As finals begin rolling around, it’s important to keep an eye on your physical and mental health. The last few weeks of the semester are regarded as the craziest; the late-night study sessions interspersed with irregular sleeping patterns; the coffee-buzzed cramming at the Student Center; and the snacks that are consumed in an effort to keep some part of you energized. But a recent savior of my own busy days and long nights is tea.
Yes, we’ve all heard of green tea’s metabolism boost (although, all tea increases the metabolic rate), and how Kombucha is storming the health food stores. Not to mention the matcha tea craze: green foamy lattes seem to be in most coffee cups. But there are some serious beneficial effects that tea has – from physical to mental; and finals is a time to be keeping an eye on these benefits.
One: Tea has more caffeine than coffee. I know, pretty crazy, but true. Most people know that matcha tea is a highly caffeinated powdered green tea, but all tea is high in caffeine count. However, it’s not that simple. Coffee’s caffeine works like a sugar spike. It is more immediate, allowing for an intense buzz that keeps the drinker awake and energized before the caffeine wears off. Tea, on the other hand, is a shallower peak. It works for a longer period of time. Imagine a bell curve, one that’s lower to the x axis, this consequently makes the drinker caffeinated for a longer period of time, just lacking the same spike of caffeine. This makes tea great for late night study sessions, because you don’t crash as easy, and when you’re ready to go to sleep, the caffeine shouldn’t be strong enough to keep you awake. Black tea is going to have the highest caffeine of all teas so stick to English/Scottish/Irish breakfast teas, Earl Greys, or flavored black teas.
Two: Tea requires fewer additives. I don’t know many college students who enjoy coffee black; most students, including me, add some milk and sugar, maybe cream; but we don’t enjoy the bitterness of straight coffee. Tea, in many cases, was made to be sipped straight. Because of this, you are taking less of the things that generally make beverages like coffee and tea ‘unhealthy’. Obviously, everything in moderation is the best approach with anything when it comes to what we consume, but tea’s natural flavor (sometimes naturally sweet flavor) makes tea a perfect choice for those who want to turn away from too much milk and sugar, but still want something a little sweet. This is also perfect for college students who want to make a beverage in their dorm, but don’t want to go out and get milk and sugar. It also makes the clean-up much easier. I suggest a vanilla flavored black tea, or a fruity tea that generally you would get iced. Also, some unflavored black, white, green, and oolong teas are just naturally sweet, and the more you drink, the more you will taste its natural flavor. Just watch out for teas that have sugar added into the blend, unless that’s your thing, and then go for it!
Three: Tea can help you sleep. Here’s where things get a little dicey, especially since I just talked about how tea has more caffeine than coffee. Herbal teas are an amazing option for people who have trouble sleeping, want to relax, or just would like a nice warm drink before bed. Herbal teas, however, are not actually tea. Tea is a drink that contains the Camellia Sinensis leaf, or ‘tea’ by any other name. Because most herbal teas consist of different herbs, spices, plants, and flowers, they technically can’t be considered tea. But since they are steeped like tea, they can still have major health impacts. Many teas have anti-oxidants from fruit pieces, herbs like nettle or eucalyptus which have healing properties, or the famous combination of lavender and rose that helps to calm you down. Keep a look out for chamomile tea, which is an acquired taste, but excellent if you get a good blend. Chamomile with the addition of rose and lavender is definitely one to try, but also fruity herbals that have ingredients such as apple, pomegranate, and blackberries have great merit as well. Honeybush and rooibos are also excellent examples of herbal teas, especially ones that have fun flavors such as hot cider and crème brulee. Just watch out for the herb ‘Yerba Mate’, a delicious leaf that is naturally caffeinated. If you are looking for a caffeinated herbal, this is your plant.
Four: Tea has many positive mental and physical health benefits. Tea has been shown to be good for people with liver disease, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Tea has also been known to help ease depression and anxiety in some people. In fact, a 2015 study by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that “For every three cups of tea a day, the relative risk of depression decreases by 37 percent.” (But these findings remain controversial; there is no evidence that drinking tea is a cure for depression, even if it can alleviate the symptoms in some people.) It is also well-known that for some people, tea can be stress reducing; it has been said that simply by holding a warm mug in your hands can calm you down and have the same effects as receiving a hug.
Tea comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Much like coffee, there isn’t just one brew of tea. If you don’t like one, it doesn’t mean you won’t like their others. There are approximately 3,000 different types of tea; all of which categorized into black, oolong, green, white, and the rarer yellow teas. Tea isn’t just a drink, but a culture and a form of socialization that has permeated our society for a long time. There are records of the Chinese brewing tea in 2737 BCE. And if you are looking for tea, it is offered in most coffee shops, including on campus– Bourbon Coffee in UHall has great coffee, but they also have some wonderful tea options. So does HighRise, which is also on campus.
And Harvard Square hosts both TeaLuxe and DavidsTea, where you can buy loose leaf tea to brew at home, or get a cup there that they’ll brew for you. You can find tea in nearly every city, or order it on the web: Jolie Tea Company, where I have worked for over a year, is based in Salem but has a website that you can order loose leaf from. I get most of my tea from them. Tea bags are also easy to find in any supermarket, and are sometimes cheaper than buying loose leaf. To sum up, tea is something that you should consider adding to your routine; or try it during your study schedule. To quote Arthur Wing Pinero, “Where there’s tea, there’s hope.”