It's one of the most common jokes shared between coworkers in the office kitchen: "I'm just a zombie before I get my morning cup of coffee." But research published this summer finds that a different warm drink can help your brain function better, so you don't have to just shuffle around looking like you're ready to eat other people's.
Researchers took MRI scans of habitual tea drinkers and non-tea drinkers and found that the brains of regular tea drinkers were more well-organized and efficient.
The study made a point of targeting the effects of tea itself instead of looking at tea extracts or other constituents of the drink, as a number of other studies have done.
"Our study... provided the first compelling evidence that tea-drinking positively contributes to brain structure making network organization more efficient," the research team made up of researchers from China, Singapore and the UK concluded.
The research is published in a recent issue of the journal Aging, which is a hint that the takeaway is not that a cup of tea will re-arrange your neurons each morning.
The average age of the study participants was around 70 years old and the researchers were interested in the potential protective effect of tea-drinking against age-related decline in brain organization. The idea was to look at the long-term benefits of people with a tea-drinking habit that stretched back years or decades.
The team also reviewed other studies on the prevention of Alzheimers and found evidence of herbal tea having a protective role in eight of nine studies. In its investigation into a connection between tea drinking and brain efficiency, however, the team looked at individuals who drink any of a variety of teas, including herbal, black, green and oolong.
This all fits into a body of research that shows tea has a number of health and cognitive benefits. Studies have shown tea boosts creativity and keeps your memory strong. Tea has even been shown to prevent heart disease, lower the incidence of cancer and reduce overall mortality.
Plus, we might not all require such an intense caffeine boost as what coffee provides in the morning. But those in the coffee camp will point to numerous claims that the strong stuff is in fact a miracle elixir. A superfood, even.
The reality is that there's research to back both coffee and tea as being protective of brain health, so brew away with whatever gets you going. You probably can't go wrong.