Chances are you've tried green tea, or maybe you drink it on a regular basis. Apart from being a common offering in Chinese restaurants to accompany meals, you can normally find many different varieties of green tea leaves and even tea bags in most grocery stores these days. However, Matcha, green tea's powdered form has getting a lot of buzz in recent years and for good reason - it's an alkaline superfood packed full of health benefits for the mind and body!
What Is Matcha?
Green tea and its powdery derivative, matcha, come from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is part of the Theaceae plant family, a family that includes the beautiful flowering plant Camellia.
Matcha is a heavily ground powder of green tea leaves that are grown and processed specially for human consumption. The plants used in Matcha are grown in shade for about a month before they are harvested. This produces a stronger tea with more flavor and phytonutrients, such as chlorophyll making the leaves bright green. Processing of the green tea for Matcha involves removing the stems and veins.
Matcha is traditionally prepared differently from most teas, which involve the pouring of hot water on dried leaves or bags. With Matcha, the powder is suspended in a liquid, usually water or milk.
The best Matcha originates in Japan, where it has been used for many centuries in Japanese tea ceremonies.
Matcha Biochemical & Nutritional Profile
Matcha contains vitamins A, B1,2, 6, C, E, and K. It also has the essential minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and iron in useful amounts.
When compared with other teas, such as traditional green, black, white, and red teas, Matcha has a much higher concentration of valuable nutrients. In fact, it has a greater concentration of nutrients than many popular fruits and vegetables.
Teas, like coffee, contain the stimulant caffeine. However, the caffeine content of Matcha is much less than that of coffee and reacts with the body in a different way.
Matcha is high in protein content (more than 30%) and amino acids, including l-theanine. L-Theanine is a very interesting amino acid found nearly exclusively in the tea plant. It is the main amino acid in green tea. As a result of growing in the shade, Matcha's l-theanine content is greatly increased, and this gives Matcha a very pleasant, sweet flavour.
With all this and more, it's no wonder that Matcha can lay claim to being a superfood.
History & Traditional Uses
Green tea originated in China, which used to rule Japan. A Japanese Buddhist Monk called Eisai spent much of his life studying Buddhism in China. He returned to Japan and brought some tea seeds along with instructions for preparing powdered green tea. He planted these seeds on the grounds of a temple in Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan at that time. During this period, matcha was very rare and seen as a status symbol.
Matcha tea ceremonies have been an important part of Japanese culture for hundreds of years and are one of the ways that the religion Zen Buddhism is practiced. The ceremony involves meditation, which is greatly facilitated by the Matcha drunk during these ceremonies.
Due to its distinctive green color, Matcha is alsoused in food as a natural colorant as well as to give flavor.
Key Health Benefits Of Matcha
Many of Mactha's key health benefits can be attributed to its L-Theanine content, which is very beneficial to the nervous system. It has the extraordinary ability to stimulate the creation of alpha waves, which are the brain waves (vibrating electric pulses) achieved by meditation. When these waves are released the brain is very alert and calm. Zen monks recognised this and took Matcha before meditating.
L-Theanine has relaxing effects that work with the stimulation provided by Matcha caffeine on the nervous system in a very positive way. Research has shown l-theanine reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves memory and learning. The effects of l-theanine are noticed within half an hour of imbibing Matcha and can last as long as 6 hours.
Matcha also helps with the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, promoting a sense of wellbeing.
Other Matcha Health Benefits
The drinking of Matcha stimulates the metabolism by more than a third as a result of high levels of the antioxidant EGCG without any adverse side effects. This is very useful to those wanting to lose weight. The EGCG comes from catechins, which are the phytochemicals, mentioned before.
EGCG is short for Epigallocatechin gallate and is a polyphenol antioxidant found in Matcha. Polyphenols, such as EGCG, remove dangerous free radicals and perform other activities that protect the body's cells and tissues.
Matcha's antioxidants are stronger than in nearly all other foods, which helps prevent or slow oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals,
In addition, it is anti-microbial, which means it helps a myriad of health problems, such as flu, cold, tooth decay and gum disease, bad breath, and balancing gut microflora.
Matcha also has high levels of chlorophyll, which helps detox the blood and balance pH levels.
Matcha Boosts Energy & Cognitive Processes
Daily use of Matcha daily can have a very positive effect on both energy levels and cognition.
It is well known that drinking coffee can give you a boost or 'buzz'. Unfortunately, that tends to be short-lived as the caffeine in coffee, which gives the stimulus, is only active for a short while. You can counter this by having coffee throughout the day. But, often, the result is that you can become 'jittery' and crash.
Matcha gives a long-lasting energy boost, without the 30-minute spike and decline that most people get from coffee because matcha's caffeine, is absorbed and delivered slowly to the body for at least 6 hours.
Learn More: How To Boost Your Energy Naturally
As mentioned, Matcha green tea has large quantities of L-theanine, which is a non-protein amino acid that promotes cognition, alertness, relaxation, and concentration. Scientific studies have not only demonstrated that Matcha's l-theanine and caffeine is an incredible combination for making users focused and energized but simultaneously relaxing the mind and body.
The research shows that matcha helps the brain function in people of all ages ranging from the young to those who are struggling with the effects of age.
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