You might at least have tried the taste of this powdered green tea in some beverages or foods, like a simple traditional brewed tea or a muffin. But what is matcha exactly and how it drives the world bonkers, with both health and gastronomic enthusiasts putting it in almost everything possible? This article will take you on a green tour where you will find out every essential information you need to know about matcha green tea powder.
What is matcha?
Matcha is a special form of powdered green tea grown in Japan and China. History of matcha dated back to the Tang Dynasty in China where green tea was stone-ground and dried into bricks for storage. When used, people could break off a small piece of this dried tea brick and stir in hot water. Later, a Japanese monk brought this idea of powdered tea into Japan and this tradition gradually evolved into chanoyu (tea) ceremony, also known as the Way of Tea. While Chinese powdered tea lost its popularity across time, the tradition has persisted in Japan till today.
How matcha is made?
The tea bushes must be shaded with cloths for three weeks before harvest. By this way, tea bushes are kept away from the sun, which reduces its photosynthesis and delays the growth of tea plants. This gives the leaves a darker nuance of green and trigger the production of chlorophyll and amino acids.
After that, these best quality leaves are collected and stone-grind by hand so that only the best quality leaves are selected. The selection and classification of tea leaves are followed by two others subtle hand-technique: steaming and stone-grinding. These processes are to pertain flavor, color and nutritional content of the tea powder. Because of this time-consuming procedure and the conferred quality, this Japanese premium tea, though a little pricier compared to other tea types, has become a must-have ingredient for wellness fans around the world.
Matcha is not only good for your physical health. It is believed to promote mental health as well. The Zen priest Eisai, who introduced powdered tea to Japan, stated that matcha is “the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.”
Nutritional values of matcha green tea
As a tea beverage, matcha is a rich source of vitamins, including A, B-complex, C, E, K and trace minerals. Matcha also has high concentration of super antioxidants like catechins, polyphenols and chlorophyll. Catechins found in other super foods like cocoa, green tea and apple, is densely stored in this powdered green tea. Another distinctive feature of matcha green tea lies in its presence of amino acids such as L-theanine and theophylline.
Health benefits of Matcha Green Tea
1. Stronger immune system
The multi-vitamins and antioxidant content heavily-packed in green tea powder provide your body a protective shield from sickness and infections. This is not to mention that unlike standard tea beverage where the leaves are left out after infusion, matcha gives you the whole pack of nutrition in full dose. Even better, as mentioned above, green tea leaves are put through a sophisticated procedure before they find their way to you in form of gorgeous green powder. Hence, it is no doubt to say that regular consumption of matcha is akin to a better physical health performance.
2. Energy booster
You might not expect this but it is true that matcha drinkers experience a boost of energy throughout a day. The tea powder contains theophylline, a form of caffeine, whose function is to control energy level in your body. Unlike caffeine in coffee which often causes side effects, matcha causes no jitter or any other adverse effects. Specifically, theophylline helps slow down the release of energy, enabling absorption in adrenal glands and enhancing the optimal functionalities of these glands and their hormonal secretion.
Clinical tests suggested that drinking matcha helps facilitate recovery after highly intensive workouts. Physical endurance is such a fascinating perk that every health enthusiast should consider matcha for their dietary plans.
3. Antioxidant power
Matcha is considered an antioxidant powerhouse for its high concentration of antioxidants, the natural chemical compounds that prevent aging, infections and chronic diseases. A neuroscience study on effects of tea on brain revealed that this green tea powder has the highest amount of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) compared to other types of green tea recorded. Experts also found that matcha possesses an amazing twenty times more oxygen radical absorbance capacity than pomegranates or blueberries do. A variety of fruits and vegetables claim reservoir of antioxidants. But matcha remains unparalleled when compared.
Such chemicals are important because they act as the organism’s defense agents. They slow down the aging effects in brain neurons, organs’ cells and skin tissues, therefore preventing infections, inflammations and chronic diseases.
4. Cancer prevention
Such catechins like EGCG in matcha are so potent that they can also prevent cancer. While it is inconclusive, drinking matcha on a regular basis might very well put you at a lower risk of cancer occurrence. The prevention works in two ways. First, the catechin EGCG protects your cells from DNA damage that caused by reactive oxygen species. Second, EGCG and other catechins also facilitate the production of detoxification enzymes that help to prevent tumor growth. The strengthened immune defense also plays a role in beating cancer risks. Undoubtedly, matcha is among the rare addictive beverage that is also strongly suggested in any anti-cancer dietary menus.
5. Type-2 diabetes
People with diabetes might be tremendously benefited from a small serving of matcha tea daily. The Antioxidant richly reserved in the Japanese tea can help maintain a healthy metabolism by aiding in reducing effects of cholesterol and hepatic glucose often found in diabetic patients. Studies have shown that there is a link between tea consumption and reduction of hepatic damage in the kidneys, thereby mitigating diabetic effects on the organs.
6. Weight loss
As a calorie-free food, matcha tea does not burden you with more fat and cholesterol - often associated with tasty comfort foods you struggle to avoid. With matcha, you are free from the common dilemma of those fatty rings or a good time with your favorite food. More interestingly, matcha is a great aid to your weight loss program by coping with the problem through burning fat and enhance metabolism. Despite its potency towards fat and calories, matcha is extremely clement to your body and brain. It does not put any stress or harm to your body, with no blood pressure or heart rate being increased. This wonderful feature makes this powdered green tea an indispensable herbal solution for health-conscious individuals who either want to keep fit and fight overweight or even obesity.
7. Prevention of common diseases
Cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health become increasingly important nowadays as people consume more industrial foods. Matcha tea may prove valuable for maintaining a strong heart and bowel. Richness in EGCG and other catechins enable this premium tea to keep the level of cholesterol and lipid in control, better protecting your vascular cells from being attacked by those chemicals. Additionally, the detoxification process takes place because antioxidant content in matcha tea stimulates the disposal of toxins and harmful substances, making it a helpful treatment to gastrointestinal disorders.
8. Brain power
Mental alertness and calmness
Traditionally, the powdered tea was brought into Japan by a priest who first used it for meditation practice. During long hours of sitting, the tea provided monks with not only physical stamina but also alertness and calmness in the mind. Modern neuroscience and medical researches further confirm the effectiveness of matcha on brain’s health. The jitters associated with caffeine from coffee is completely eliminated in the case of this stone-ground green tea powder. L-theanine, a unique amino acid presents in the tea, has anti-anxiolytic properties and those that aids promoting alpha waves in the brain, which similarly experienced after a yoga session. These alpha waves stimulate a mental state of relaxation, clarity and calmness. Studies have shown, L-theanine acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain to excite the calming state without causing drowsiness.
Concentration and focus
This soothing effect of L-theanine further stimulates the ability to deeply concentrate during mediation and other works involving concentration and consciousness that require a stress-free mind. While stress can induce beta-waves- an excited, agitated state, the alpha-waves generated by L-theanine mitigate the stressful effects and soothe the mind, bring it back to its resting state where its optimal functioning is preserved. This property is perhaps the largest reason why this green tea makes its way beyond Japanese frontier and gain popularity among the rest of the world nowadays.
Overall, thanks to such tremendous brain boost, matcha may as well boost learning ability and memory. Therefore, a cup of this Japanese tea increases your brain power to a great extent without any side effect from drowsiness to jitters often found in coffee.
How to choose and buy matcha Green Tea?
There are so many green tea powders with various price tags and brands out there, making it sometimes confusing to choose a suitable one. Basically, there are mainly three grades in accordance with its quality and purposes: ceremonial, beverage and culinary.
The first grade is often made from the youngest leaves and has extraordinary quality. This contains the highest concentration of amino acids and other nutritional values together with supreme aroma and taste. This represents the closest version of Japanese green tea, which has green hue, a rich and aromatic taste and bitterness. You should buy this grade only if you are planning to drink in a traditional way where only tea powder and 70 degree Celsius water are used. You may also need a whisk to make your tea frothy, a bowl for easy handling and a sifter to make smoother tea.
If you refrain from the bitter taste of this premium quality powder, then you may opt for the second grade. This grade is made from leaves of the second and third youngest levels of the tea plant. It offers good quality that suits those who want to make lattes, smoothies or other beverages with matcha as an ingredient. Definitely, the content of nutritional values is still great at this grade.
The third grade is especially suitable for kitchen uses. It is extracted from the forth level down leaves of tea, which can be a bulk economical option for blending in power drinks, desserts with sugar or cream.
While I suggest that you equip yourself some basic knowledge before buying matcha, there are some handy tips you could apply easily no matter what grade you are looking for. Much of the proclaimed organic green tea you will see in the market is more yellow and brown than green and often have a taste of hay. The original Japanese green tea powder is dark and rick green tastes strong and vegetal. You might find it close to the taste of spinach as well. If the leaves are richly fragrant and give off its scent when you hold a small amount in your hands, then they are really fresh and flavorful.
With these concerns and understanding in mind, you can easily choose your quality matcha green tea powder at grocery stores online or specialty shops, perhaps with some further help of a sale clerks in case you are still unsure which to buy.
Conclusion- Some final notes
If used on regular basis and with a right regimen, matcha green tea powder confers the enormous potential health benefits that are second to none of any other tea. However, as you consume the whole leaves, it is important that you make sure the tea leaves do not contain lead, which may be discarded during infusion in normal tea brewing. Therefore, only choose the verified imported matcha with certification from national quality control. In addition, if you are after matcha for its health perks, you should try to drink it traditionally. Milk or sugar that make a tasty latte may cancel out the desired health effects of the amazing nutrients in your matcha tea.