February 17, 2012

Secret Weapon: Oolong Tea

Fantastic tea from a tea merchant based in Queens, NY.

One of the hardest things about having GERD is limiting my tea intake.   Tea is for me like wine is to some people.  I savor not only the taste, but also the aromas, leaf textures, packaging, and "experience" of preparing tea.   When I travel, I make a point to visit local tea emporiums -- coming home with a few bags of French verveine or Darjeeling is a highlight!  I even attend an annual trade show.   

So, when my GI specialist added "tea" to the list of trigger foods, I was mortified.  No tea?!  You have to be kidding.  Over the past year, I've had to come to terms with the reality that tea can exacerbate my GERD.   I've also managed to "have my tea and my GERD too" by creative consumption.  For example:
  • I've found that if I drink caffeinated tea every other day, this greatly helps minimize or eliminate any trigger effect.  
  • Reduce the number of cups a day to one (or two)
  • Take 2-3 days off from drinking tea at all -- I'm not as happy those days, but the long term benefits are worth it!
  • Experiment with different varieties of tea; I've found that Oolong and Pu'ehr teas are less likely to trigger GERD than straight-up black teas like Earl Gray or Assam.
  • Be open-minded to decaffeinated tea.  I got a few samples of Harney & Sons' Decaffeinated Ceylon, and even I will admit that a cup in the afternoon is pleasing (I'm not alone -- apparently, this is noted in reviews as the only decaf tea that has the richness of regular tea).  I still rarely drink decaffeinated tea, but keep a few bags of the Harney & Sons around in case I'd like something black tea-ish but am not sure my gut can tolerate it.


My gut seems to respond differently to different teas in the caffeinated category.  Pu-ehr tea and Hojicha are usually always safe teas, rarely triggering a reflux response.   Some of the greens (Lung Ching in particular, and some of "high quality" senchas) are also reliable.  The other type of tea that works well with my gut is Oolong, a favorite of Chinese medicine practitioners for easing digestive problems.   The unifying theme here may be fermentation -- a process known to be easy on the belly.  Maybe that's why these teas are best for my gut (and, luckily, they all happen to among my favorites).

Oolong tea, brewed from loose-leaf.  I usually drink oolongs, verveine, and hojicha in the mornings.


Again, it's a challenge finding non-commercial references to tea and health benefits.  Most of what I'm finding are weight loss, quasi-medicinal, and commercial tea merchant sites.  I'll keep searching but for now:

Another Livestrong item specifically about green tea and GERD -- I like the point made that drinking tea is often a relaxing activity, thereby reducing stress and anxiety, which can trigger acid reflux.  Yeah!

On the merits of chamomile tea.  There's even a chamomile-inspired movie included here.

And then there's this chap (not sure of his credentials, but he verbally cites his facts), whose YouTube series includes this video clip about green tea and acid reflux.


  1. Nice. I like your writing style and have deeply impressed by your wisdom. I've learned a lot from your article and now Im very interested in Oolong Tea. I like drinking Chinese Tea with Yixing Teapot!

  2. Hello--does Verbena (Verveine) trigger your GERD? My husband is also a tea lover and struggling to find a tea that won't exacerbate the symptoms--will pass on your comment about Oolong...thanks! Verbena was easier to find in Europe--here it always seems to be linked with mint, which he's supposed to avoid.

    1. Hi Carol! Verbena is great! I also have trouble with minty teas, and know what you mean - verbena/verveine is often paired with mint. On a trip to Washington, D.C., I discovered a wonderful mint-less lemon verbena tea at Teasim: https://www.teaism.com/french-verveine-p-262.html. I have ordered it by mail as well, I like it that much! :)

      Your husband may also like to try roasted Kukicha tea -- made from the "twigs" of the tea bush. It's a popular type of tea among tea-growers themselves. The roasted version is nutty and delicious and soothing on the stomach for me. I love it. Kukicha is another tea known for being good for digestive issues. See: http://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/kukicha

      Thanks for the post and good luck w/ the tea sampling!