We’re back to to the blogosphere after submitting myriad projects, ranging from patient transport to GP surgeries, to national procurement opportunities. However, we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the subsequent success of our work too, and last month saw a HealthBid social take place. After much deliberation, we decided to opt for a classic afternoon tea in the Grand Arcade - at the renowned vintage tea rooms, ‘That’s Grand’. It encouraged us to research the importance of tea to the British diet - our devotion to this drink is such that an Atlantic article highlighted the average British citizen consumes an impressive 4.281 pounds of tea per year. In this post, we’ll be looking at what tea really means for our health - both physically and mentally.
The Science of the Tea Leaf
Tea consists of the plant ‘camellia sinensis’, which when steeped in hot water, produces a dark liquid which can be diluted by milk, or served black. Initially brought to the Western World from China by the East India Trading Company in the early 17th century, the plant is now grown worldwide - predominantly in China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
A No No for Physical Health?
A recent Panorama documentary highlighted the sleeplessness of the UK's children, with caffeine a leading cause of this insomnia. This in turn has a knock-on effect for daytime concentration, as well as longterm health problems. However, whilst many of us may believe that tea can produce such problems, actually, it contains incrementally less caffeine than coffee, and hydrates, rather than reduces the body’s water levels. In fact, some sources even espouse using the tea bag in the reduction of eye puffiness; just store them in the fridge and apply to the eye area for a quick solution.
Tea’s Connection to Brain Function
It’s not only the caffeine which wakes us up, but the beverage is unique in containing theanine - a psychoactive amino acid. This has been connected to the reduction of anxiety and stress, as well as increased cognition. Ironically for something which wakes us up, tea manages to relax us whilst not making us tired, as scientists have discovered a link between tea consumption and the production of alpha brain waves, which are also produced during mindfulness activity and meditation techniques. For some, the physical process of making tea can prove a focus when their mental health is lacking - a recent blog post for Mind illustrated how depression can be somewhat alleviated by the mindful act of brewing tea.
The drinking of tea has more significance than a nod to our history; however unwittingly, we Brits really are working on our physical and mental health through our enjoyment of a brew. Whilst herbal teas are undeniably popular, they bear no match to our enjoyment of black tea, which has remained a British cultural icon for nearly five centuries. Anthropologist Kate Fox believes that this can be attributed to tea's easy facilitation of interaction. In her words, “Tea-making is the perfect displacement activity: whenever the English feel awkward or uncomfortable in a social situation (that is, almost all the time), they make tea.”