Everybody has heard of the benefits of green tea… antioxidants, sustained energy, the list goes on. But have you heard about matcha green tea? Originally from Japan, it has slowly taken the west by storm.
Read on to learn about this amazing form of green tea and its growing list of health benefits!
What is Matcha Green Tea? A History
All non-herbal teas actually come from the same type of plant, Camellia Sinensis, which is a shrub originally from Southern China. “Green” tea is green because it has not been processed as much as black tea, thus it keeps its natural green color. Most importantly, green tea is able to keep all of its nutrient load intact.
Around the 11th century AD, Camellia Sinensis seeds were introduced in Japan. According to scholars, a Zen Monk named Eisai put the first of these seeds in the ground at his temple grounds in Kyoto. Eisai was the first to grind unprocessed tea leaves into a powder called “matcha.”1 “Cha” means tea and “ma” means powder in the Japanese language.
Why Matcha? Why Not Just Green Tea?
Today millions of individuals drink matcha tea every day in order to benefit from a wide range of health effects—and here is why.
Matcha, being a form of green tea, has all of the good stuff that regular green tea has, including specific polyphenol phytonutrients called catechins. The difference – and it’s a big one – is that matcha has levels of catechins (and other nutrients) many times greater than regular green tea.
For example, a 2003 University of Colorado study found that matcha contained the major disease-busting catechin epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, in concentrations that were 137 times greater than regular tea.2
Another report published in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies found that matcha contained the highest level of the stress-busting amino acid L-Theanine, when compared to other teas (including regular green).3
What sets matcha apart is the fact that it is created using whole leaves. It is also manufactured differently than other teas. Matcha makers today continue to harvest and prepare green tea leaves for matcha in the same basic way they have for hundreds of years.
This process involves covering the whole leaves with shade cloth as they grow. The leaves are hand-picked when they are ready so that the final product is devoid of stems. The leaves are then steamed for a very short period of time, which prevents them from fermenting.
Finally, they are dried and put in cold storage to age before they are ground into a fine powder. Every step of this process maintains the nutritional integrity of the tea and also gives it an inherently smooth, creamy taste.
5 Reasons to Try Green Tea Matcha
Here are some specific ways drinking matcha tea may benefit you:
#1. Promotes Brain Health
The phytonutrients within matcha can calm the mind while at the same stimulate alertness. The main phytonutrients that do this are the amino acid L-Theanine and caffeine. In a 2007 report published in the journal Biological Psychology, L-Theanine has been shown to lower stress in the body (and also stress responses that occur in the body in response to mental stress).4
Matcha also contains moderate amounts of caffeine, which can help with concentration and focus. L-Theanine and caffeine have proven to be a winning combo for brain health (and this combo is, no doubt, why meditating monks have used it for years).
However, caffeine can sometimes increase heart rate and blood pressure in some people. L-Theanine, on the other hand, is known as a relaxant. It specifically promotes alpha brain wave activity and keeps the mind calm and relaxed yet focused at the same time. Also on the brain health front, studies have also found that polyphenols in green tea can be neuroprotective against progressive autoimmune disorders.5
#2. Assists with Weight Loss
Matcha on its own is calorie-free. In addition, a 2017 Japanese human study found that consuming matcha green tea activated “brown fat tissue,” the type of fat needed, interestingly, to keep the body warm in cold conditions.6 Other studies have pinpointed “brown fat” as the kind of fat you actually want to have in your body (as opposed to white fat) since its purpose is to burn fuel and produce heat.7 The study, featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that participants raised their energy expenditure from around 10% per day to upwards of 43% just by adding matcha to their diet.
#3. Balances Blood Sugar
Matcha contains easy-to-digest dietary fiber. Upping your input of dietary fiber not only helps the gut in general but has been shown to keep blood sugar levels stable by affecting glycemic control mechanisms in the small intestine.8 Sufficient daily intake of fiber is also essential for keeping things “running smoothly” in the colon as well.
#4. Helps Your Heart
A 2008 report published in the Kobe Journal of Medical Sciences found that “ground green tea consumption decreased susceptibility of plasma and LDL to oxidation…”9 They also found that matcha consumption modulated cholesterol metabolism and could help to prevent atherosclerosis.
#5. Promotes Detoxification
Finally, all green tea contains chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color but it is also a detoxifier and liver protectant. It can increase certain enzymes which may promote liver health. Studies going back to the mid-1990s suggest that adding chlorophyll to the diet may lower the risk of liver damage caused by aflatoxin.10
Carcinogenic aflatoxin is produced by fungi and is of increasing concern for many people. It can be found in everyday foods such as tree nuts, corn, and coffee.11 Shade-growing makes matcha retain higher levels of chlorophyll than regular green teas.
Some Pointers for Making a Great Cut of Matcha Tea
Matcha is very concentrated, so it is important to do your own research and make sure that your source of matcha is pure of preservatives and contaminants and that it does not contain added sugar. Added sugar can lessen the health benefits of your matcha considerably.
The rest is up to you and your taste buds! Normally it takes no more than half a teaspoon of quality matcha mixed in six to eight ounces of boiling water to prepare a strong cup of the brew for enjoyment and health. However, just the right amount is up to you (and is usually discovered by trial and error).
The main thing to keep in mind when it comes to measuring is your sensitivity level to caffeine. While matcha contains moderate amounts of caffeine as well as L-Theanine, which can balance out the effects of caffeine as explained above, some individuals are very sensitive to caffeine. If this describes you, be sure to start out slowly, with about a fourth of a teaspoon in six to eight ounces of boiling water. See how you feel with that and then go from there.
Matcha green tea is also delicious as a latte (with added steamed organic milk or milk substitute), iced latte, or in smoothies. Here’s an easy (and delicious recipe).
Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte
Finally, you can blend it with a little butter or coconut oil for a brain healthy keto treat first thing in the morning or use it with turmeric for a super-charged “golden milk” beverage in the evening if you are not caffeine sensitive, or any time for that matter.
The ways to drink matcha really are endless—and so are the benefits for your health as well!
The difference between green tea and matcha green tea is that matcha has levels of catechins (and other nutrients) many times greater.
What sets matcha apart is the fact that it is created using whole leaves.
5 reasons to try matcha:
- Promotes brain health
- Assists with weight loss
- Balances blood sugar
- Helps your heart
- Promotes detoxification