There is a popular Japanese proverb that states, “If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.” Science has not actually proven this to be the case. But it has proven that tea can both relax and rouse its drinkers — which might actually make it easier to see the beauty in things. So if you don’t drink tea, you won’t necessarily be miserable — just not as happy as you could be!
Tea is a staple in many different cultures. All of them have experimented in various ways to create teas that taste better and/or have more useful medicinal properties. The over 3,000 varieties of tea in the world can be divided into five basic categories: black, green, oolong, white, and puer. This large array has enabled tea to become the second most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. This comes as no surprise: with so many types of teas available, how could you not like at least one of them? (Tea haters: don’t answer that.)
The characteristic of tea that may be of most use to you, the college student, is its capability of providing an energy boost to get you through the day. Many types of tea contain caffeine, a well-known stimulant that reduces drowsiness. Although caffeine was made popular by its role as the most important factor in the multi-billion dollar coffee industry, the stimulant is also a major ingredient in many teas. Although even the darkest teas do not contain as much caffeine as regular coffee, tea has many other things to offer. If the only attribute that tea had to bring to the table was caffeine, there would be no point in writing (or reading) this article.
Caffeine is not all tea has to offer in terms of health benefits. Tea, which I like to call coffee 2.0, not only keeps you awake and doesn’t stain your teeth, but also improves your body’s functioning in several ways. The most amazing thing about tea is that it gives its drinkers both an energy boost and a surge of relaxation at the same time. This sense of relaxation is provided by the chemical Theanine, which acts as an anti-stimulant and alleviates stress and tension. What makes Theanine especially amazing is that it does not negate the mental stimulation caused by caffeine, but complements it instead. This mix of caffeine and Theanine is what makes tea so special. Drinkers can feel mental clarity, focus, and alertness all at once — sensations that never fail to make everyday tasks much more manageable.
Theanine works by boosting the production of GABA, an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Huffington Post writer and naturopathic doctor Natasha Turner writes that just like meditation, Theanine “stimulates alpha brainwaves naturally associated with deep states of relaxation and enhanced mental clarity.” She also mentions, “Theanine may increase learning, attention and sensations of pleasure as well.” I know that most Yalies are interested in increasing all three of those things, which is why I’m baffled that a lot of them still choose to drink coffee instead of tea.
Boosting learning, attention, and pleasure in one drink seems like enough, but tea still has more to offer. The attribute that tea is most well known for is effectiveness against the common cold and the flu. However, certain teas do a better job against these sicknesses than others. The three types of commonly found teas very effective against flus and colds are Green tea, Peppermint tea, and Ginger tea. All three are successful at soothing your throat as well as lending your immune system a hand in getting rid of the sickness.
Jack Bukowski, an immunologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as well as Harvard Medical School, compared the effects of coffee versus tea on the immune systems of non-tea drinkers. He found that drinking tea significantly boosts the body’s production of an antibacterial substance that helps fight infection, whereas coffee does not. Tea is able to boost the immune system because it contains a chemical called alkylamine, which helps prepare the immune system’s T cells so that they can detect and destroy bacteria faster.
Most people, however, do not use teas to their full potentials. To maximize a tea’s sickness-fighting capabilities, it is best to squeeze some fresh lemons into it in order to increase your intake of vitamin C. You can go one step further and even substitute honey for sugar. Using honey instead not only makes little or no difference in the taste of the tea, but honey also has antibacterial and soothing properties that make it easier to get healthy quicker. Have you ever been in a huge lecture hall, ready to soak up all of the goodness your professor has to offer, but cannot because it is cold outside and there seems to be a coughing fit starting somewhere in the room every twenty seconds? I argue that if more Yale students embraced tea, this would not happen nearly as often.
So that’s my guide to tea. I hope you learned something and have a tearrific day (pun intended).
Harold Dorsey is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. Contact him at email@example.com.
(Featured image from Wikimedia.)