The Perfect Tea to Try for a Healthier Mind
Tea and Mental Wellness
When it comes to making a statement, tea has a history of taking center stage. From getting tossed into the Boston harbor circa 1773 to being used as an idiom for catching up on the latest drama—tea (and the spilling of it) has always seemed to create quite the stir when it comes to a conversation starter.
And today is no different.
Rather than giving a fourth-grade refresher course on “no taxation without representation,” we’re going to instead dip into some of the different types of tea out there and which ones provide the best mental health benefits. Whether you’re looking for a more energized start to your day or a cozy way to wind down, tea can provide the best hug in a mug for your mind on many levels.
Best Teas for Energy
Morning grogginess getting in the way of the daily grind? For most, a little kick of caffeine does the trick to make sure our mental pistons are pumping at 100%. But the fatigue and jitters that can come after makes certain remedies like coffee or energy drinks less favorable in the long run.
So how could caffeinated tea be a better option?
Tea has natural amino acids within its leaves, but L-theanine in particular has the capacity to help keep your mind calm and focused without tanking your energy reserves later. This kind of alertness is perfect for knocking out important tasks without losing your cool—just be sure to have some breakfast to keep any caffeine-induced stomach upset at bay.
This black tea comes in with a wide variety of caffeine concentrations. Depending on your blend, you could have a chai with around 25 mg or on the upper end of 120 mg. You’ll want to make sure and check the packaging, but a common understanding of most chai teas is that it should have about half the amount of caffeine as coffee—this works out to around 40-45 mg per cup.
Chai offers a bold flavor profile with spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. It’s a very aromatic drink that has a sweet and robust flavor. Many will turn chai tea into a latte by adding steamed milk and a little sweetener like honey. In short—it tastes like the holidays all the way down to the comfort and joy it brings to our little neurotransmitters.
The best part? No jitters.
Matcha makes for a strong alternative for coffee when it comes to its caffeine profile of around 70mg to coffee’s 95mg. The reason matcha packs such an energizing punch is because of its form. The leaves are ground up into a fine green powder rather than being steeped in hot water, so you’re actually consuming the leaves rather than sipping on what they were steeped in.
Because matcha leaves are ground down, it makes sense that the tea has an earthy, mossy flavor. Most folks either enjoy the flavor or can’t stand it… there usually isn’t a lot of middle ground otherwise. If you don’t care for the taste, adding an L-theanine supplement alongside any tea is a great way to get similar benefits without loathing your morning bevvie.
Best Teas for Stress Relief
Not only do certain tea blends help calm us down after stressful situations, the actual ritual of making tea can prove to be therapeutic as well. While teabags are certainly convenient and perfect in a pinch, using loose leaf tea leaves and herbs is a wonderful way to customize the flavor you’re looking for while giving yourself something soothing to focus on for a moment.
For an extra, not-so-good, very bad day we recommend pairing any of these with some chill beats, your coziest set of clothes and a good book, glass of wine or whatever creature comfort you cling to.
Green tea is like the bread and butter of helping calm feelings of anxiousness. It’s a baseline flavor profile that can easily be altered to your liking or left as is with its mild taste. We like to add a small squeeze of lemon when we’re feeling under the weather for some extra antioxidants or just a little honey to sweeten it up. Other additions that create lovely loose leaf green tea blends are herbs like mint and lemon balm, warming spices like clove and cardamom or even dried fruits like strawberries and blueberries.
If you’re short on time, smack dab in the middle of a stressful situation or just aren’t a fan of the flavor, you can also find supplements that use green tea as a source of caffeine for a plant-based pick me up.
If you’re looking for a caffeine-free option, but still want to take the edge off similar to how green tea can, licorice tea provides a good sense of calm without feeling activated or energized. Licorice can help regulate cortisol levels and is often paired with valerian root, mostly in part because it is thought to further increase the soothing effects of that herb. Licorice has a very strong flavor that is similar to anise, and while it’s relatively popular in candy, it’s definitely not for everyone.
If you’re looking for calming effects without caffeine and more of a cooling flavor, we would recommend peppermint tea as an alternative.
This root hails from the South Pacific and is becoming more and more popular for those that occasionally deal with feelings of anxiousness or want an alternative for booze. It can help calm our nervous system, elevate our mood and can lead to feeling tired as well. Kava has an earthy taste and can also make your tongue tingle or feel numb—this is temporary and is due to the kavalactones in the drink, they’re all about muscle relaxation.
Kava can be made into a tea or can be found in tinctures that you can drop into a tea as well. Kava is one of the stronger herbal teas when it comes to stress relief so sip with care and be sure not to take if you’re drinking alcohol.
Best Teas for Sleep
Is there really anything better than a warm cup of tea before you turn in for the night? A warm drink is blissful on its own, but lulling yourself into a sleepy slumber with a mug in hand just hits different. Don’t actually try and sleep with the mug in your hand though, that would be scalding and unpleasant… you know what we meant.
It probably goes without saying that chamomile tea is one of the most popular picks for getting your mind ready for bed. Consisting of dried flowers, this kind of tea goes hand-in-hand with relaxation and winding down mentally. If stress interferes with getting restful sleep, give this floral favorite a try.
As mentioned previously, valerian can help with occasional feelings of anxiousness, especially when paired with licorice root. Along with these effects, this root is also known to help calm racing thoughts before bed and help people fall asleep faster. As one of the strongest herbs to help with getting restful sleep, valerian is a powerful go-to for anyone looking to trade in doomscrolling for snoozing. The hangup however might be its… aroma.
If you haven’t smelled valerian root before, don’t start now.
Just drink it.
Tricks of the Tea Trade
We hope some of these teas bring you the kind of comfort or care that you’re looking for in your mental wellness routine. Before you go, we’ve picked up some handy dandy little tea tips along the way that we thought we should share. If you’re pretty tea-savvy you may already know some of these, but we were today years old when we found out you can re-steep loose leaf tea leaves. Game changer right there.
Anyway, yes. You can re-steep tea leaves. Just put them off to the side and you can use them for another cup, just add 10-15 more minutes to get as much flavor out of them as possible. You can’t really re-steep teabags, but if you try it, we won’t fault you for it.
The perfect temperature for teas? We thought you’d never ask.
- Green Tea: 175-180 degrees F / Steep for 1-2 minutes
- Black Tea: 200-212 degrees F / Steep for 3-5 minutes
- Herbal Tea: 208-212 degrees F / Steep for 5-10 minutes
Finally, using a mesh ball for loose leaf tea is great, but if you have a larger tea strainer it’ll give the leaves and herbs more space to bloom and enhance the flavor. You can also use a French press to steep and pour your tea—this comes in handy if you’re trying to serve to your friends and family and don’t have a teapot.
Looks classy enough to us.