Will Burns

Unleash Creativity Blog

Scientific studies that help us unleash our most human attribute: creativity.

Drinking Tea Increases Creativity. But Is It The Tea?

Photo by  Sabri Tuzcu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash


A new study out of China’s Peking University has revealed that drinking black tea improves creativity. And does so nearly immediately. Even before the caffeine has a chance to kick in.

Hmm. What's going on here?

The study

The researchers recruited 50 subjects, half of whom were given a cup of hot black tea to drink and the other half just water. Each group was asked to perform two creativity tests: one a cognitive test involving building blocks and the other a naming assignment (come up with names for a ramen restaurant). 

The results of the tasks were reviewed and scored by researchers on their demonstrated creativity levels.

In both scenarios the black tea drinkers scored higher. And, again, it's not the caffeine as that takes roughly 30 minutes to kick in whereas these studies were completed in about 20 minutes after consumption.

So what is it?

Primed for creativity

The researchers believe that the tea improved creativity because it put the subjects in a good, relaxing mood, primed for creativity. Sort of like meditation.

I'm not so sure.

I have learned about and reported in this blog another creative study that concludes mindfulness meditation may not necessarily correlate with creativity. That's because during meditation one is reducing thought-traffic and, as such, reducing the odds that new creative connections will be made.

I think this particular study may be flawed anyway. Not all the possible variables were isolated enough to conclude that it's tea - and definitely tea - that is increasing creativity. Maybe it's hot liquid versus cold liquid. Or maybe it's possible cultural associations with tea that are unique to the Chinese and potentially useless, then, to the other parts of the world.

For example on the latter, if the Chinese see tea as a significant "break in life" like England does, then drinking a cup of tea may give the subject psychological distance from him or herself while taking the test. Psychological distance refers to a fascinating phenomena where just imagining yourself somewhere else or at a different time period in life can dramatically increase your creativity. Could it be that for those who associate a "cup of tea" with "break from life" are really just in a state of psychological distance?

I personally think more work needs to be done before we conclude, definitively, that tea itself increases creativity.

Until then I'm not taking any chances. Tea, please.


Tini Grails  martini glasses, where a great martini is all in the glass.

Tini Grails martini glasses, where a great martini is all in the glass.

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