Ever since the Italians coined the drip coffee we know today as the “Americano” (allegedly after an American GI based in Italy during WWII added hot water to his espresso), the American coffee craze was born.
Coffee is so much more than a caffeine fix; it is inculcated into our culture. For most, no morning ritual, daily meeting, or lunch break seems complete without a Cup of Joe. But, like so many other health alternatives on the market today, there is a contender in the beverage department that offers health benefits that coffee cannot, while still packing the caffeine punch: tea.
Tea has been around for thousands of years, but it’s growing popularity in the US is new. Today, Americans are consuming 14 ounces of tea a year compared to 12.7 ounces in 2007 according to the United Nations. There are countless leaf varieties, but black and green tea are the most popular by far. But which is the healthier option?
When it comes to increased brain function, longer life span, and fat-busting properties, green tea champions over black.
Green tea’s exceptionalism can be whittled down to two factors: the way in which it’s processed and its biological makeup. While black tea and green tea are actually derived from the same plant, the former is processed differently after picking. Green tea is also naturally richer in flavonoids than black tea. Flavanols, which are also found in other foods like cocoa and certain fruits, are linked to manifold health benefits including a decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma, and stroke.
Perhaps most intriguingly, they have been found to play a special role in protecting the brain.
Brain boosting powers
If drunk on a daily basis, green tea has been found to improve brain function, according to Stefan Borgwardt, the director of the department of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University of Lübeck, Germany. Borgwardt conducted a study in 2014, in which he distributed extracts equivalent to one or two cups of green tea to 12 healthy participants. His team then analyzed the connectivity inside certain brain regions, and after which noticed an increased connectivity in regions of the brain associated with working memory
In a 2017 follow up he coauthored, Borgwardt disclosed that green tea can affect the brain in three distinct forms: alleviating anxiety; increasing cognition function such as ability to focus and attention; and enhancing overall brain function, especially memory.
He advised in his review that Westerners should consume at least 100 milliliters of green tea on a daily basis “to protect neurocognitive function.” This equates to around a cup day.
Before you head to the store to pick up your next supply, keep in mind that quality matters. Lower quality brands can contain excessive amounts of fluoride, so paying an extra dollar or two for a higher quality variation may be worth it.