The tea ceremony setup used in the study

The tea ceremony setup used in the study



  • A Project Driven by My Passion for Tea

  • Psychology Thesis Project / Behavioral Research

  • 6 Months

  • Team of 3



Meditation and other related mindfulness practices have been shown to have immense benefits to both the physiological and psychological well-being of modern human beings. Among the multitude of benefits of mindfulness are its significant positive associations with cognitive abilities ranging from attention, alertness, creativity, cognitive flexibility and negative associations with risks for neurodegenerative diseases, stress, and general cognitive decline. It has also been shown that a brief mindfulness interruption throughout the course of the day could somewhat approximate the effect of long-term mindfulness practice.

Tea ceremony, with its resemblance to meditation in its format and spiritual content, is anecdotally considered a form of mindfulness practice and has been compared to a “moving meditation” for its emphasis on the idea of harmony, both in relation to the self and to the surrounding.

However, there have been no studies looking scientifically into the psychological and cognitive effects of tea ceremony. The current study aims to explored the effect of tea ceremony in relation to cognitive flexibility, positive/negative emotions and mindfulness. The results of the study provided more insights into how mindfulness could be better incorporated into one’s lifestyle and how higher cognitive well-being could be achieved by a mindful act as small as having a cup of tea.

Utensils used in the tea ceremony.

Utensils used in the tea ceremony.



Participants -  51 Colgate University Intro to Psychology/ Intro to Neuroscience students, aged 18-22

Design -  2 (Tea ceremony, No Ceremony) x 2 (Cognitive /Affect Measure Before, Cognitive/Affect measure After) Mixed design ANOVA


  • The Stroop Test

  • D2 Concentration Test

  • Controlled Oral Word Association Test

  • Positive and Negative Affect scale (PANAS)

  • Tea ceremony setup (see pictures below)

  • Light Zen music in the background

Procedure - Prior to the commencement of the study, each participant was asked to fill out the Informed Consent document, followed by a demographics questionnaire and the PANAS. Each participant performed three tasks throughout the experiment to measure their cognitive flexibility. To obtain a baseline level of cognitive flexibility, each participant performed one to two of the tasks before the tea drinking, depending on random assignment. The tea ceremony group participated in a guided tea ceremony ritual led by the researchers which lasted approximately 10 minutes, whereas the control group simply drank a cup of tea in their individual test room. After this, they again completed the PANAS, followed by the final one to two tasks measuring cognitive flexibility.



Figure 1a.jpg

Figure 1. No statistically significant effects were found for main effect of Tea Condition, main effect of Cognitive Flexibility, and interaction between Tea Condition and Cognitive Flexibility .

Figure 2a.jpg

Figure 2. Statistically significant main effect of Negative Affect, F (1,49) = 33.268, p < 0.001 ; Statistically significant main effect of Tea Condition, F (1,49) = 5.373, p = 0.025; Statistically significant interaction between Negative Affect and Tea Condition, F (1,49) = 8.946, p = 0.004

Figure 3a.jpg

Figure 3. Statistically significant main effect of Mindfulness, F (1,49) = 26.524, p < 0.001 ; Statistically significant interaction between Mindfulness and Tea Condition, F (1,49) = 11.318, p = 0.001





  • Drinking tea in a ceremonial setting does not lead to statistically significant increase in cognitive flexibility

as compared to drinking tea without the ceremonial environment (Figure 1)

  • Ceremonial tea drinking does lead to statistically significant increase in mindfulness (Figure 3) and decrease in negative affect (Figure 2).


  • Ceremonial tea drinking could be an alternative meditation form or a therapeutic activity that leads to lower negativity and higher level of mindfulness.


  • There are considerable difference between the two groups’ baseline measure of cognitive flexibility, negative affect (statistically significant), and mindfulness. The individual difference might have hid some of the effect of tea ceremony.

  • The exact setting of the ceremonies or the way one ritualizes tea can vary widely, which might challenge the generalizability of the findings.

Future Studies

  • For future studies, a before and after stress measure would be helpful in telling how stress level affects the effectiveness of tea ceremony and correlates to cognitive flexibility.

  • It would also be helpful explore the relative contribution of the individual components of the tea ceremony (eg. background music, room decorations, different types of teas, etc.)

Poster Presentation and my team!

Poster Presentation and my team!


Charlotte (Yuan) Lou © 2018