The International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, on Wednesday released a report saying that drinking "very hot" beverages of any kind could potentially raise the cancer risk.
The IARC in its report cited countries including China, Iran and those in South America, where teas are traditionally drunk at extremely high temperatures - above 65 or 70 degrees Celsius (150 or 160 Fahrenheit) - considerably hotter than drinks would normally be served in cafes across North America and Europe.
The IARC experts claim that there was not sufficient proof to suggest coffee might cause cancer.
"I'm not really sure why coffee was in a higher category in the first place," said Owen Yang, an epidemiologist at Oxford University who has previously studied the possible link between coffee and cancer. He was not part of the IARC expert group. "The best evidence available suggests that coffee does not raise the cancer risk," he said.
Dana Loomis, deputy head of the IARC program that classifies carcinogens, said they started a study to find out a possible link between cancer and coffee after seeing unusually high rates of esophageal cancer in countries where it is a common practice to drink very hot beverages. He said that even at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius (140 Fahrenheit), hot beverages can scald the skin, and the consumption of drinks at even higher temperatures could be harmful.
"Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption are much more significant for reducing cancer risk than the temperature of what you're drinking," said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.