Much ado over Matcha tea
Move over regular green tea – you’ve met you match with Matcha tea. Introduced by Zen Monks in the early 8th century, Matcha tea is one of the most powerful super foods you’ll find. Full of antioxidants – 137 antioxidants to be exact – Matcha tea has more antioxidants than brewed green tea.
What is matcha tea?
Matcha is a very fine green powder made from the green leaves of tea bushes grown in the shade and is has been used in Japanese tea ceremonies for hundreds of years. It is the only tea where the leaves are consumed as part of the drink rather than being infused in hot water. Therefore, the antioxidant content is higher than other teas, and it’s a particularly rich source of L-theanine, an amino acid unique to tea.
Matcha comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Three to four weeks before it is harvested, bamboo tarps are hoisted over the tea plants inhibiting photosynthesis. During this time in the shade, certain nutrients are produced to create a sweeter taste. Keeping the plant in the shade also increases the amount of chlorophyll content in the leaves, which is what makes them bright green and full of nutrients. After harvest, the tea leaves picked by hand, quickly steamed, then dried and put into heated ovens for 20 minutes. Workers remove stems, twigs, and other unneeded parts. The leaves that remain are stone-ground into a fine powder which takes about an hour. The grinding is done in the dark to protect the nutrients. To consume Matcha tea, the powder is whisked with hot water.
How is Matcha tea different from regular green tea? Typically Sencha in the U.S., is derived from the infusion of some of the tea leaf nutrients into the water but once boiled, the leaves are removed. When drinking Matcha you are consuming the actual whole tea leaf in powder form. As a result, the amount of antioxidants in Matcha is at least three times higher than the greatest amount thus far recorded for other green teas.
What health benefits does Matcha tea provide?
This is where Matcha outshines most other teas. Matcha, like other green teas, contains a class of antioxidants called catechins. Matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is believed to have a cancer-fighting effect on the body.
Studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits, such as helping to reduce heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer and even possibly weight loss. However, these claims have not been very well substantiated as much of the research done isn’t from clinical trials that show green tea results in these benefits. Most of the studies conducted on green tea is largely from population-based studies. In this type of study, researchers look at groups of people who drink green tea and then compare their health outcomes to groups that don’t drink it. Studies have shown associations between tea and better health but causation is not yet proven. There have been even fewer studies on Matcha tea.
Of the studies done, a 2014 study looked at 25 randomized controlled trials on a link between tea and blood pressure. It was found that people who drank tea – especially green tea – for 12 weeks, their blood pressure dropped significantly. Another study in 2011 found that green tea consumption appeared to be linked with lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol.
Drinking Matcha could result in better dental health. A cup of Match tea each day might help keep your teeth in good shape possibly something in the leaves helping to keep a healthy level of acid in your mouth.
Matcha tea may also help keep you awake and focused. That’s in part because of one of its best-studied ingredients which is caffeine. Be careful though not to overdo it – too much can make you jittery and nervous messing with your sleep.
Another possible health benefit of drinking Matcha tea is help with inflammation. Thanks to antioxidants in Matcha called polyphenols, it might ease the kind caused by conditions like arthritis. It might also slow down the breakdown of cartilage which is the tissue that cushions your joints.
Comparing Matcha tea to green tea
There are similarities and differences between the two teas. Both regular brewed green tea and matcha tea contain caffeine, but less caffeine found in coffee or black tea. However, matcha appears to contain more caffeine than regular green tea. Matcha tea also has more of the catechin EGCG providing anywhere from 17 mg up to 109 mg of EGCG per serving. By comparison, green tea provides 25 to 86 EGCG per serving.
A main difference between matcha and regular green tea is their price. Matcha powder is substantially more expensive.
As far as taste is concerned, Matcha tea, some people say Matcha is sweeter and creamier than regular green tea. There may also be a “grassiness” to the smell and taste, especially if a lot of powder is used. The quality of the leaves impacts the taste; a good matcha tea will not taste bitter.
How to make a cup of Matcha tea
To make a cup of Matcha tea, mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of Matcha powder with 4 ounces of almost boiling water and whisk together. When it looks frothy and thoroughly mixed, it’s ready to drink. If the taste is too strong, add more water. To make a bright green latte, Matcha powder can also be added to any kind of hot milk such as cow, goat, soy, or almond. Add a bit of honey if you like. This can be consumed hot or poured over ice for a summer treat. Matcha powder can also be added to a smoothie – just a teaspoon or two – for a quick pick-me-up. One other way to use the powder is to sprinkle it on oatmeal or granola.
Unless a person is sensitive to caffeine, most individuals can enjoy drinking Matcha tea as it is considered a healthy and safe beverage to consume.