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Food Quality and Preference
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/foodqual
Drinking tea improves the performance of divergent creativity
, Yera Choe
, Soomin Lee
, Enzhe Wang
, Yuanzhi Wu
, Lei Wang
School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences and Beijing Key Lab for Behavior and Mental Health, Peking University, China
Peking University-Taetea Consumer Research Center, Peking University, China
Academy of Certiﬁes Tea Master, China
Creativity measurement task
Previous research has found that tea improves performance on convergent creativity tasks, such as the Remote
Associates Test, by inducing a positive mood. However, there is no empirical evidence regarding the eﬀect of tea
drinking on performance in divergent creativity tasks. Using two experiments, the current research investigates
the relationship between tea consumption and divergent creativity. In both experiments, participants were
randomly assigned to two groups and implicitly manipulated to drink tea or water. In experiment 1 (N= 50), we
used a block-building task as a measure of divergent creativity in spatial cognition. The results showed that the
participants who drank tea performed better in the spatial creativity task assigned in the 10 min immediately
following tea consumption than did those who drank water. In experiment 2 (N= 40), we adopted the res-
taurant naming task as a measure of divergent creativity in semantic cognition. The results showed that the
participants who drank tea received higher scores in the semantic creativity task compared to those who drank
water. The current research demonstrates that drinking tea can improve creative performance with divergent
thinking. This work contributes to understanding the function of tea on creativity and oﬀers a new way to
investigate the relationship between food and beverage consumption and the improvement of human cognition.
Tea is the second most frequently consumed daily beverage in the
world (Hodgson & Croft, 2010). Since tea is important to human life, a
vast number of researches have investigated the function of tea. It has
been found that tea has beneﬁcial eﬀects on both physical health
(Ruxton, Phillips, & Bond, 2015; Shen & Chyu, 2016; Hayat, Iqbal,
Malik, Bilal, & Mushtaq, 2015) and cognition (Einöther & Martens,
2013; Dietz & Dekker, 2017; Kuriyama et al., 2006). Recent research for
tea’seﬀect on cognition is examining the relationship between drinking
tea and creativity (Einöther, Baas, Rowson, & Giesbrecht, 2015).
Creativity can be classiﬁed into convergent thinking and divergent
thinking (Guilford, 1967). While some research has found tea can im-
prove convergent thinking (Einöther et al., 2015), there is no evidence
about the relationship between tea and divergent thinking. The purpose
of the current research is to test if drinking tea can promote divergent
creativity. We will ﬁrst review the literature and propose our research
1.1. Tea and cognition
Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge
and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses“
(English Oxford Living Dictionary, www.oxforddictionaries.com). It
includes perception, attention, memory, emotion, language, decision
making, thinking, and reasoning, etc. (Goldstein, 2010). Among these
processes, perception and attention are primary level cognition,
whereas the processes like memory, thinking, and language are high-
Attention is one of the cognitive processes that has been mostly
studied in relation with tea. Attention is “the focusing and concentra-
tion of mental eﬀort that usually result in conscious awareness of cer-
tain aspects of certain stimuli of mental experiences”(Hill, 2001,
p.113). It has been found that attention can be improved by drinking
tea (De Bruin, Rowson, Van Buren, Rycroft, & Owen, 2011) and this
association was attributed to two biological ingredients, caﬀeine and
theanine (Einöther & Giesbrecht, 2013; Einöther & Martens, 2013).
Drinking tea that includes 100 mg of caﬀeine results in a higher Critical
Flicker Fusion Threshold, which is an overall index of the central ner-
vous system activity (Hindmarch, Quinlan, Moore, & Parkin, 1998),
than drinking water. Consumption of tea containing L-theanine
(100 mg) and caﬀeine (50 mg) improves both speed and accuracy on
the attention-switching task and reduces susceptibility to distracting
information on the memory task more than drinking tea without L-
Received 3 July 2017; Received in revised form 19 December 2017; Accepted 20 December 2017
Corresponding author at: School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (L. Wang).
Food Quality and Preference 66 (2018) 29–35
Available online 21 December 2017
0950-3293/ © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY-NC-ND/4.0/).
theanine does (Parnell, Owen, & Rycroft, 2006). Drinking tea that
contains both L-theanine (97 mg) and caﬀeine (40 mg) leads to higher
accuracy in the attention-switching task than drinking a placebo that
includes neither L-theanine nor caﬀeine (Giesbrecht, Rycroft, Rowson,
& De Bruin, 2010).
On the other hand, attention is the cognitive process that plays an
important role in many other high-order cognitive processes (Peterson
& Naveh-Benjamin, 2017; Varao-Sousa, Solman, & Kingstone, 2017),
especially in creativity (Vartanian, Martindale, & Kwiatkowski, 2007;
Kasof, 1997; Kharkhurin, 2011). Vartanian (2009) suggested that
creative people perform well in creative problem solving tasks, ad-
justing their attention adaptively to the tasks’s level of ambiguity.
Above researches about tea’seﬀect on attention and the relationship
between attention and creativity arose scientists’curiosity into the ef-
fect of tea on creativity. The current study is mainly focusing on tea’s
relationship with creativity.
1.2. Tea and creativity
Creativity is generally considered the human capacity to create
original and useful ideas to solve problems (Runco & Jaeger, 2012).
Creativity can be classiﬁed into two detailed and testable components:
convergent and divergent thinking (Guilford, 1967). Convergent
thinking is a cognitive process involved in solving a certain problem
with only a single solution (Zmigrod, Colzato, & Hommel, 2015). Di-
vergent thinking is the ability to oﬀer unlimited solutions to a single
problem and is the key component of creativity (Vincent, Decker, &
The Remote Associates Test (Mednick, 1962) is the typical mea-
surement of convergent thinking creativity. In this test, participants are
given three words, such as “blue”,“cake”, and “cottage”, and are re-
quired to give the solution word that is associated with these three
words (“cheese”). The Alternative Uses Task (Guilford, 1967) is the
typical measurement of divergent thinking creativity. In this task,
participants must generate as many ideas as possible about the usages
of a certain object, such as “brick”or “pen”.
According to Hommel (2012), convergent creativity and divergent
creativity requires diﬀerent cognitive control either. Convergent crea-
tivity needs strong top-down control which focuses on the search for
one idea with well-deﬁned search criteria, whereas divergent creativity
needs weak top-down control such that one can switch from one idea to
another idea within broad search span with less deﬁned search criteria.
Applying this strong/weak top-down cognitive control, one would ex-
pect that tea’seﬀect on attention brings strong degree of top-down
cognitive control, and in turns improve convergent creativity perfor-
mance. Actually, Isen, Labroo, and Durlach (2004) tested the relation-
ship between iced tea and convergent creativity. They used the Remote
Associates Test (Mednick, 1962) to measure convergent creativity. They
found that participants who drank iced tea gave more correct answers
in the Remote Associates Test than those who drank water. Einöther
et al. (2015) also examined tea’s positive eﬀect on convergent creativity
with RAT, showing that those who prepared and drank tea performed
signiﬁcantly better than those who drank water in high diﬃcult level of
Researchers have also begun to investigate the eﬀect of tea on di-
vergent creativity. To date, only one study has tested this association.
Einöther et al. (2015) used the alien drawing task (Ward, Patterson, &
Sifonis, 2004) as the measure of divergent creativity and recruited
regular tea consumers as participants. However, they did not ﬁnd a
signiﬁcant eﬀect of tea on divergent creativity performance. The pur-
pose of the current paper is to uncover the relationship between tea and
divergent thinking creativity.
Our belief in the relationship between tea and divergent thinking
creativity is based on several inferences and evidences. Colzato, Ozturk,
and Hommel (2012) investigated the improvement of creativity task
performance through meditation and found that meditation based on
open monitoring helped to enhance divergent creativity performance.
During open-monitoring meditation, one is open to perceive and ob-
serve any sensation or thought without focusing on a concept in the
mind or a ﬁxed item (Colzato et al., 2012, p1). The essence of medi-
tation is relaxation, and the essence of open-monitoring meditation is
“open”,“accepting myself as I am”, which is much similar to tea’s re-
covery eﬀect from stress (Steptoe et al., 2007). Therefore, one would
expect that tea would promote divergent creativity because of its
function of promoting relaxation (Dietz & Dekker, 2017) just as medi-
A possible mechanism of tea’seﬀect on divergent creativity can be
traced to Einöther et al. (2015)’s work, which suggested that preparing
and drinking tea can promote positive aﬀect, increasing valence of
mood during and immediately after tea consumption (within 10 min
from preparing stage). Positive aﬀect is beneﬁcial for creativity (Baas,
Dreu, Carsten, & Nijstad, 2008). Therefore, these authors hypothesized
that the mechanism of tea’seﬀect on improving creativity is through
increased mood valence. In other words, tea consumption is predictive
of improved creativity through increased valence of mood.
However, Einöther et al. (2015) did not ﬁnd empirical support for
their assumption for divergent creativity. Although we agree with their
reasoning, we believe that their failure to ﬁnd an eﬀect of tea on di-
vergent thinking creativity is due to the experimental paradigm. Testing
the eﬀect of tea on divergent thinking requires a selection of suitable
cognitive tasks that encourage and allow multiple solutions rather than
a unique solution. Moreover, the performance of the selected cognitive
task should not be restrained by other skills that are not related to di-
vergent thinking. Although an alien drawing task may test divergent
thinking (Ward et al., 2004), it requires drawing skills that are un-
related to creativity.
1.3. Overview of the present research
The current study tested the hypothesis that drinking tea promotes
creativity with divergent thinking by adopting two tasks that measure
spatial cognitive creativity and semantic innovative creativity. In ex-
periment 1, we used a block-building task to measure divergent
thinking. Playing blocks may be associated with the improvement of
spatial reasoning (Jirout & Newcombe, 2015). Casey et al. (2008) used
a block-building task as their spatial measure to investigate whether
block-building activities enhance children’s spatial skills. Moreover,
Jirout and Newcombe (2015) found that playing with blocks is posi-
tively associated with spatial skills. In experiment 2, we used a crea-
tivity measurement task, similar to the pasta-naming task (Steﬀens,
Gocłowska, Cruwys, & Galinsky, 2016), as a measure of divergent
thinking. The pasta-naming task measures ideational ﬂuency, which is
an essential element of creativity (Steﬀens et al., 2016). Both tasks meet
the requirements of being related to divergent creativity without being
restrained by other skills unrelated to divergent thinking.
Additionally, we adopted the implicit priming experimental para-
digm such that participants were unaware of the independent variable
manipulation (Hong, Morris, Chiu, & Benet-Martinez, 2000). Tea con-
sumption was manipulated implicitly by serving tea and water during
the greeting stage of the experiment, so the participants did not realize
that drinking was the crucial part of our study. This research design
helped us exclude the potential compound eﬀect of the experience in-
duced by making tea themselves during tea preparation.
To sum, current research aims to examine the hypothesis that tea
consumption promotes divergent creativity, the main eﬀect hypothesis
(H1). We also hypothesize that this improvement is due to that tea
drinking can lead to a positive mood which is beneﬁcial for divergent
creativity, the mediation hypothesis (H2). We ran experiment 1 to test
the main hypothesis, and experiment 2 to retest the main eﬀect and to
investigate mood’s mediation eﬀect. Particularly, we are mainly fo-
cusing on acute eﬀect of tea on creativity, and creativity is measured
within 10–25 min after tea drinking. In other words, we are mainly
Y. Huang et al. Food Quality and Preference 66 (2018) 29–35
interested in the psychological function on creativity that may happen
in very short period of time after drinking.
2. Experiment 1
Fifty university students (22 males) were recruited from the campus
Bulletin Board System (BBS). Their mean age was 23.73 years
(SD = 2.11). We paid $6 to each participant for his or her involvement.
This study included two parallel consumption conditions: a cup of
black tea (Lipton, a well-known brand but anonymous to participants,
approximately 150 mL) and a cup of water, both served at a drinkable
temperature of 42 °C. In both conditions, the amount of drink con-
sumption was coded. The participants were randomly allocated into
two groups, resulting in 26 participants in the tea group and 24 in the
A receptionist (experimenter A) received one participant at a time in
room A to operate our independent variable: pouring a cup of tea (or
water) for every participant.
Then, the receptionist asked each participant’s name, mobile phone
number and ID number as well as questions related to educational
background. This warm-up stage was designed to manipulate the in-
dependent variable, during which the participant drank the tea (or
water). The cups provided to the participants were disposable and were
removed in front of every participant to ensure clean cups. The amount
the participant drank was recorded by the receptionist.
To let the participants drink as much as possible, the receptionist
also poured herself a cup of the same drink. She spoke with the parti-
cipant while drinking the beverage for three minutes so that the par-
ticipant could have enough time to ﬁnish the drink.
Then, the participants were guided to room B and were received by
experimenter B (who did not know whether the participant consumed
tea or water). Experimenter B showed the participant the block play
task instructions and then began to count the time.
The instructions for block play were as follows:
A toy factory is going to launch a new type of block and needs some
block construct examples. Please build a block design that you think is
attractive with as many blocks as you can in the given time. There are
several judges next door whose duty is to rate your work. After you complete
your block building, two photos of it will be taken and sent to these judges.
Your scores will determine how much extra money you can earn.
We used the word “attractive”rather than “creative”because we
believed that the former is more understandable and meaningful to
participants. Nevertheless, the two words share a similar essence of
meaning. “Creative”is more abstract, whereas “attractive”is more
concrete, and they are closely related to one another when describing a
block-building result. Creativity is a necessary input of an attractive
block-building work, and attractiveness is the output of creativity. To
encourage the participants do their best, we told them they would earn
extra money depending on their rating, although the actual payment
was equal for every participant. Every participant had a maximum of
10 min to build a block design. When the time was up, experimenter A
entered and took two photos for each block construct, one in quarter
view and one from eye level (see Fig. 1 for details).
Measurement of divergent thinking creativity: We recruited 10 uni-
versity students who had never attended the experiment and were
blinded to the purpose and the conditions of the experiment to rate the
creativity of every block construction. The rating was composed of four
dimensions: degree of innovativeness, aesthetic appeal, uniﬁcation, and
grandness. Innovativeness measures how new and unusual the
construction is, aesthetic appeal measures how beautiful it is, uniﬁca-
tion measures how well every part of the blocks integrates together as a
whole, and grandness measures how stately and magniﬁcent it is. The
rating was on an 11-point Likert scale (0 = “absolutely no”,10=“ab-
solutely yes”). We calculated the mean of 4 dimension ratings
A general linear model analysis showed that the creativity scores of
the block buildings for the tea group (mean = 6.54, SD = 0.92) were
signiﬁcantly higher than those for the water group (mean = 6.03,
SD = 0.94) after controlling for gender and volume consumed [F
(1.48) = 5.56, p=0.023, η
=0.108, observed power = 0.637 (see
Figs. 1 and 2)].
We coded the volume the participants drank as 1 = drank nothing,
2 = drank one-third of a cup, 3 = drank one-third to two-thirds, and
4 = drank more than two-thirds. The data showed that the tea group’s
mean volume was 2.65, and the water group’s volume was 2.71. Four
participants drank less than one-third of a cup and none drank nothing.
The results provide preliminary support for our hypothesis that
drinking tea can promote divergent creativity. The results are also
consistent with Einöther et al.’s (2015) expectation that tea consump-
tion should contribute to divergent creativity. This experiment de-
monstrates for the ﬁrst time the eﬀect of tea on divergent creativity.
Notice that in both conditions, the participants did not drink much;
moreover, it did not take much time for the participants to ﬁnish the
task. Thus, even with a limited amount of tea consumption (approxi-
mately half of a cup) within a limited time (approximately 3 + 10 min),
tea may promote divergent creativity. The block-building task we used
here is a spatial cognition creativity task that is free from other re-
strictions such as drawing skills, and there is no threshold for each
participant to bring into full play his or her divergent thinking crea-
Moreover, in experiment 1, we used a procedure in which the ex-
perimenter rather than the participant prepared the tea drink. Thus, we
ensured that the concentration and temperature of the tea was equal for
every participant in the tea group. Moreover, this helped exclude the
possible compound eﬀect of the experience of tea preparation.
However, we did not control mood in experiment 1, and thus we do
not know whether mood was the mechanism of the relationship be-
tween tea and divergent thinking creativity, so in experiment 2 we
measured participants’mood with Aﬀect Grid (Russell, Weiss, &
Mendelsohn, 1989) after drinking. Moreover, we used a spatial cogni-
tive task to measure divergent thinking creativity. We do not know
whether our ﬁndings of tea’seﬀect on divergent creativity can be re-
plicated by other types of divergent creativity tasks. In experiment 2,
we test whether the ﬁndings in experiment 1 can be generalized to
other types of cognitive domains, such as semantic analysis tasks. By
doing so, we can examine whether the eﬀect of tea on divergent crea-
tivity can be replicated.
3. Experiment 2
Forty students (20 males) were recruited from campus BBS. Their
mean age was 23.0 years (SD = 1.86). We paid $6 for each participant’s
involvement. Among these participants, 8 had never drunk tea and
were evenly distributed between the tea group and the water group.
The average amount the participants drank in daily life was approxi-
mately 390 mL per month.
Y. Huang et al. Food Quality and Preference 66 (2018) 29–35
The participants underwent the same 3-min warm-up stage as in
experiment 1. The participants were randomly allocated into two
groups, resulting in 20 participants in the tea group and 20 in the water
group. However, in our ﬁnal data analysis, we excluded one participant
who drank nothing, and this participant came from the water group. As
a result, we had 19 participants in the water group and 20 in the tea
We retained every procedure in the warm-up stage, including the
tea and water treatments, as in experiment 1. We changed only the task
that measured creativity to examine our hypothesis. Given that several
studies have found an association between tea drinking and positive
mood and a relationship between positive mood and creativity
(Einöther et al., 2015; Einöther, Rowson, Ramaekers, & Giesbrecht,
2016), it has been suggested that positive mood may explain the me-
chanism of the relationship between tea drinking and creativity.
Therefore, we added a measure of the participants’mood using the
Aﬀect Grid (Russell et al., 1989) at the end of the warm-up stage. Ac-
cording to Russell et al. (1989), the Aﬀect Grid assesses the degree of
valence and arousal. The participants were asked to mark how they felt
on a 19 × 19 grid with valence on the horizontal axis, ranging from
unpleasant to pleasant, and arousal on the vertical axis, ranging from
sleepy to active.
After the warm-up stage, the participants were led to room B.
Experimenter B in room B (who did not know whether the participant
consumed tea or water) explained the instructions of the ramen res-
taurant-naming task and gave them the task paper, which was a form
with 50 blanks.
The instructions for the naming task were as follows:
There is a newly opened ramen (noodle) shop, and we are recruiting
shop names for it. Please write as many names as possible that you think are
cool and attractive within 20 min. There are some judges in the next room
who are responsible for evaluating and selecting the appropriate shop names.
We will give your ﬁnal name list to them to rate. Your scores will determine
how much extra money you can earn.
Similar to experiment 1, we used the words “cool and attractive”
rather than “creative”because we believed that the former is more
understandable and meaningful to participants. The name must be at-
tractive to be considered creative, and a creative name draws the at-
tention of the judges by standing out.
After 20 min, experimenter B notiﬁed the participants that the trial
time was up and asked them to wait in place. Then, experimenter A
entered and removed the paper with the participant’s ramen shop
In the last step, the participants were asked to complete the tea
consuming habit questionnaire, which was the same as in experiment 1
with two additional questions about the participant’s perceived degrees
of mental involvement and body involvement (Einöther et al., 2015).
The degree of perceived physical eﬀort may be associated with more
positive aﬀect (Einöther et al., 2015). One question was, “Please rate
the degree of your mental and body involvement during the naming
task”. These questions were rated on a 10-point Likert scale (1 = “ab-
solutely uninvolved”,10=“entirely involved”).
Measurement of divergent thinking creativity: We recruited 10 students
who had never attended the experiment and were blinded to the pur-
pose of the experiment to rate the creativity of each ramen restaurant
name. One judge did not ﬁnish the rating; thus, we received 9 judges’
ratings. The rating was composed of two dimensions: innovativeness
(Benedek, Jauk, Sommer, Arendasy, & Neubauer, 2014) and playfulness
(Bateson & Nettle, 2014). We proposed these two dimensions for two
reasons. First, we usually evaluate a restaurant name based on in-
novativeness and playfulness in a real-life context. Furthermore, a good
name must be innovative and playful. In particular, a creative name
should be innovative, and an innovative name reﬂects the performance
of creativity. Second, a more positive mood may lead to more playful
names suggested by the participant. The lowest score was 1, and the
highest score was 10. An example of a name that received a low in-
novativeness score is “Ramen Family”, and an example of a name that
received a high innovativeness score is “No Ramen Here”.
The scores of innovativeness and playfulness for each participant
were the average ratings of all eligible names he or she created.
3.2.1. Naming task score
In total, 1307 names for the ramen restaurant were collected from
40 participants. After deleting ineligible names (those that included
location names and those that contained only the word “Ramen”), 1104
Fig. 1. Pictures of (a) a high creativity score block building
and (b) a low creativity score block building.
Fig. 2. Creativity scores in the block-playing task for the two groups (experiment 1).
Y. Huang et al. Food Quality and Preference 66 (2018) 29–35
names remained. We excluded two judges’ratings to reach a coeﬃcient
of internal consistency of 0.733 (the two judges’ratings had low cor-
relations with others).
Using a MANOVA that controlled for gender, the volume the par-
ticipants drank, whether they drank tea regularly and the number of
restaurant names, we found that, consistent with our hypothesis, par-
ticipants in the tea group received signiﬁcantly higher scores
(mean = 4.11, SD = 0.49) in innovativeness compared to those in the
water group (mean = 3.79, SD = 0.45) [F(1, 37) = 5.18, p= 0.029,
= 0.129, observed power = 0.600]. We did not identify any sig-
niﬁcant diﬀerences between the two groups in the ratings of playfulness
[F(1, 37) = 2.42, p= 0.129, η
= 0.065, observed power = 0.328] or
in the number of names [F(1, 37) = 0.014, p= 0.908, η
Fig. 3] after controlling for the same variables. Interestingly, we equally
split the names of every participant into two parts according to the
written order and got two new scores: the ﬁrst half naming scores and
the second half ones. After controlling for the same variables, MANOVA
manifested that it is the second half scores that mainly contributed to
the diﬀerences in innovativeness between the tea group (mean = 4.03,
SD = 0.52) and the water group (mean = 3.72, SD = 0.48) [F(1,
38) = 5.56, p= 0.024, η
= 0.134, observed power = 0.631]. There
was no signiﬁcant diﬀerence in innovativeness between the water
group (mean = 3.83, SD = 0.57) and the tea group (mean = 4.15,
SD = 0.57) in the ﬁrst half naming scores [F(1, 38) = 3.24, p= 0.080,
= 0.083, observed power = 0.418].
Finally, unlike previous ﬁndings, there were no signiﬁcant diﬀer-
ences in the scores of valence [F(1, 38) = 2.82, p= 0.102, η
observed power = 0.373] and arousal [F(1, 38) = 0.023, p= 0.880,
= 0.001, observed power = 0.053] between the tea group and the
water group with regard to perceived mental involvement [F(1,
38) = 2.93, p= 0.095] or body involvement [F(1, 38) = 0.050,
The results of experiment 2 replicated the ﬁndings of experiment 1,
showing that drinking tea can be signiﬁcantly beneﬁcial for divergent
creativity. We observed the same eﬀect of tea in both the spatial cog-
nitive test and the semantic test. It seems that drinking tea has a solid
and consistent positive eﬀect on divergent creativity. More importantly,
we found that the eﬀect of tea on divergent creativity performance took
place at the second half period of the experiment, revealing that the role
of tea is to keep the performance of divergent creativity for a relatively
long-lasting period of time. We may infer that coming up with more
ramen restaurant names at the second half of the task is apparently
more diﬃcult than the ﬁrst half of the task and needs more creativity
thinking, because during the ﬁrst half of the test participants had
already written out most ideas that they could think of. This result is in
line with Einöther et al. (2015)’sﬁndings that the response time of tea
group was faster than that of water group only for diﬃcult level RAT,
whereas there was no diﬀerence for easy level RAT.
Notice that the average naming scores are not high. There may be
several reasons. First, our participants were university students who
had no related innovation-design experience of naming a restaurant
before and they had only 20 min to involve in the task. Second, in fact,
there all existed high-score names, medium-score names and low-score
names in almost every participant’sﬁnal naming works such that the
ﬁnal average scores were not very high.
However, the results did not show that mood could be a mechanism
for explaining how drinking a cup of tea could signiﬁcantly improve
divergent creativity. In experiment 2, drinking tea and perceived
mental involvement or body involvement did not inﬂuence the degree
of valence and arousal. There are several possible explanations. First,
unlike previous studies (Einöther et al., 2015, 2016), we did not pur-
posely recruit tea drinkers as participants. Moreover, we used an im-
plicit priming experimental design such that participants had no ex-
pectations for being treated with tea and the identity of being a regular
tea drinker did not appear in their mind when they came to our ex-
periment. No participants were aware that drinking (tea vs. water) was
part of the experiment, and none of them was involved in the drinking
preparation. This manipulation may explain why there was no sig-
niﬁcant diﬀerence in mood between the two groups because in our
experiments, no particular experience was introduced due to a special
procedure such as tea preparation. Our implicit priming manipulation
separated the eﬀect of tea itself from that of a tea experience or the
feeling that is induced by tea preparation. Moreover, the current re-
search did not consider whether the participants were regular tea
drinkers; we were interested in the eﬀect of a cup of tea on divergent
creativity and on common people, a more generalized eﬀect. Thus, we
suggest that the mood mechanism or the attention mechanism may be
suitable for regular tea drinkers with the experience of tea preparation.
There may exist another undiscovered mechanism from implicitly
drinking tea to divergent creativity.
4. General discussion
The aim of our research was to test whether drinking tea would
improve divergent thinking creativity and if this association could be
mediated by mood. Using two experiments with two diﬀerent tasks, we
got similar ﬁndings. Experiment 1 demonstrated that tea consumption
improved performance in block building, which is a spatial creativity
task. Consistent with the results of experiment 1, experiment 2 showed
that those who drank tea received higher scores in innovativeness in the
ramen restaurant-naming task, which involved semantic processing
creativity. But experiment 2 didn't ﬁnd the mediation eﬀect of mood on
the relationship between tea consumption and divergent creativity.
Therefore our research hypothesis H1 was supported whereas hypoth-
esis H2 was not.
We are the ﬁrst to empirically demonstrate that tea drinking im-
proves divergent thinking creativity, which conﬁrmed our research
hypothesis. Our ﬁndings are consistent with previous research showing
that tea drinking is positively related to creativity (Einöther et al., 2015;
Isen et al., 2004). For example, Einöther et al. (2015) showed that tea
consumption promoted convergent thinking. Our work expanded these
ﬁndings by showing that tea consumption can also promote divergent
Our research also demonstrated the external validity of the eﬀect
that tea consumption could have on the performance of divergent
thinking across two experiments and diﬀerent types of creativity tasks.
Speciﬁcally, we used a spatial creativity task (block building) and a
semantic creativity task (naming a ramen restaurant). This use of dif-
ferent samples and tasks and dependent measures across the experi-
ments also demonstrates the robustness and generalizability of the
Fig. 3. Scores of the innovativeness dimension in the naming task for the two groups
Y. Huang et al. Food Quality and Preference 66 (2018) 29–35
Moreover, we contribute to the literature in the methodological
aspect by using adapted experimental paradigms and identifying more
appropriate divergent creativity measurement tasks. Although previous
studies provide strong logic for why tea consumption promotes crea-
tivity, they suﬀered from a methodological problem. Einöther et al.
(2015) was the ﬁrst to distinguish the eﬀects of drinking tea on con-
vergent and divergent creativity using the Remote Associates Test and
an alien drawing task (Ward et al., 2004). However, that study did not
identify a signiﬁcant eﬀect of tea on divergent thinking compared to
that on convergent thinking. It is possible that the alien drawing task
requires drawing skills which may interfere the measurement of pure
creativity. To solve this methodological problem, we adopted a spatial
cognitive task and a semantic cognitive task that we believe can better
reﬂect the creativity performance without possible interference or re-
strains from skills not related to creativity.
Finally, our research adopted a more elaborate manipulation of the
independent variable. We controlled the temperature of tea and water
to the same temperature of 42 °C for both experimental conditions in
each study. Researchers have found that physical warmth and coldness
have diﬀerent inﬂuences on performance in several creativity tasks
(IJzerman, Leung, & Ong, 2014). Considering this, we minimized the
interference of the physical temperature of the drink by controlling the
temperature. We also controlled the concentration of black tea by ser-
ving similarly prepared tea by the experimenters.
4.1. Limitations and implications for future research
Our research has some limitations. First, we did not identify any
signiﬁcant diﬀerences in the playfulness of ramen restaurant names
between the two groups in experiment 2. We measured the playfulness
of the ramen restaurant names based on the work of Bateson and Nettle
(2014), who found that participants whose self-reported playfulness
scores were high reported relatively high creativity scores and oﬀered
more alternative uses of a certain object. Although drinking tea im-
proves cognitive creativity, it may not signiﬁcantly increase the level of
playfulness compared to drinking water. This result is reasonable be-
cause tea consumption leads to calmness, a moderate level of arousal,
and alertness (Einöther & Martens, 2013), and these mental states are
unrelated to playfulness.
Second, we did not measure the biological ingredients of the tea that
the participants consumed. The literature has demonstrated that there
are at least two factors of tea consumption, dose and time, that may
biologically inﬂuence consequent cognitive processing. Einöther and
Martens (2013) concluded that two biological ingredients, caﬀeine and
theanine, have beneﬁcial eﬀects on attention, which is an indispensable
part of cognitive function. A cup of tea generally contains 35–61 mg
(average 48) of caﬀeine and 4.5–22.5 mg (average 13.5) of theanine. In
the majority of studies that investigated the eﬀect of tea consumption
on cognitive performance, tea contained more than 50 mg of caﬀeine or
theanine (Bryan, 2008). Thus, the amount of tea ingredients our par-
ticipants absorbed was relatively small (the majority of our participants
drank about 1/3–2/3 cup of tea, which contained limited amount of
caﬀeine and theanine). Also, theanine facilitates long-term sustained
attentional processing rather than short-term moment-to-moment at-
tentional processing during the entire time frame of a diﬃcult visuos-
patial task (Gomez-Ramirez, Kelly, Montesi, & Foxe, 2009), and it takes
approximately 30–60 min for tea’s biological ingredients to inﬂuence
attention, alertness, and brain concentration (Einöther et al., 2015).
Since our divergent creativity tasks took only 10–20 min and relatively
small amount of tea consumed, we can attribute the tea’seﬀects on
divergent creativity performance to psychological eﬀects more than
physiological eﬀects. Future research can examine this issue by priming
participants’conceptual perception of tea without the direct con-
sumption of tea. Further, by extending the time period of tea con-
sumption and task performance, future research can more deeply
investigate the physiological eﬀects of tea on creativity. Future studies
can clarify the eﬀect of tea ingredients by examining the speciﬁceﬀect
of tea so that we can tell whether and to what extent the eﬀect of tea on
creativity is physiological or psychological. For example, studies should
be conducted to determine whether the positive eﬀect of creativity
improvement is because of the ingredients themselves or other eﬀects,
such as the process of preparing tea oneself, tea’s special aroma, or tea
as a traditional drink diﬀerent from pure water. There could even be a
mixed eﬀect of tea that is the combination of physiological and psy-
Third, we did not identify the role mood plays as the mechanism in
the relationship between tea and creativity. We measured the partici-
pants’aﬀective states with the Aﬀect Grid, but we did not identify any
diﬀerences between the two groups, which is inconsistent with the
literature (Einöther et al., 2015; Isen et al., 2004). This result may be
attributed to our implicit experimental paradigm; all participants re-
ported that they were unaware that drinking tea or water was the ne-
cessary part of the manipulation after the experiment. However, in the
study by Einöther et al. (2015), all participants were recruited under
the condition that they were regular tea drinkers who drank tea at least
5 times a week. The tea group was also involved in the entire pre-
paration process of tea, whereas the water group was just served one
cup of water. Thus, we may infer that diﬀerent pleasure levels between
the tea group and the water group might be caused by diﬀerent treat-
ments rather than the tea itself. Given that we didn’tﬁnd that the mood
is the mechanism for the eﬀects of tea, a possible assumption is that
people may already setup a mind-set about the function of drinking tea
(Wang, Zhu, & Wang, 2014). It has been found that people believe that
those who drink tea have a particular set of personal characteristics
such as “smart”,“innovative”,“elegant”,“self-conﬁdent”and “steady”
(Wang et al., 2014). It is possible that when people expose to tea, they
might be primed to behave in the way that they think a tea drinker
should do, because tea may activate related mind-set or mental pro-
cesses, which, as a priming, becomes operative and guides inferences in
following cognitive processes (Hong et al., 2000). We call for more
research to clarify this issue.
In conclusion, tea consumption can improve divergent thinking
creativity in spatial cognitive processing and semantic processing tasks.
Future research can examine the speciﬁc mechanism by identifying
which variables mediate or moderate the eﬀects of tea consumption on
divergent thinking creativity.
This work was supported by NSFC Grant #91224008 and Taetea
L.W. and Y.W. conceived the main research idea. L.W. and Y.H.
made the research design. Y.H., E.W., Y.C., and S.L. ran the experi-
ments. Y.H. and L.W. performed the statistics. All authors were in-
volved in the manuscript preparation.
The instruction for the warm-up stage in experiment 1 & 2:
“Welcome to our lab! Sit down, please and have a cup of tea (water),
ﬁrst. Our experiment requires you to calm down. Please put your phone
to silent mode or turn it oﬀand do not use it during the experiment. Next,
we will ask you some personal information for the sake of payment.”
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