Everything To Know About Matcha
You have likely heard a lot about matcha in recent weeks. Anyone who paid attention to fashion week knows that matcha shots were the “it beverage.”
As hard as it can be to believe, many dedicated coffee drinkers are ditching the bean in favor of drinking matcha. If all of this buzz has you curious about matcha, you have come to the right place. Here are a few things you should know about this exhilarating drink.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha can grow in different parts of the world. However, the highest quality matcha comes from Japan. Within Japan, the best matcha is found in the southern part of the country.
Matcha differs from other green teas because the bush where the tea leaves grow is covered for several days before harvest. This protects the leaves from the sun. As a result, the leaves produce more chlorophyll. Therefore, matcha leaves have a vibrant green color.
When the leaves are harvested, they air dry. Then they are milled into a very fine powder. The powder can be mixed with hot water or steaming milk. It’s best to use a whisk during the mixing process.
Producing matcha is labor intensive. This green tea is more expensive than other teas.
How Is Matcha Consumption Different from Other Green Tea?
Matcha, when translated, means “powdered tea.” When you order green teas or other teas, the dried leaves of the tea are infused with hot water. Then the tea leaves are discarded.
However, when you drink matcha, you are drinking the actual leaves. These leaves have been ground into a fine powder. Traditionally, about one teaspoon of matcha powder is mixed with one cup of hot water. You do not want to bring the water to a boil. You just want it to be hot. You will use a bamboo whisk until the mixture froths.
What Are the Health Benefits of Matcha?
Matcha is made from the highest quality tea. Since you are ingesting whole tea leaves, you get a higher level of nutrients than you would with steeped green tea.
Matcha provides small amounts of vitamins and minerals. It is full of antioxidants called polyphenols. These antioxidants are thought to lower cancer risk, lower heart disease risk, improve blood sugar regulation, lower blood pressure, and fight against aging. They have also been shown to boost a person’s metabolism and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells.
Matcha’s other benefits include improved bone strength and increased brain function. This includes improved memory and cognitive skills. People who drink matcha have been shown to have positive changes in their cholesterol numbers.
Athletes are using matcha to reduce exercise-induced muscle pain. It allows them to minimize the time they need to recover after an intense run. The EGCG in matcha may protect you against colds and the flu. This is important to athletes who may suffer from suppressed immunity during rigorous training.
Research discussed in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Medicine suggests that the mix of catechin, antioxidants, and caffeine found in matcha improves the body’s fat burning ability. Still, more research needs to be done before the medical community can qualify matcha as an effective fat burner.
Matcha has been shown to have a calming effect on the body. L-theanine is an amino acid that many feel produces a sense of ease and calm. Although matcha is a caffeinated drink that has higher caffeine level than other teas, you can drink it without suffering jitters thanks to L-theanine.
If you are a tea drinker, you have probably already experienced this sensation. Most teas can give you a gentle buzz. We don’t recommend that you make this a late night drink because the caffeine may interfere with your sleeping patterns. However, you should feel okay drinking it during the day.
Ancient Traditions Linked to Drinking Matcha
Matcha drinking and its preparation are at the heart of tea ceremonies. It has been linked to meditation. This is one reason for its increased popularity as meditation is becoming common in Western life.
Preparing matcha allows people to slow down. It allows them to be in the moment. It allows them to experience benefits that go well beyond the physical benefits experienced by drinking matcha. There is ample evidence showing the benefit of proper meditation.
When done right, meditation can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, boost self-esteem, control binge eating, and increase a person’s compassion. Slowing down and taking the time to meditate reduces cortisol levels and stress.
How Do You Consume Matcha?
Matcha has a unique taste. Some have compared it to spinach or grass. It has an umami-taste to it. Many sweeten the tea to improve its taste.
There are differences in matcha quality. These will affect the taste and health benefits of the tea. Some stores offer a matcha powder mix. It is like hot chocolate, but instead of cocoa it has ground matcha. When you look at the ingredients, you will see that the primary ingredient is sugar. We do not recommend these products.
As mentioned in the outset, growing and harvesting matcha is a time consuming task. A quality product will be expensive. Purchasing a low-priced product should set off alarms. You are getting it for cheap because the quality is cheap. Look for matcha that has been USDA certified organic. Make sure it has been tested by third parties for contaminants. You want a product that comes from Japan.
Higher quality matcha will already have a natural sweet taste. Low quality matcha will be bitter. This is another reason to only purchase your matcha from companies that are known for their high quality control.
Take these steps to prepare the tea:
• Take a teaspoon of the powder and put it in a ball or a mug.
• Add two or three ounces of filtered water that is hot but not yet brought to a boil.
• Use a bamboo whisk and whisk the mixture until it’s frothy.
• Add additional steamed water to taste.
If you want your matcha to have a bitter flavor, then substitute hot water for boiling water. If you want the matcha to be creamier, you can substitute milk for water. However, there is research that suggests that using milk in tea makes the antioxidants less useful.
Purchasing matcha lattes in coffee stores is easier than making the drink yourself. However, know that many of these lattes have hidden sugar ingredients, which can cancel out some health benefits of this tea.
Lead Contamination in Matcha Teas
Research shows that even green teas that are grown organically can have lead. The lead is absorbed by the bush as it grows from its environment. This is a particular problem for teas grown in China.
Lead contamination is a big concern for matcha tea drinkers. With the traditional teas, since the leaves are steeped, the vast majority of the lead stays in the leaf. With matcha, you are drinking all of the leaf, so your lead consumption is higher.
One group tested different teas and found that one cup of matcha tea has 30 times more lead than green tea. That is why it’s recommended that you only drink one cup a day and never serve it to children.
Including Matcha with Other Foods
While sipping matcha is the trend of the day, there are a number of ways that you can use this powder. Some people add it to muffin mix, cookie batter, or pancake mix. Others blend it in smoothies they drink after exercising, use it as a rub for their meats, and even sprinkle some on top of popcorn.
A simple Google search will show you a host of recipes. It’s fun to experiment with matcha because it adds a unique flavor to anything you cook, and it has health benefits. That being said, we recommend avoiding going crazy with matcha. Even though it is a super food, too much of a good thing can be dangerous.
If you will cook with matcha, use a lower grade product. We recommend saving the ceremonial grade leaves for drinking. These are the youngest and most delicate tea leaves.
Matcha Can Improve Your Work and School Performance
Matcha has been shown to help people perform better at work and school. The tea has a special mix of brain boosters that increases your brain’s ability to multitask. It appears to increase the speed of perception and reduce the fatigue you feel when you do repetitive tasks. This means you will be able to focus on your Excel sheets without getting tired.
Matcha has been shown to improve memory. So you won’t forget where you left your wallet or your keys. It improves your concentration. This will allow you to focus during those long and boring staff meetings.
Matcha Is Not the Elixir of Youth, but It Is Close
Okinawa, Japan is home to some of the oldest people on the planet. Many of them say their longevity is because of their consumption of matcha tea. This is not surprising since matcha tea has 60 times the oxidants found in spinach. This helps your body fight the aging process from the inside out. When your body is healthy on the inside, you are better equipped to fight the aging. Your skin will have fewer wrinkles. Your hair will have a brighter luster. Your nails and teeth will look healthier.
Why Matcha May Be a Better Option Than Coffee
As we mentioned at the outset, large numbers of people are turning away from their daily coffee routine and are now drinking matcha. Most people don’t drink coffee for the taste. They do it because they need that boost of caffeine to get through their day of work or whatever other tasks they have in front of them.
Matcha won’t give you the same caffeine boost you will get from coffee, but it will give you a higher boost than you get from normal tea. You will enjoy increased serotonin and dopamine production along with your caffeine boost. This means that you can go throughout the day with the vitality, readiness, and alertness you are accustomed to when you drink coffee. But you won’t have that undesirable tension.
What If You Don’t Have Time to Prepare Matcha?
As we discussed, the beauty of matcha is its taste, health benefits, and the preparation process. Preparing matcha can be time consuming, and not everyone has extra time on their hands. Don’t fret. There are still ways that you can enjoy this beverage.
Several health food stores will sell bottled matcha that is ready to use. There’s no mixing required. Before grabbing a bottle of premixed matcha off the counter, we recommend that you take the time to thoroughly read its ingredients. Pay close attention to the matcha concentration levels. You may purchase something that is more flavor and sugar than matcha.
Because of its health benefits and popularity, there are endless options available for buying matcha. The way you go about getting your daily dose is up to you.
Don’t be discouraged if at first you dislike the way matcha tastes. If you are a coffee drinker, think back to the very first time you sipped a hot cup of coffee. You probably thought it tasted disgusting, and you asked yourself how in the world is it possible that people stand in lines for hours every single day to drink this beverage.
Now, a few years later, you can’t start your day without coffee. You love the taste, you love the smell, and love the way it feels. More than anything, you appreciate the routine you have around making and drinking coffee.
The same thing will happen with matcha. With the right preparation and the right brand purchase, you will find yourself captivated by this unique beverage. Soon, you might even become a matcha convert. Check out Healthy Body Healthy Mind for more health tips.