Matcha green tea’s popularity comes as no surprise. Those who frequent the Asian foods section in their local grocery or haute coffee houses, are likely to have seen this brightly colored green and exotic tea advertised via packaging or on a menu. The alternative health crowd has enjoyed the extensive health benefits of this tea while tea lovers can enjoy its distinct taste and cultural connections. From mochi to tea ceremonies, this tea also has a variety of ways to be consumed, making it a must have in the kitchen for tea fans young and old.
Matcha not only boosts metabolism it helps with mood improvement. While it is easy to drop pounds initially, managing energy can be a challenge that draws us back to over eating and stress related behaviors. This is mainly due to its high catechin content. Matcha helps shed pounds and also provides a healthy source of energy. In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported results from an evaluation of two test groups of Japanese men, both groups measured at similar BMI and waist circumferences.
While one group consumed 690 mg of catechin rich tea, the other group consumed 22 mg tea. It was after twelve weeks that researchers saw that body fat mass, BMI body weight subcutaneous fat area, and waist circumference had become noticeably diminished in the group of higher-catechin consuming males. Even the bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) had gone down due to these changes (5).
Here is the kicker. Matcha contains significant amounts of amino acid L-theanine and chlorophyll that isn’t obtained through brewed green tea leaves. The methods of producing green tea also enhance the theanine and chlorophyll content (3). Chlorophyll has been noted for its immense health benefits and is found in super-foods like Chlorella. It is correlated with heavy metal chelation, an alternative health protocol that is said to help individual heal from heavy metal intoxication that happens as a result of various forms of pollution.
This is thought to be the reason behind Matcha’s vastly improved ability to harness even the most scattered of mental focus, in addition to its technicolor green hue. One study has correlated matcha consumption with anti-stress effects. Another found that others are relaxed by drinking matcha, although this may be the unique biochemistry of induviduals reacting differently to theanine, which is involved gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) production, a key component in dopamine and serotonin levels (3).
Of course, matcha contains caffeine as well, however, there’s no jittery highs and conked out lows or withdrawals to worry about. Matcha provides an undeniable mental energy boost that is even and sustained. In addition to this huge plus, it contains high levels of special antioxidant catechins that assist with detox and weight loss. This is only one of many antioxidants that have been found in the tea. In fact, one antioxidant that matcha provides in abundance is Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Matcha is reported to have up to 137 times the amount of EGCG as other infused green teas. This antioxidant has shown promising clinical results in tests on cancer treatment and weight loss. It also takes ab out half the preparation of a smoothie or a juice. With much less clean-up of course! Just add green powdered tea to hot water.
History and Tradition
It is impossible to write about this tea without mentioning the strong tradition attached to it, making it the perfect tea for any occasion. It is a classic tea that is appropriate for a lounge day in as well as a ceremonial event. Chan and Zen Buddhists are on record as having extensive rules and etiquette for serving matcha, and this tea still has a significant cultural meaning in Asian tradition. Its preparation varies, and different types of the tea can be brewed or whisked to suit taste. While many matcha enthusiasts will prefer to whisk their teas, lets not forget that matcha is still available in a loose leaf bagged form for all.
A World of Matcha
While all tea comes from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, processing will result in green, black or oolong teas. During this process, tea leaves obtain distinct flavors due to oxidation and fermentation. Matcha isn’t fermented (oxidized) at all, but steamed, as mentioned above, and then immediately ground into a green powdered tea. Due to the way that green tea leaves are processed, matcha powder is not bitter to taste like the tea form, and therefore, some may find it more preferable.
There are two main types of matcha green tea. Koicha tea possesses a sweet and mellow flavor in comparison to its counterpart, Ursucha (4). Koicha is usually mixed with small amounts of water, creating deep green tea. This tea is rarely found in stores outside of Japan, as it is ceremony grade, although matcha manufacturers have caught on to demand and this grade of tea is available online. Translation: this is the dom perignon of matcha. If you are ever lucky enough to come by a high grade tea such as this, expect a heftier price tag attached. Even within countries like Japan, it is used excursively tea ceremonies.
Usucha is a less sweet variety, and can be commonly found for a reasonable price. It is this sort of powdered green tea that is whisked more vigorously to create a thinner froth. Most powdered green teas that are available are of the Usucha variety. Not to worry if one doesn’t have a small paycheck to spend on Koicha, as Usucha comes in a premium variety that is still a very exceptional quality tea. This tea can also be found as an “ingredient grade” tea that is used for baking. For the full matcha experience, it is advisable that one not substitute ingredient grade matcha as a drinking tea. Make a green tea mochi ball instead!
Matcha is easy to prepare, and even easier to serve. It was historically used in Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies with great regard as to the ritual of preparation and serving. In China, the Song Dynasty is said to have whipped tea powder and hot water together in cups, creating a frothy, latte type effect in the tea (2). Yes, a finely ground matcha blend can make a pretty thick layer of froth, perfect for any Saint Paddy’s day mustache. One tsp. of Matcha to about 20 oz of hot water is usually enough to serve 1 – 2 people depending upon preference. Many matcha enthusiasts like to use a bamboo whisk in order to achieve maximum froth, but this is not necessary.