A small study involving college students in China suggests that tea improves mental clarity and focus. The effect is generally attributed to caffeine and theanine, but simply elevating their mood could benefit tea drinkers, according to research published in the Journal Food Quality and Preference.
The research, by psychologists at Peking University in China, involved 50 students with an average age of 23. Half were given a cup of black tea to drink while the others drank a glass of warm water. The two groups then completed standard tests to assess their creative skills.
Results were judged by fellow students who had not participated. In the first test, subjects were asked to build an “attractive and creative” assembly of building blocks. The second test assessed their ability to invent a “cool” name for a fictional noodle restaurant.
Numerous media outlets reported the findings: On the first test tea drinkers averaged a score of 6.54 while those drinking water scored 6.03 on average. Tea drinkers naming the restaurant received an average score of 4.11 compared to 3.78 for those who drank water.
Tea drinkers with bolstered creativity were screened to see if the benefits were immediate. It takes 30 to 60 minutes for the body to react to caffeine and theanine, and the tea drinkers were tested three minutes after consuming up to a cup of tea. Both tests concluded within 20-minutes of when the tea was consumed.
The report explains that “two biological ingredients, caffeine and theanine, have beneficial effects on attention, which is an indispensable part of cognitive function. But the amount of tea ingredients our participants absorbed was relatively small. Also, theanine facilitates long-term sustained attentional processing rather than short-term moment-to-moment attentional processing.”
The small amount, and insufficient time seem to rule out psycho-active chemicals, but the results were significant leading researchers to propose that tea drinkers benefit from a boost in mood. Tea helps them relax in a similar way to meditation. The result is a demonstration of creativity above the norm.
Instead, tea is a ‘mood enhancer’ and this may have been why it worked so well in the short term, writes the Daily Mail.
Lead researcher Yan Huang, a professor in the Psychological and Cognitive Sciences Department, concluded “the current research demonstrates that drinking tea can improve creative performance with divergent thinking” ―a result worth pondering over a hot cup, do you agree?