Why Does Tea Make My Mouth Dry?

We’ve all been there – sipping a delicious cup of tea and suddenly realizing that our mouth feels dry and slightly parched. But what’s the science behind this? 

In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why tea makes your mouth feel dry and how you can minimize this sensation while still enjoying your favorite beverage.

Woman drinking water

Why Does Tea Make My Mouth Dry?

The primary reasons why tea can make your mouth feel dry are due to two key components: tannins and caffeine.

Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in tea, particularly in black and green teas. They belong to a class of compounds called polyphenols, known for their antioxidant properties. When you drink tea, tannins bind to proteins in your saliva, leading to a sensation of dryness and astringency. This reaction is similar to the one you experience when drinking red wine, which also contains tannins.

Caffeine, another component of tea, can also contribute to a dry mouth. Caffeine is a diuretic that increases urine production and can cause mild dehydration. However, tea is not generally considered a diuretic drink. Unless you drink a lot of tea high in caffeine daily, the caffeine in tea will not make your mouth dry.

How to Decrease the Feeling of Dry Mouth From Tea?

There are several ways to minimize the sensation of dry mouth when drinking tea:

  1. Choose low-tannin true teas: Opt for true teas with lower tannin levels, such as white tea. This tea tends to have a less astringent taste and is less likely to make your mouth dry.
  2. Decrease steeping time: Reducing the steeping time for your tea can help limit tannin extraction, resulting in a milder flavor and less mouth dryness. Experiment with shorter steeping times to find the perfect balance for your taste preferences.
  3. Use fewer tea leaves: Using a smaller amount of tea leaves can also reduce the tannin content in your brewed tea. Start with a smaller quantity of leaves and adjust according to your taste preference, keeping in mind that fewer tea leaves may result in a milder flavor.
  4. Add milk: Adding milk to your tea can help neutralize the tannins, reducing the astringency and dry-mouth feeling. 
  5. Try herbal teas: Many herbal teas do not contain tannins or caffeine, making them a great alternative if you’re looking for a warm beverage without the dry-mouth effect.
  6. Drink water: Staying hydrated is essential to counteract the diuretic effects of caffeine. If you drink a lot of caffeine-high tea daily, drink enough water to keep your mouth moist and your body hydrated.

What Teas Are Less Likely to Cause Dry Mouth?

The following teas are less likely to cause dry mouth due to their lower tannin and caffeine levels:

  1. White tea: White tea is the least processed of all true teas, resulting in lower tannin content. It also has a lower caffeine content than black and green teas.
  2. Herbal teas: Herbal teas are made from a variety of plants, fruits, and spices, and they typically do not contain tannins or caffeine. Examples include chamomile, peppermint, and rooibos.
  3. Decaffeinated tea: Decaffeinated tea is a good option if you’re sensitive to caffeine, as the decaffeination process removes most of the caffeine content from the tea leaves. Keep in mind that decaffeinated teas may still contain some tannins, but choosing a decaffeinated white tea can help minimize the dry-mouth sensation.

What Teas Are More Likely to Cause Dry Mouth?

Here are some teas that are more likely to cause dry mouth:

  • Black tea: Black tea is fully fermented and has the highest tannin content among tea varieties. The combination of tannins and caffeine in black tea makes it more likely to cause a dry mouth sensation.
  • Green tea: Green tea is not fermented but has a notable amount of tannins and caffeine. Although it has lower tannin levels than black tea, it can still contribute to dry mouth, especially if consumed in large quantities or brewed improperly.
  • Pu-erh tea: Pu-erh tea, a type of fermented tea originating from China, also has a higher tannin content due to its unique processing method. The presence of tannins and caffeine in Pu-erh tea can contribute to a dry mouth sensation.
  • Mate tea: Mate tea, made from the leaves of the yerba mate plant, has a high caffeine content and contains tannins. Its stimulating properties can lead to a dry mouth sensation, similar to the effects of coffee.

Final Thoughts

Tea is a beloved beverage enjoyed by millions around the world, but the dry-mouth sensation it can cause might be a bit off-putting for some. Understanding the role of tannins and caffeine in causing a dry mouth can help you make informed choices about the types of tea you drink and how you prepare them.

To minimize the sensation of dry mouth while enjoying tea, opt for low-tannin and low-caffeine varieties such as white or herbal teas. Proper brewing techniques, staying hydrated, and adding milk to your tea can also help counteract the drying effects of tannins and caffeine. 

With these tips in mind, you can continue sipping your favorite tea without the unwanted side effect of a dry mouth. 


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