Matcha: All you need to know
Matcha has become a buzzword in the Western wellbeing arena in recent years, but has been used in China and Japan for its health benefits since the 9th century.
What is it?
Matcha is the finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves.
The tea bushes are grown in the shade for three weeks before harvest to reduce exposure to direct sunlight. This slows the growth of plants and stimulates the production of amino acids and chlorophyll.
Only the youngest, smallest and darkest green leaves are selected to ensure the highest quality tea. After picking, the leaves are lightly steamed to prevent oxidation and to preserve flavour and nutrients. The stems and veins are then removed before being finely ground into a fine powder - Matcha tea.
Originating in 9th century China, Matcha was used as a drug for treating various ailments. Once the Buddhist monks of Japan realised its health benefits at the end of the 12th century, it was introduced into the Japanese tea ceremony and has been at its heart for over 900 years.
In more recent years, Matcha has worked its way over to the Western world, where studies into its botanical properties have unveiled some amazing results.
Matcha vs other teas
Because Matcha is tea in a loose powder form rather than a teabag, a huge benefit is that you ingest the whole leaf and its nutrients, rather than the few that seep into the water when teabags are used.
Although Matcha is a form of green tea, its high chlorophyll levels set it apart from other teas. Chlorophyll has a detoxifying effect on the body, helping to remove heavy metals and other toxins. One cup of Matcha has 10 times the nutritional value of regular green tea, yet half the caffeine of coffee - it’s a win-win!
Benefits of Matcha
Matcha is a natural cocktail of nutrients, including potassium, vitamins A & C, iron, protein, calcium and potent antioxidants such as catechins (EGCg). The catechins in Matcha Green Tea have been shown to have antibiotic properties which promote overall health.
Matcha also contains an amino acid called L-Theanine, which promotes the production of alpha waves, dopamine and serotonin. Alpha waves help promote relaxation without the side-effect of drowsiness, whilst dopamine and serotonin can contribute to enhanced mood, improved memory, and better concentration levels.
The combination of nutrients and caffeine can help boost energy levels for up to 6 hours, and the L-Theanine levels mean that Matcha drinkers don’t experience any of the usual side-effects of stimulants such as nervousness and hypertension.
This boost to energy and concentration levels make Matcha a great addition to pre-workout routines, especially when you consider that studies have shown that Matcha can boost metabolism and help the body burn fat about four times faster than average!
How to drink Matcha
Although traditionally Matcha is stirred into hot water, hot Matcha lattes are a great alternative if you prefer something a little more indulgent. Just whisk some Matcha into a glass of hot milk, and add honey and cinnamon if you have a sweet tooth.
As Matcha is a powder, you can get creative - serve it in smoothies, juice, porridge or whatever else might work!