When you find yourself reading the same sentence over and over, or you just can't focus at work, it's tempting to reach for an energy drink or cup of coffee for an immediate energy boost. But that would be a mistake.
When it comes to concentration and focus (not just energy), tea is the far better choice. In this article, we'll explain why tea is superior and run through the 10 best teas for energy and brain function.
Caffeinated tea, including black and green tea along with pu-erh tea, white tea, and a range of others, contains both caffeine and several amino acids. This is the key to mental clarity and cognitive performance.
Drinking tea or coffee provides your body with caffeine. Caffeine travels past through the blood brain barrier to bind with adenosine receptors. Adenosine is what creates those sleepy, lethargic feelings (in layman's terms) so by preventing adenosine from binding to those receptors in your brain, caffeine gives you that awake and alert feeling.
While caffeine alone can boost energy, it's not always best for concentration, focus and overall brain function. Have you ever felt jittery and unable to focus your energy after a double espresso?
This is why consuming both caffeine and L-Theanine together is best - you can only find both of these compounds in tea leaves. The amino acid L-Theanine has numerous health benefits, including:
L-Theanine also slows down the onset of caffeine, for a smoother and more controllable energy boost. Learn more about the science behind energy tea in our article about drinking green tea for energy.
Although herbal tea is not made from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis plant) it can still aid your mental health and improve brain function. Herbal teas do not contain caffeine or essential amino acids like L-Theanine. However, alongside a healthy diet, they can provide all the nutrients you need to maintain optimum health - including brain health.
Some herbal ingredients have specific properties that scientists are exploring to aid cognition, namely ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and tulsi. Learn more about these herbal tea types and their health benefits below.
Compared to coffee and most teas (Zest is the exception), an energy drink provides a bigger energy boost thanks to a high caffeine content. But as aforementioned, more caffeine alone doesn't equal improved concentration. Caffeine and L-Theanine together is the key.
Furthermore, the high amounts of sugar that are often found in many popular energy drinks can actually result in mild cognitive impairment: an unhealthy diet that's high in fat and sugar leads to impaired cognition through increased central inflammation and a compromised blood-brain barrier.1
We are starting with the ready-to-drink, bagged, and loose leaf tea types that are highest in both caffeine and L-Theanine! You'll also find compelling evidence for other herbal teas and dietary supplements in our list.
Our tea blends are available as tea bags or loose tea leaves. Both versions can improve cognitive function!
Our teas are made with tea leaves, for your kick of caffeine and L-Theanine, and are flavored with natural non-GMO ingredients. It's a failsafe recipe for energy without the excess calories and sugar. That's why they're the best teas for concentration.
Caffeinated drinks don't have to be hot. Our ready-to-drink range can convert energy drink fanatics into tea drinkers. They're high in energy and low in sugar.
Our high caffeine energy teas have as much caffeine as our hot teas, and can also benefit cognitive function through L-Theanine. Furthermore, they contain vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B12.
Adding B vitamins enables you to draw as much energy from our tea as possible. "Vitamins and minerals, especially the B vitamins, vitamin C, iron and magnesium addressed in this review, are mandatory to extract energy from food and present it in a physiologically usable form."2
Compared to sugary energy drinks, our iced teas are much better for concentration.
Matcha green tea is a specific type of green tea, usually sourced from Japan. To make matcha, the tea plant is shade-grown, which impacts the nutrition of the leaves. Matcha is very high in tea catechins and contains more caffeine than other green teas.
Furthermore, matcha tea is made by whisking the powdered tea leaf directly into water, rather than infusing it. As a result, you consume all the caffeine and L-Theanine contained in the leaves.
Learn more about how matcha can improve memory and the tea making process in our article Understanding Matcha Tea Caffeine.
While most herbal teas are caffeine-free, yerba mate does have a considerable caffeine content - it has more caffeine than standard green and black tea! As yerba mate tea is not made from the Camellia sinensis plant, it doesn't contain any L-Theanine.
However, there is evidence that yerba mate can improve cognitive function regardless. In an animal study, yerba mate extract improved both short-term and long-term learning and memory.3
Although naturally low in caffeine - there's only 28mg in an 8oz serving of standard green tea4 - this tea type is high in amino acids and has long been proven to prevent age-related cognitive decline.5
Green tea results in better cognitive function in general by enhancing memory and reducing anxiety too.6
Note: lightly oxidized oolong tea may seem similar to green tea, however there's little research into its ability to enhance memory. Regardless, one study found that oolong tea can reduce physical stress considerably.7
We've also decided to opt for standard green tea over standard black tea for our list. Even though there's evidence that a moderate intake of black tea can improve mental performance,8 there's not much conclusive proof that it has as large an impact as green tea.
There are numerous types of mint tea (read our guide to herbal tea to learn more) but the most well-known and consumed are peppermint tea and spearmint tea. Both provide a source of menthol which is very beneficial during demanding cognitive tasks. High doses of menthol (more likely to be found in peppermint than spearmint) attenuate the increase in mental fatigue during arduous tasks, e.g. filing that report 10 minutes before the deadline!9
We use mint leaves in a few of our tea blends, including our Pomegranate Mojito green tea.
Tea consumption for health benefits is not a new idea. Alongside Traditional Chinese Medicine, Indian Ayurvedic herbs have been used for generations to treat a wide number of ailments.
Tulsi tea is one of the most interesting Ayurvedic herbs, alongside gotu kola tea. It supposedly helps you deal with stress, can rejuvenate your body, and improve cognitive functioning. So far, scientists have found evidence that it has potential for treating epilepsy,10 has antidepressant properties, and has positive effects on memory and cognitive function.11
Ginkgo biloba is an unusual tea with a wide range of health benefits. It's made from the leaves of the ginkgo tree, which originates in China like the tea plant. Its purported health benefits include treating asthma and circulatory disorders. However, most research into ginkgo biloba has only found evidence that it's the best tea for cognitive functions.
Ginkgo biloba can improve cognition and memory for day-to-day activities and also has promise as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.12
This tea has a rejuvenating flavor that's most often consumed while drinking green tea as a blend.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ginseng is a true hero. Tea made from the ginseng root is purported to restore youth and cure any illness. It's also very energizing, which is why it's one of the best teas for concentration.13
Folklore aside, ginseng tea can assist brain health through numerous unique compounds that "act as an anti-neuroinflammatory and help fight against oxidative stress and modulate the cholinergic signal. These roles may be involved in enhancing cognition and attenuating impairment."14
Along with turmeric, ginseng and ginger tea are often mixed up as they are both similar in appearance (a woody root) but have very distinctive flavors. You can make ginseng tea using dried ginseng root, or find it in tea bags.
Ginger tea is a well-known herbal treatment for a cold, nausea and to reduce inflammation in general. Ginger can also improve blood flow, which is beneficial for treating androgenic and circular baldness.15
While ginger lacks the caffeine and amino acid content that traditional tea has, it can still assist brain function nonetheless. Ginger tea has a synaptogenic effect that may improve memory and overall cognitive function.16
Ginger is a key ingredient in our Spicy Masala Chai blend, which combines invigorating black tea with tasty spices. It tastes great with a little milk as an early-morning coffee replacement!
Caffeinated teas, such as black tea or green tea, are good for memory thanks to the L-Theanine amino acid content. Herbal teas that have proven links to improved memory include spearmint tea, ginger tea, and tulsi tea.
Chamomile, along with ginkgo biloba, valerian, and passionflower, may be able to reduce anxiety and stress, promoting a calm state of mind.17 While this may aid mental focus if you suffer from anxiety, chamomile also has sedative-like effects and is more often used to aid sleep.18 So, it is not one of the best teas to stay away, alert, and focused!
Yes! Zest Tea blends are made with natural ingredients that boost your energy with caffeine and stimulate creativity and focus with L-Theanine. They also contain some of the herbal ingredients listed above, including ginger tea in our Spicy Masala Chai and peppermint tea in our Pomegranate Mojito blend.
If we had to pick just one tea, it would be a high energy green tea. Green tea is high in amino acids, has a refreshing and reviving flavor, and can provide a significant energy boost. Choose from Pomegranate Mojito or Superberry Samba if you like to brew your own tea, or one of our ready-to-drink energy teas if you need something more convenient!
Taking a break to make a cup of tea and rehydrate will naturally give your brain a chance to recover, which could help you concentrate when you get back to work. There is also some scientific evidence that a handful of teas could be used to improve concentration and even treat some neurodegenerative diseases. See our list of caffeinated and herbal infusions above.
Both green tea and black tea provide caffeine for energy and L-Theanine for calm and focus. Many people prefer green tea for health and focus thanks to its clean, green flavor. However, black tea is also very effective and is more popular with ex-coffee-drinkers who crave that rich and warming flavor.
Learn more about the differences between black tea and green tea in our article Black Tea vs Green Tea: Flavor, Processing, Health Benefits & More.