Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a tea expert, you’ll most likely be consuming one such caffeinated beverage in order to get through the day (assuming you don’t start the day with soda or energy drinks). Either way, once you treat yourself to a hot beverage, you’ll be counting away the seconds to finally brave the scalding liquid. As it turns out, letting your drink cool for an extra minute or two might be a life-saving routine.

A panel of global experts have determined that drinking coffee or tea above 149ºF may lead to increased chances of cancer of the esophagus (the eighth most prominent cancer worldwide). When drinking liquids at this temperature, coffee and tea scald down the throat and pave way for potential tumors. This discovery classifies hot drinks as the same risk-group as other exposures to cancer such as lead, gasoline, and exhaust fumes; people who consumed coffee or tea less than two minutes after pouring themselves a cup are five times more likely to develop cancers than if they waited four or more minutes. Cancers of the esophagus kill more than 500,000 people worldwide with the bulk of deaths stemming from Asia, Africa, and South America.

Luckily, it isn’t the drink that causes cancer – only the temperature. Drinks consumed at lukewarm or cold temperatures were not classified as carcinogenic. In fact, only 10-30% of cancers occur naturally in people’s bodies. This suggests that most cancers actually originate from environmental factors like secondhand tobacco smoke or UV rays from the sun. However, that’s not to say that all foods are cancer-free; specifically, processed meats, such as sausages and ham, were found to have carcinogenic nutrients.

So does this mean we should just up and quit coffee and tea consumption altogether? If anything, this research should lead drinkers to perfect the art of savoring their beverage rather than gulping it down like a frat boy on formal. If anything, we should look back at the old Goldilocks fable: not too hot, not too cold, but just right.


Kahn, Michael. “Very Hot Tea May Cause Throat Cancer.” ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC, 26 Mar. 2009,   

Senthilingam, Meera. “Very Hot Drinks Are ‘Probably Carcinogenic’.” CNN, Cable News   Network, 15 June 2016,  cancer-risk/index.html.