The kids make cupcakes or other baked treats, and tea is served from a traditional English tea set Seabright inherited from her grandmother.
“The kids love it. They’re always asking about things to make for tea. They’ve definitely embraced the ritual,” she said.
Seabright said it’s been a good opportunity to get the family together and build in time to relax during busy days juggling work and homeschooling with three kids under 10. She hopes they’ll find a way to keep up their daily teatime once the children are back in school and daycare.
For centuries, tea has been used for far more than quenching thirst. Around the world people drink it to relax, reinvigorate and soothe, and it’s something we need now more than ever.
In the UK, where tea drinkers imbibe 100 million cups every day, according to the UK’s Tea Advisory Panel, the beverage remains part of the national psyche — despite a growing preference for lattes, espressos and flat whites. The sentiment that a restorative cup of tea makes everything better still holds true.
Scientists are beginning to look into just how tea might affect mood and cognition. Specifically, they’re investigating whether it’s relaxing and alerting effects are a direct biological outcome of the compounds in tea or whether they come from the context in which the drink is consumed — preparing your brew, choosing your favorite cup and sitting down for a brief respite from the world. Or both.
Green and black tea come from the same plant — Camellia sinensis. Green tea, however, is processed in a different way, which results in higher levels of some of the compounds that scientists believe have positive effects on our mental health.
Drinking green tea has been found to improve brain function in healthy people, said Stefan Borgwardt, chair and director of the department of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University of Lübeck, Germany.
In a 2014 study, he gave green tea extracts equivalent to one or two cups of green tea to 12 healthy volunteers and imaged their brains to analyze changes in connectivity inside certain brain regions.
“We noticed an increased connectivity in regions of the brain associated with working memory,” he said via email.
That review concluded that “it would be desirable” for more Westerners to consume at least 100 milliliters (3.3 fluid ounces) of green tea each day “to protect neurocognitive function.”
However, Borgwardt cautioned that the effects aren’t large, and current evidence is mainly provided by small-scale studies.
What’s less clear is which compounds found in tea are responsible for various improvements in our brain power and whether they work alone or together.
The most important are antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the most abundant, followed by L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea leaves, and caffeine.
Borgwardt said the benefits are likely not the consequence of a single component but linked to the presence of both caffeine and L-theanine.
But he noted that the research was at a very early stage, and that experimental studies should be confirmed by larger clinical trials before drawing any conclusions.
Gunter Kuhnle, an associate professor at the department of food and nutritional science at the University of Reading in the UK, researches the benefits of flavanols, which are found in tea, cocoa and some fruits.
He said one of the problems of assessing the benefits of tea and its beneficial compounds is that studies reporting effects are usually observational, reliant on subjective self-reporting and the impact of how food is prepared and consumed.
We need better data to truly assess the benefits of tea on our mental and physical well-being, with many differences in how it’s consumed in different countries, Kuhnle said.
In the UK, he noted that tea is a typical working-class drink, whereas in the US it’s a drink more commonly associated with higher status. So studies in the US may show a lot more benefits, but those could be due to socioeconomic background.
“I think most people thrive on rituals. It’s a comforting thing. If there’s anything wrong, here it’s a cup of tea that’s needed.”