At 4 o’clock every day, I drink tea. Let’s take a look and see why tea might be the perfect afternoon beverage.
You then start thinking about having just one more cup of coffee
to give you the push you need to get you through the remaining hours of a hectic day.
You hesitate, though, because you know the extra caffeine might make you too jittery.
Or maybe you need an afternoon boost but you struggle with adrenal fatigue issues. So you avoid coffee because you know that caffeine will play havoc with your cortisol levels.
Is there a healthy option you can turn to for that needed lift instead of coffee?
Maybe you should try tea as your go to afternoon beverage. I know it doesn’t sound as sexy as having a double cafe mocha or a holiday spice flat white coffee. But consider this.
It has less caffeine than coffee, so it won’t increase those caffeine jitters.
But tea has just enough caffeine that, in combination with its other ingredients, it will keep you alert, attentive, relaxed and possibly more creative.
I don’t want to convince anyone to forgo their morning java. I know how important it is to you. Barbara reminds me of this every day.
However, as a busy person, you know how important it is to stay productive throughout the afternoon while not getting stressed.
To achieve that, tea might be the better beverage for you.
Let’s take a look and see why tea might be the perfect afternoon beverage.
What Is tea?
All tea, regardless of the variety, is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Thedifferences lie in the processing of the leaves.
The leaves of black tea are dried, then crushed or torn, and then allowed to oxidize before being dried.
After harvesting, green tea leaves are dried and then immediately heated. This process limits the amount of oxidation that takes place.
Oolong teas are semi-oxidized which places them between black and green teas.
White tea is the least processed of the four and may include tea buds and very young leaves.
While my intention in this post is not to dwell on the health benefits of tea it would be remiss of me if I did not at least mention them.
The health benefits of tea
Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. ~Okakura Kakuzō
For almost 5000 years, tea has been consumed as a health tonic.
The health benefits of tea are usually attributed to compounds called polyphenols. These are potent antioxidants that are important for keeping your body healthy. See my antioxidant post here.
While researchers are not exactly sure how these compounds work in the body to prevent disease laboratory studies have shown that they do have potent beneficial effects.
For example epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) an antioxidant in green tea has been shown to have profound anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-infective, anticancer, antiangiogenetic, and chemopreventive effects.
Of all the teas, Japanese matcha green tea contains the highest levels of EGCG.
Because of the oxidation process, black tea contains lower amounts of EGCG. However, it does contain other antioxidants such as theaflavins and thearubigins.
Those tea drinkers who like milk in their tea should be aware that adding milk to tea could blunt some of the antioxidant benefits.
Okay, it’s been fairly well established that tea is a healthy drink. But how can it keep you relaxed and make you more creative? Let’s start with caffeine.
Tea has a moderate amount of caffeine
Tea doesn’t contain as much caffeine as coffee but it does contain a moderate amount.
Green tea has about 24-45 mg. of caffeine in an 8 oz cup while black tea has about 14-70 mg. Coffee has about 95 -200 mg. of caffeine in an 8 oz. serving.
The lower caffeine content in green tea might make it a better option for those who have adrenal fatigue and those who experience caffeine jitters.
However, there is still enough caffeine present in tea for you to get some of its positive effects.
These include improvements in physical endurance, cognitive function, alertness and vigilance, mood, and perception of fatigue.
However, antioxidants and caffeine are not the only important ingredients in tea. There is another ingredient that takes tea to another level.
It allows your body to experience the benefits of caffeine while at the same time producing in you a sense of relaxation
L-theanine: an amino acid in tea that may enhance your mind and mood
For centuries, cultures have extolled the virtues of tea not only for its ability to heal the body but also because of its ability to transcend the physical and bring peace and calmness to the mind.
Is there evidence, though, that drinking tea can change your mental state? Well, there just might be.
One of the major biologically active compounds in tea is L-theanine. It is a naturally occurring amino acid found almost uniquely in tea and makes up about 1% of its dry weight.
A 7 oz. cup of black tea will contain about 24 mg. of L-theanine while green tea has about 8 mg.
While much of L-theanine’s effect on the brain is unclear, some researchers believe that it’s capable of increasing alpha brain wave activity.
Let’s briefly take a look at brain waves.
Alpha brain waves
The human brain produces electrical activity which is displayed in the form of waves.
These waves correspond to different activities of the brain.
For example, beta waves are characteristic of a strongly engaged mind. A person teaching or debating would exhibit strong brain beta waves.
During alpha wave activity, sensory inputs are diminished and distracting information is closed to the mind.
A person who takes time out of their day to reflect or meditate will exhibit strong brain alpha waves.
This would make sense in that alpha brain waves indicate a relaxed, alert mental state with a minimum of distracting incoming information.
Because alpha waves are associated with a relaxed mental state, some researchers believe that biofeedback training can occur during this phase of brain activity.
However, some researchers have found the evidence for this to be inconclusive.
Is there evidence that L-theanine can increase alpha brain waves, and if so, what effects does it promote?
L-theanine’s effect on alpha brain waves and brain
Some of the behavioral effects recorded by researchers after L-theanine supplementation are:
- Increased attention. See also here and here.
- Increased mental relaxation and concentration. Also here.
- Increased mental alertness.
- Anti-stress effects. Also here and here.
These studies on L-theanine seem to prove that it does have an effect in promoting brain alpha wave activity, and thus the ability to induce a relaxed, attentive mental state without drowsiness.
It should be noted that the above studies were performed with a high amount of L-theanine supplement.
What about L-theanine supplementation?
Some people report anxiety reduction success with L-theanine supplementation. I personally haven’t had any experience with it.
I always remain a little skeptical of supplements. I believe that nutrients in foods were meant to work synergistically. See here.
When one compound from a food is isolated and consumed, it is very difficult to know what other reactions it may cause in the body.
However, to date, there doesn’t seem to be any reported adverse findings with L-theanine supplements.
So if it works for you, that’s great.
Obviously, tea does not contain as potent a form of L-theanine as a supplement does.
However, researchers have found something interesting about the synergy of L-theanine and caffeine in tea.
L-theanine and caffeine: a potent combination
What is interesting about L-theanine in tea is that’s its combination with caffeine appears to improve its positive effects. Studies on this have found:
- An increased speed of numeric working memory and word recognition and
accuracy of sentence verification. See here.
- Increased alertness and decreased tiredness. See here.
- Improved speed and accuracy of performance of attention-switching tasks and reduced susceptibility to distracting information. See here.
Researchers also found that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine attenuated the jittery effect of caffeine and its effect on sleep.
It also appears that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine found in tea lasts longer than the alertness effect found in caffeine-only beverages.
Putting this all together, if you want a beverage that will relax you, keep you alert and attentive, and increase your cognitive ability and mindfulness, then tea might be the beverage for you.
It’s the perfect beverage to enjoy when you’re feeling stressed or want to engage in a creative endeavor.
And don’t forget about all those healthy antioxidants. Tea, what a wonderful drink we have been blessed with.
Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world. ~T’ien Yi-heng
Sometimes during teatime, we’ll share ideas, sometimes we’ll share solutions to problems, and other times we’ll just enjoy our tea in quiet contemplation.
It’s always a calming and relaxing wind down to a hectic day.
My favorite tea is Japanese sencha. When I get time, I’ll take a crack at brewing matcha.
The sencha I use is from Eden Foods. It’s absolutely exceptional green tea.
The tea is organic and in bags. Many tea manufacturers’ bags contain harmful chemicals (Epichlorohydrin), but Eden Food’s bags are made out of unbleached manila fibers.
We usually have our tea with our favorite dark chocolate, Endangered Species dark chocolate with forest mint. Mmm…doesn’t that sound delicious? It’s the perfect complement to the bitterness of the tea.
“Tea is the symbol of and antidote to civilization.” ~Terri Guillemets
Sam: “It must be getting near tea-time, leastways in decent places where there *is* still tea-time.”
Gollum: “We’re not *in* decent places.”(From the movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King )
Mordor was definitely not a decent place. But Sam didn’t forget the decent places where tea-time was still observed.
There is something about tea that has a civilizing effect on people. It may also have the ability to affect how we relate to other people?
Studies have shown that a person holding a warm drink as opposed to a cold one were more likely to view others as warmer or more caring.
So a warm cup of tea in a sense may help us to be more civil to one another. And heaven knows we could use more of that in our society today.
So there you have it. Tea. It can make you healthier, it can make you calmer and more attentive, it can increase your creative skills and it can make you a friendlier person.
Do you drink tea? Let us know what kind. What are your experiences with it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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