Tea and Sympathy and Science

tea_cozy_1.jpgMaybe the British are tired of everyone making fun of them for their seemingly fussy obsession with tea. University College London has conducted a study of tea-drinkers and has determined, scientifically, that “daily cups of tea can help you recover more quickly from the stresses of everyday life,” according to this item in Science Blog.

Professor Andrew Steptoe, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, says: “Drinking tea has traditionally been associated with stress relief, and many people believe that drinking tea helps them relax after facing the stresses of everyday life. However, scientific evidence for the relaxing properties of tea is quite limited. This is one of the first studies to assess tea in a double-blind placebo controlled design – that is, neither we nor the participants knew whether they were drinking real or fake tea. This means that any differences were due to the biological ingredients of tea, and not to the relaxing situations in which people might drink tea, whether they were familiar with the taste and liked it, and so on.

“We do not know what ingredients of tea were responsible for these effects on stress recovery and relaxation. Tea is chemically very complex, with many different ingredients. Ingredients such as catechins, polyphenols, flavonoids and amino acids have been found to have effects on neurotransmitters in the brain, but we cannot tell from this research which ones produced the differences.

“Nevertheless, our study suggests that drinking black tea may speed up our recovery from the daily stresses in life. Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal. This has important health implications, because slow recovery following acute stress has been associated with a greater risk of chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease.”

The two groups — one that had been given caffeinated tea, but in a fruit-flavored drink that deprived the drinker of all the tea-drinking atmospherics like decorative teacups, tea cozies, finger sandwiches and framed pictures of the Queen; and one that was given a caffeinated placebo with a similar flavor — were subjected to stressful experiences.

The real tea-drinkers had the same level of stress response as the placebo group, but “50 minutes after the task, cortisol levels had dropped by an average of 47 per cent in the tea drinking group compared with 27 per cent in the fake tea group.”

Expect the folks at Lipton, Bigelow and Celestial Seasonings to start marketing their products around these findings– teaming up with stress-management experts and putting them on media tours, sponsoring tea-tastings outside locations associated with stress, such as office buildings, DMV offices and Bar-exam test sites. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, struggling to stay relevant in a Starbucks world, might start pushing the tea side of their business more.

belladonna.jpgAdagio Teas already sponsors “Tea Chat.” On the Black Tea forum, the University College findings are already causing quite a stir. This site also links to a “Tea Map,” described as “the online destination for finding tea rooms in and around your area.” For example, residents of the High Desert community of Lancaster can visit the Belladona Gift Boutique and Tea Room,

located in a renovated ‘1954 Storybook Home’ painted in true Victorian Flair with purple, yellow and teal. Your experience actually begins with the fragrance of roses along the walk-way while discovering the teapot shaped cut-outs in the concrete. Don’t miss the hardscape greeting around the bend – it is very colorful and full of sweet meaning.

First time visitors always catch their breath with surprise at the whimsical decor and enchanting aromas. The most delightful statement made was ‘Oh my Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore’.

Coffee-makers won’t take this lying down. I imagine they will soon commission a study showing the benefits of stress, and then dust off their old “Coffee Achievers” campaign.

One thought on “Tea and Sympathy and Science

  1. The research is good news. Perhaps it will prompt some more brewing action, with tea pots, cosies and loose tea in cities’ infrastructure. At the moment, in Manchester at least, there is nowhere that I know does a brew properly. The tea shop model seems to be a tourist thing, not a place that new exciting things, are publicly discussed.

    Perhaps if this research can be leveraged into proving that a relaxing tea break increases productivity. The powers that control our working lives who would perhaps then not frown on a man in his thirties turing up in his new job with tea pot and cosy, would instead recognise him a wise sage, and a artist operating in the medium of management.

    Only when the tea pot, and people having brews together are commonplace, can we as a nation may start to think clearly about things, and start to ‘turn the ship’ set on a course for disaster by the coffee guzzlers, cigarette smokers and the panicking hungover. (That said, i am pretty hung over myself this morning; two cups and I am still not right…)

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