In times of crisis, it's a national institution that we find or offer comfort in a simple cup of tea. Putting the kettle on to ease stress during a bad day or ahead of impending bad news is a tried, tested and often successful strategy. The social media memes certainly seem convinced:
"A cup of tea solves everything"
"If tea can't fix it, it's a serious problem"
"Tea: The solution"
Some say the comfort of a cup of tea is derived from its warming properties and others from sheer nostalgia. However, tea has been used for thousands of years as a simultaneous stimulant and source of calm in Chinese and Japanese Zen Buddhism. That's why, without making health claims about our own teas, we are fascinated by the L-Theanine school of thought.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in the leaves of the tea plant and not much else. In some Japanese green teas, such as Gyokuro, which undergo shading shortly before harvesting, the L-theanine is intensified and provides a unique umami flavour. However, varying levels of L-Theanine are present in all forms of fresh tea.
Theanine is thought to have psychoactive properties and has been studied for its potential ability to reduce mental and physical stress, improve cognition and boost mood in harmony with caffeine - and let's face it, a cup of tea is certainly a more relaxing experience than a cup of coffee. Theanine has also been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine levels in various areas of the brain.
So while L-Theanine from the tea plant is not recognised as a health food by the European Union, it is an interesting concept that a cuppa has potentially been a form of therapy for many civilisations over thousands of years due to its chemical composition, not simply an emotional link.
Do you agree? We'd love to hear your thoughts, simply tweet to @debonairtea.