Matcha is a powdered green tea made from the Camellia sinensis plant originally found in Japan. Besides having its origins in Japanese locations, matcha is a crucial and integral component in the renown Japanese tea ceremony. But what does tea have to do with fitness I hear you ask. Read on and you will find out why.
This powdered tea is packed with antioxidants and nutrients providing a variety of health benefits. As such matcha is becoming increasingly popular as people worldwide consume matcha tea, smoothies, lattes or matcha-infused meals.
Differences between regular and matcha green tea
The differences between regular green tea and matcha comes more from the processes than the leaves itself. Unlike regular green tea, matcha allows you to consume the entire leaf since it has been ground into a fine powder. Thus matcha can be incorporated into a variety of food dishes or beverages. On the flip side, regular green tea is consumed in the same way as other teas, causing the seeped leaf to be discarded.
Unlike regular green tea, matcha comes with higher levels of caffeine, polyphenols, antioxidants such as EGCg, and L-Theanine. As a result, matcha seems to have a higher capability to prevent cancer, burn fat, and provide mental stimulation and clarity. One cup of matcha is equivalent to ten cups of regular green tea in terms of nutritional value. While regular green tea which is grown in direct sunlight, matcha is shaded in order to increase the plant’s chlorophyll levels giving it a higher detox ability.
An Overview of Benefits
By drinking a whole leaf, matcha ensures that you receive all of its nutrients including its potent antioxidants. The benefits of these antioxidants can be found below:
Matcha is known for boosting metabolism thus assisting with weight management and the burning of calories. Matcha green tea has been found to increase thermogenesis (the body’s rate of burning calories) to a rate of 35% and 43% per day. This is a stark contrast to the regular rate of 8% to 10% without drinking matcha.
High in catechins
Catechins are a specific antioxidant specific to matcha and other teas. The predominant catechin found in matcha is that of EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) known for its cancer-fighting abilities. The catechins found in matcha work to fight off the effects of free radicals found in UV rays, radiation, or pollution. As a result, matcha works to restore and maintain the body’s well-being and balance.
The catechin, L-Theanine is a rare amino acid responsible for promoting relaxation and brain stimulation. L-Theanine produces alpha waves in the brain further promoting a relaxed yet alert state of mind. Other benefits of this amino acid are assisting with memory and learning while reducing the possible side effects of caffeine.
Chlorophyll is responsible for the tea’s vibrant green color and aids the body to detox by eliminating chemicals and absorbed heavy metals.
Full of antioxidants
Those who drink matcha benefit from the many antioxidants found in the tea. The body uses antioxidants as a means of fighting off chronic diseases, all while preventing aging. As such matcha helps prevent diseases while giving the immune system a big boost.
According to the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) test, matcha was found to contain 1,573 units per gram, compared to that of pomegranates’ 105 units per gram or blueberries with its 93 units per gram.
A word of caution
Understanding the benefits and overall goodness of matcha tea would be incomplete without a look into the presence of caffeine, lead and risk of allergies found within matcha.
Keep a check on caffeine intake
When it comes to caffeine, matcha can contain the equivalent of one cup of coffee regarding caffeine. This is due to the consumption of the entire tea leaf rather than seeping and discarding. Matcha does counter the caffeine effects since it is known to induce relaxation courtesy of L-theanine. However, this does not negate the reality that matcha contains caffeine.
Limit level of consumption due to lead
Although teas may be grown organically, lead can still be absorbed by the plant from its environment. Since matcha tea allows for the leaf to be ground into a powder, it allows for a higher consumption of lead. As such the recommended amount of matcha per day is one cup.
Be weary of possible allergies
Another caution regarding matcha tea is to be aware that it may not suit your body, as allergies are a possibility. For those new to matcha tea, consult a doctor or dietician before incorporating this super drink into your diet.
How to choose matcha green tea
Finding the correct matcha takes some time. Following these guidelines will help ensure that you can enjoy quality. As a rule of thumb you should keep in mind that the higher the price, the higher the quality. Another sign of good quality matcha can be found in its vibrancy; the deeper the green, the higher the quality.
A good quality matcha will taste sweeter than a low quality tea. It will also have a finer powder appearance with a silky feel. Once you are on to creating your cup of matcha all will be revealed on the quality front as a higher quality will be smooth with no lumps found along the edges of the bowl.
Preparing matcha green tea
You can incorporate matcha tea into daily life via one of three methods: traditional Japanese method, modern day method or as a latte.
Making matcha the traditional Japanese way will require the traditional Japanese tools including a chashaku (bamboo tea ladle), a chosen (bamboo whisk) a tea strainer, and a matcha-chawan (ceramic matcha bowl).
Using the tea strainer, sift one and a half tea ladles of matcha into the ceramic bowl by pressing the matcha through the strainer. Add two ounces of hot water (176 degrees Fahrenheit to the bowl). Using the chasen whisk the matcha in a zig zag motion for one to two minutes until frothy and enjoy.