Yesterday, I received scientific confirmation of something I’d long suspected: tea has magical superpowers. From break-ups to biscuits, a cup of char makes everything better. And now, psychologists at China’s Peking University have discovered that a mug of the nation’s favourite also gets the creative juices flowing within minutes of downing your favourite brew.
The team conducted two experiments on 50 students: half were given a cup of black tea to drink, while the others received a glass of water before putting their cognitive skills to the test. First they had to build “an attractive and creative” construction out of building blocks, and then they had to come up with a “cool” name for a new noodle restaurant. Guess who came out on top?
As the tea seemingly boosted divergent thinking and creativity levels in both tests (drinkers scored 6.54 and 4.11, compared to 6.03 and 3.78 for the H2O brigade), the researchers concluded that a simple cuppa does indeed improve overall cognitive function. However, this has nothing to do with the natural presence of caffeine and theanine.
While both are known to boost mental speed, clarity and focus, they take around 30-60 minutes to kick in – whereas the effect on the tea drinkers was almost immediate.
Instead, the team point to the beverage’s psychological powers as the reason behind the instant creative spark, attributing the results to its ability to put drinkers in a “positive” mood – which subsequently jumpstarts the cognitive regions of the brain.
Now, this revelation excites and perplexes me in equal measure – for two good reasons. On the one hand, a quick look out the window makes me pretty sceptical. Whilst the UK is renowned for many things, creativity (London aside) isn’t one of them. We’re not even in the top 10 on the Global Creativity Index. Yet on the basis of these findings, we should have more Shakespeares, Banksys and Dysons per square metre than almost any other nation in the world!
Everyone knows the Brits love a brew, but the exact figures may still shock you. According to the UK Tea & Infusions Association, the population actually knocks back 165 million cups of the stuff a day. That’s 60.2 billion cups a year, which breaks down to more than 900 cups per head (although in reality, most of those are probably consumed by me).
That’s more than two bathtubs’ worth each, guys. Seriously – we should have creativity gushing out of our arses! (I think it’s fair to say we’re kinda constipated in that regard.)
On the other hand, this feels like Christmas. Imagine – the shortcut to genius could be as simple as brewing a builder’s! Plus I loathe water, and I love tea (a post-mortem will likely reveal that I’m 70% Twinings – I’m slurping my fifth cup as I type), so anything that gives me a bona fide excuse to drink less of one and more of the other is music to my tiny ears.
You know who else loved tea? Only Jimi Hendrix, C.S. Lewis and Albert Einstein, to name but a few. How’s that for proof of the link between creativity and the humble cuppa? And presumably, the more you have, the more imaginative you become, right? Upping my intake might even cure my writer’s block for good. Heck – perhaps I could just drink my way to becoming the brown Roald Dahl by simply guzzling my own bodyweight in Tetley!
Excuse me while I stick the kettle on…
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