I have recently discovered matcha tea. A friend of mine swears by it – telling me that she had been drinking it for years and has figured out – with some degree of certainty, that her consumption of the ancient green brew is directly linked to improvements in what was once a ‘super messed-up shoulder’.
At 54 I have a myriad of aches and pains – related to arthritis, previous martial arts’ injuries, and plain old …. well, aging. I dove into the research and thought I’d share with our Kuel Community.
So, what is matcha tea?
While matcha is a green tea, it is made with only the young leaves of SHADE-GROWN green tea bushes. As a matter of fact, the reason matcha tea is a super bright green color versus other less ‘green’ green teas is directly related to the shade. The shade increases the amount of chlorophyll content in the plant’s leaves. The concentration of chlorophyll provides a plethora of nutrients which we will delve into in a bit.
The highest quality matcha is grown in Japan. It has been grown in Japan for centuries (although originally from China) and is utilized in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Japanese culture and tradition insists that the leaves be hand selected and the stems and veins removed. The leaves are ground by granite stones, in the dark, to protect the nutrients. It is a very time-consuming process and if you decide to purchase matcha you’ll see this precision and care reflected in the tea’s price. Let’s not even get into the price differential between culinary and ceremonial grade.
Another key difference between matcha and other green teas is how it is prepared and used. When we typically make a cup of tea we dip an enclosed vehicle (tea bag or infuser) into the hot water. We allow the tea leaves to steep and infuse into the water but throw the actual tea away. With matcha we get to actually consume the leaves because the preparation of matcha involves the grinding of the young, shade-grown, tea leaves into a beautiful bright green powder. The preparation of the matcha beverage begins with whisking the actual powder with hot water.
What are matcha tea benefits?
The benefits of matcha have been surmised from population-based studies. The claims come from researchers who have spent time examining and comparing the health outcomes of groups who consume green tea against those who do not. Studies have shown associations between green tea consumption and better health, but causation is not yet proven. Clinical studies on the health benefits of matcha have not been done. That being said, the population studies completed yield some fantastic benefits.
“Matcha is rich in catechins, a class of plant compounds in tea that act as natural antioxidants. Antioxidants help stabilize harmful free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells and cause chronic disease.”
As stated above, the matcha tea leaves are mixed into hot water, rather than steeped through a bag or tea infuser. The beverage ends up with all the nutrients found in the tea leaf; making it denser in the catechins and antioxidants. Increasing your antioxidant intake may help you stave off chronic illnesses and prevent cell damage.
Improve memory & concentration; calm mind
While coffee can give you the jitters, matcha tea is known for promoting a calm-alert mind, thanks to the amino acid, L-Theanine. This amino acid facilitates your body’s ability to absorb the tea’s caffeine at a slower pace. Your body and mind can utilize the caffeine over a longer period without the surge one gets from too much coffee consumption. The Japanese have known this for centuries and have used matcha tea in pre-meditation ceremonies.
Boost your physical endurance; increase energy levels
Because the matcha tea caffeine is ‘time’ released, we can expect an increase in alertness and physical stamina for up to six hours after we drink it. It is known that Samurai soldiers would rely on matcha tea prior to battle; both, to calm their nerves and provide them with stamina.
The EGCG, epigallo-catechin gallate, is one of the most powerful and potent antioxidants found in matcha tea. This catechin can boost our metabolism and increase the rate at which fat is burned. EGCG may even decrease the formation of new fat cells.
Prevent chronic diseases; reduce inflammation
EGCG is also renowned for its cancer-fighting and inflammation reducing properties. In fact, matcha has more than 100 times the EGCG level of other tea varieties. This jade green beverage outclasses almost every other superfood around in the antioxidant department. Even goji berries (matcha provides eight times more per serving) and blueberries (matcha provides 16 times more per serving) can’t compete.
Some doctors believe the high levels of chlorophyll found in the shade grown tea can help the body eliminate heavy metals and other toxic buildups.
Promote healthy skin
The antioxidants found in matcha green tea are available to support your skin health. Reducing inflammation and preventing the development of damaging free radicals can help skin look and feel younger for longer; staving off aging skin.
Overall matcha is a no-brainer addition to your daily intake of food and beverages. I do leave you with this – when it comes to matcha ORGANIC matters. Too many matcha tea plants are riddled with lead. The plant is notorious for sucking up too much bad stuff in soil. So, when you are shopping for matcha it is best to be price INsensitive. All the benefits provided are for naught, if you end up with lead poisoning.