Monday blues. Isn't energy always so elusive when you need it?
We could all use a bit of a boost staying focused now and then, especially when Monday blues or mid-afternoon slumps strike.Energy drinks may come in handy, but they are not suitable to become a ritual for your body or mind.
I always choose healthier options such as tea for increased attention span and a natural energy boost.
You might be asking why I would prefer tea over coffee for energy.
Before I get to that question, let’s talk about nootropics first.
What are nootropics?
Have you heard of "nootropics"?
They are essentially memory boosters or cognition enhancers.
Dr. Conreliu E. Giurgea, a Romanian scientist, developed the term nootropic with the following set of criteria in the 1970s:
- It improves memory and learning abilities.
- It aids brain function.
- It provides chemical and physical protection to brain cells.
- It enhances the brain's cell-to-cell communication efficiency.
- It has little, if any, adverse effects.
Based on his criteria, natural substances like coffee and tea that improve brain function are nootropics.
How does tea boost energy and focus?
To answer that question, we need to deep dive into the active compounds within the tea.
One that we always talk about is caffeine.
Yes, the one that sometimes gives us jitters but more energy and focus
Caffeine by itself can increase your alertness, but we all know that too much energy can be counter-productive.
- Your brain jumps too fast from one task to another.
- You start to feel anxious.
- You feel overwhelmed.
This is where L-theanine comes in.
Did you know that the best-studied interaction between a natural nootropic and caffeine is centered on L-theanine, an amino acid found in all types of tea from tea plants?
L-theanine is effective on its own, but it certainly shines when combined with caffeine.
L-theanine promotes wakeful and restful relaxation while lowering stress-induced anxiety and aiding mood regulation.
And adding L-theanine to caffeine has been proven to enhance alertness, concentration, reaction time, and task-switching time!
That equates to taking the edge off what makes caffeine so challenging to handle, at least when combined with the correct amount of L-theanine
It helps regulate caffeine and avoid the caffeine crash.
Basically, L-theanine brings calm to the storm and helps you be in the zone. Be in the FLOW.
Drinking loose leaf tea, which contains both caffeine and L-theanine, is the most natural way to achieve this effect. Even broken tea leaves in tea bags contain L-theanine.
As Andrew Scholey, a scientist from the Swinburne University of Technology, said, "The effect of tea on behavior is slightly paradoxical. Tea is calming but alerting at the same time."
No wonder why monks have been using tea to help with their meditation for centuries, right?
Why is tea the best for brain function?
Sure, coffee has more caffeine than tea, but it lacks one critical component that distinguishes how you feel after an energy boost: L-theanine.
If you’ve had a similar experience as Fahad in our tea community, you already experienced this first hand: “Tea is more relaxing and comfortable. Coffee hits with a strong boost, but then the mind gets cloudy and agitated.”
So interestingly enough, some coffee drinkers combine coffee with another nootropic such as L-theanine.
Tea, on the other hand, already contains L-theanine and delivers a longer-lasting energy boost than coffee.
But it’s not just about caffeine and L-theanine.
Tea also has other active compounds such as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).
Let's discuss that in detail.
L-theanine and EGCG contribute to increased brain function alone and in conjunction with caffeine.
Tea catechins, including EGCG, make up to 42 percent of the dry weight of brewed tea.
When ingested alone, EGCG makes people feel calmer and improves memory and attention.
So what happens if you consume EGCG along with caffeine and L-theanine?
The effects are compounded to benefit cognitive function!
Are there additional cognitive benefits to long-term tea consumption?
The latest research says drinking tea every day helps to reduce the incidence of dementia and depression.
Based on a Singapore study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, the researchers determined that regularly drinking tea reduced the chance of cognitive impairment in older persons by 50%.
And for those genetically at higher risk of acquiring Alzheimer's disease (i.e. APOE e4 gene), their rate of cognitive decline slowed down by as much as 86 percent.
The researchers contribute the result to the following bioactive components with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential in tea leaves:
- catechins, including EGCG
These compounds in the tea protect the brain from vascular injury and neurodegeneration.
A separate study published in BMC Geriatrics concluded that regular and frequent tea consumption is linked to significantly fewer depression symptoms.
So whichever long-term health benefits you are after, having frequent tea sessions as part of your lifestyle will help you.
So which is the best tea for energy and focus?
After reading about all the energy boosts and cognitive benefits you can get from drinking tea, you might be wondering which tea you should be drinking.
The type of tea doesn't matter as long as it comes from a tea plant.
The reason why green tea and black tea are often cited is that they are the most common types of tea available.
But because all six types of tea come from the same tea plant, they all contain L-theanine and caffeine.
The actual amount of L-theanine depends on the tea plant and the tea-making process.
As you can see from the table below, the amount of caffeine and L-theanine varies by tea, but NOT the type of tea.
Boros, K 2015, “Theanine and Caffeine Content of Infusions Prepared from Commercial Tea Samples” Pharmacogn Mag, vol. 12, no. 45, pp. 75–79
Note that this research data shows that pu-erh has zero L-theanine content.
This is not true!
Upon cross-referencing other scientific research papers that had more pu-erh tea samples, pu-erh tea indeed contains L-theanine.
In fact, raw pu-erh contains more L-theanine than ripe pu-erh.
I suspect the pu-erh used for the above research was a low-quality ripe pu-erh.
I mean, it doesn’t even specify whether it’s raw or ripe pu-erh!
And given that they only used a single sample, that’s not enough data to generalize for all pu-erh tea.
Note that botanicals and fruit and herbal teas do not come from tea plants, so make sure you are drinking one of the following “real teas”:
- White tea
- Yellow tea
- Green tea
- Oolong tea
- Black tea
- Dark tea, including pu-erh tea
Should we drink tea over coffee at work?
Tea is your best friend if you are looking for a steady stream of focused energy without the crash.
“Coffee gives me a rush of focus all at once that tapers off pretty quickly. Tea does the opposite. The focus seems to last longer without the jitters coffee gives me,” said @olin232 from our tea community on Instagram.
But if you are still not convinced about the cognitive benefits of tea and are still going for a cup of coffee in the morning, I get it.
Sometimes, we get stressed out at work.
Long working hours, the pressure of finishing a task before the deadline....
It can be psychologically and physically exhausting.
If you are not convinced yet, even with the benefits of caffeine, L-theanine, and EGCG, read on.
Tea leaves are naturally rich in antioxidants, which protect the body from free radicals produced by our fast-paced lifestyles and polluted environments.
At work, tea can be a great "immune-booster," making you less susceptible to the different infections, especially under this COVID-19 pandemic.
Or is it about fitting into our social norm for you?
It’s quite common in our work culture to schedule a coffee chat, coffee break, and coffee meetings.
And let’s face it. The tea options at coffee shops are typically lacking to say the least.
So here’s an idea for you.
What about hosting a tea event at your workplace?
Mansa Tea has offered tea tastings and workshops to over a thousand employees for Fortune 500 companies and high-growth startups. And all of our workshops are led by our Founder & Certified Tea Sommelier.