is one thing I know about our friends across the pond, it's that many Brits feel pretty strongly about their cuppa. It's difficult to imagine the land of tea cozies, fine china tea services, and finger sandwiches getting behind nuking their Earl Grey. The microwave is quick and easy when it comes to heating leftovers in a hurry, but sometimes provides mixed results from a culinary standpoint; we've all had that moment of anguish where parts of our microwaved burrito are still frozen, while others are scaldingly hot. It seems unthinkable that something long considered a tool of convenience, not of choice, could actually improve tea's nutritional benefits and even make it taste better — but that is exactly what it does, according to science.
The five-year-old study performed by Dr. Quan Vuong of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, says we might have it all wrong when it comes to the microwave. Giving your green or black tea a quick zap will boost the benefits of healthful naturally-occurring compounds such as caffeine, theanine, and polyphenol, compared to steeping in hot water.
To activate and purify the compounds, Dr. Vuong suggests a simple method anyone can try at home:
- Pour hot water in the cup over your teabag.
- Heat the cup in the microwave for 30 seconds on half power.
- Let it sit for a minute.
The food scientist found that 80 percent of the caffeine, theanine, and polyphenol compounds were activated as a result of this method, compared to only 10 percent that were activated when a tea bag was dunked in hot water for 30 seconds. Following instructions on your tea's box will only activate about 60 percent of the compounds, whereas the microwave gave the tea the kick it needs.
Polyphenols are antioxidants which have been found to help ward off certain cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases, whereas the amino acid theanine may help reduce stress and anxiety. So there is certainly good reason to try out this tea hack — even for purists.
Still, the internet is just not having it.
I guess I'll have to buy a microwave and settle this thing once and for all with a tea taste test. After all, you need to drink at least three cups a day to get the full health benefits.