This study explored whether drinking tea “treated” with good intentions would enhance mood more than drinking ordinary tea, under double-blind, randomized conditions.
Each evening, for seven days in a row, volunteers recorded their mood using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire. On days three, four, and five of the test, each participant drank 600mL of oolong tea in the morning and again in the afternoon. One randomly assigned group blindly received tea that had been intentionally treated by three Buddhist monks; the other group blindly received untreated tea from the same source. On the last day of the test, each person indicated what type of tea he/she believed he/she had been drinking.
Stratified, random sampling was used to assign 189 adults into two groups matched by age, gender, the psychological trait of neuroticism, and the amount of tea consumed on average per day. All participants were Taiwanese and lived in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and the test was conducted over the course of one week to reduce mood fluctuations due to changes in local weather and other common influences.
Those who drank treated tea showed a greater increase in mood than those who drank untreated tea (Cohen's d = 0.65, P = .02, two-tailed). Change in mood in those who believed that they were drinking treated tea was much better than those who did not believe (Cohen's d = 1.45, P = .00002, two-tailed).
Tea treated with good intentions improved mood more than ordinary tea derived from the same source. Belief that one was drinking treated tea produced a large improvement in mood, but only if one was actually drinking the treated tea, indicating that belief and intentional enhancement interact. This also suggests that the esthetic and intentional qualities associated with the traditional tea ceremony may have subtle influences that extend beyond the ritual itself.