As you might expect from someone who runs a tea company, I get sent quite a lot of literature on the topic.
I file it away in my ‘read later’ list, occasionally finding time to go through and have a browse.
One jet lagged morning, I came across this study:
To crudely summarise, the study found that tea does indeed help with creativity, particularly in the second half of the test.
“Well it’s obviously caffeine isn’t it?”
The caffeine doses were relatively small compared to studies that have shown cognitive effects from tea.
Also, the tests in this study were only 10-20 minutes, making it questionable whether the physiological effects of the tea's ingredients had enough time to manifest.
"Maybe the answer is tea = good mood. Good mood = creative”
WRONG AGAIN! There was no difference in mood between the tea and water drinkers in the study.
So what the dickens is going on?
My theory is that it’s the pleasantly disruptive sensation that helps. I’ll try to explain with crude metaphors.
When I’m trying to solve a creative problem like writing one of these blog posts, I’ll often get onto a mental path that I think is leading me to a favourable destination.
Some tidbit of information I think is really interesting like the tannin content of stewed tea and its relationship to The Great Famine for example. It can be quite the time sink to be honest.
I’ll metaphorically look down at my feet with my metaphorical blinkers on and completely forget about the end destination.
The very act of sipping something hot, aromatic and tasty snaps me out of my thought process. It lets me step off the path and have a little look around. I can double check I haven’t ventured down that fork in the road with all the dead trees and rickety old sign saying ‘Sleepy Hollow’.
Electroencephalogram of Doug Hastie's brain pre-tea ingestion.
Instead, I might see that with a little bit of course correction, I get to walk down that much nicer looking road with the street lamps. Maybe even hop on that bus over there.
Electroencephalogram of Doug Hastie's brain post-tea ingestion.
Drinking tea is also multi-sensory. The warmth of the brew, the smell, the sound of sipping, the concentration of not spilling it. All of them activate different pathways in the brain which might help link two otherwise unrelated ideas to make something new and magical.
What’s the phrase? When ideas have sex. But that's another blog post!
At the risk of heading to Sleepy Hollow, I’m off to make a brew.