Tea - the drink that really does make you think

By Alec Marsh

DRINKING a cup of tea increases concentration and the ability to learn, a study has found.

It is especially beneficial to people when they are doing two things at once and also helps them concentrate when they are performing one task after another. The research by Kimron Shapiro, a professor of psychology at the University of Wales, Bangor, demonstrated that caffeine was not responsible because those drinking tea out-performed those given a caffeine-only drink.

In a series of experiments, volunteers were asked to pick out two letters in a long stream, which were flashed on to computer screens every half-second. Those who did the test after drinking two cups of sugarless tea performed far better than those who drank nothing.

Prof Shapiro said: "It appears that tea improves your ability to do two consecutive tasks and also enhances your ability to do two things at once." He said that he did not know why it had this effect, and said: "There is some property in tea which helps the brain redeploy from one task to another."

Britons drink 185 million cups of tea a day and among the most zealous consumers is the Labour MP Tony Benn, 73, who is rumoured to drink 18 pints of it each day. He calculates that he has drunk enough tea in his lifetime to float the QE2.

He said: "I am a teetotaller and a vegetarian and my tea and my pipe keep me going very happily. I find that tea is very compatible with my work. I get up at 6.30 and go to bed at midnight. I know that if I don't drink tea for an hour or two I begin to experience withdrawal symptoms."

Catherine Reynolds, of the Institute of Food Research, said that new discoveries were being made about tea all the time. She said: "Tea has a number of interesting effects and we are beginning to find evidence that there are a number of ways that it can protect our health as well."

Liz Burgess, a spokesman for Taylors of Harrogate which markets Yorkshire Tea, said: "We are still a nation of tea drinkers. Tea has always been regarded as the ultimate pick-me-up for people in times of crisis or who need to concentrate. This just goes to prove that."