Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Although coffee is popular for its ability to keep students awake, sometimes tea can be a healthier and mindful alternative.

March 1, 2022

Tea: The Key to a Healthy Brain & Healthy Body

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There are a few things humans need for survival: food, water, air and shelter. As college students, we need one extra component: caffeine. Keeping up with the rigorous environment and demanding workload, sleep seems a luxurious activity to partake in. With students spending more nights at the library than in their own rooms, Cornell’s campus is bustling with students day and night. At any study space on campus, you can find scores of students with airpods in, eyes glued to laptop screens and giant cups to drink from.

Coffee works its magic by keeping the brain awake, but the concoction of the coffee and sugar living rent-free in our bodies can have severe negative long-term effects on us, such as chronic insomnia and constant anxiety. However, don’t fear: Alternatives to coffee exist that not only succeed in keeping us awake, but also have fewer long-term side effects. These alternatives come in the form of different teas. 

Among the most popular coffee substitutes is Guayakí Yerba Mate. Yerba Mate is a tea used as a herbal remedy in South America and is known to promote intestinal activity to help absorb nutrients and regulate bowel movements. Their colorful cans contain 24 vitamins and minerals along with 15 amino acids and antioxidants. Guayakí is now available in a wide range of stores here in Ithaca, including Target, 7/11, Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Jason’s. The next time you shop for your daily fix of caffeine, consider dropping the artificials and choosing Yerba Mate.

Another great coffee alternative is black tea. This herbal drink will keep you alert — minus the caffeine crash. A core ingredient in black tea is I-theanine, an amino acid that helps prevent the headaches and irritability that comes after heavy doses of caffeine. With its antioxidant properties and healthy amino acids, black tea can help lower blood pressure, boost heart health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. 

And lastly, a popular favorite amongst all ages: matcha. U.S. society has seen a sudden increase in matcha lovers, and now there are plenty of cafes that only sell matcha products – matcha ice cream, matcha smoothies and matcha bowls. If its beautiful color doesn’t convince you to choose matcha, then its health benefits surely will. Matcha is full of catechins, a natural antioxidant that helps protect the liver, boost brain function and promote heart health. It may even help the body shed a few pounds. This green powder can be enjoyed hot or cold, and it tastes even better with a splash of almond milk. 

All these alternatives have a common theme: They’re natural. They give you all the benefits of coffee, minus the negative consequences. They will not only keep you awake, but they will also improve your overall health. So the next time you prepare for a long day at the library, keep your mind and your body healthy and try tea instead.

Euna Lee is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]

Correction, Mar. 2, 8:00 p.m.: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated that yerba mate is a tea used as a herbal remedy in South Africa. It is actually used as a herbal remedy in South America.