Matcha Tea is an amazing source of energy – physically and for mental clarity and focus. In the 11th century the Zen priest Esai who initiated the cultivation of tea in Japan opened in his famous book on teas with the sentence: “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete”. He was speaking about Matcha which would become Japan’s most treasured kind of green tea and the only tea to be used in the sacred tradition of Sadō (Tea Ceremony). Harmony, purity, tranquility and respect, are the basis for Sadō – The Way of Tea and DōMatcha – The Way of Matcha was created to give optimal clarity and meditation to honour Sadō (1).
“Matcha” means powdered tea. The green leaves of the tea plant Camellia Senensis are freshly picked, steamed to preserve colour and freshness, dried and the stone ground into a fine, bright green powder, known as Matcha. Matcha is far superior to other forms of green tea, the tea bushes are kept in around 90% shade for around 20 days before harvesting. Just as the leaf buds start to form the bushes are covered with mats further reducing the amount of light. These processes dramatically increases the levels of chlorophyll (the shade creates darker leaves) content in the leaf meaning that the tea is packed with antioxidants (catechins and polyphenols), minerals (Calcium), trace elements and vitamins (Vitamin A, B-Complex, C E and K). Green tea has become popular and praised for it’s antioxidant benefits. However, in comparison to all other green teas, Matcha contains 137 times the antioxidants (10-15 times per serving). Common green tea (bagged tea) when steeped only enables 5 – 10% of the nutrients to be infused in the water.
The key difference with Matcha is that it provides 100% of the nutrients and health benefits. When drinking regular green teas the leaves are discarded (this is akin to cooking green vegetables, drinking the water and then throwing away the vegetables), however, unlike regular green teas drinking Matcha is actually drinking the whole leaf. Matcha is therefore like eating a whole versus a partial food. Because the entire leaf is being used every nutrient is much more concentrated and can be easily absorbed by the body.
Matcha is a good source of amino acids, containing both Theophylline and L-theanine. Like all green teas and coffee, Matcha contains caffeine, but unlike coffee the caffeine in Matcha works together with these amino acids. L-theanine contributes to relaxation (it increases alpha waves in the brain), calmness and sustained concentration. This provides sustained energy (which can last upto 6 hours) and mental alertness whilst providing relaxation at the same time.
A Japanese study in 1999 (2) also found that L-theanine can help:
- Improved learning performance
- promote concentration and
- support immune system
L-theanine increases with the grade of Matcha Tea with high grade ceremonial Matcha having the greatest percentage of this amino acids.
Green Teas are well known for their ability to help increase metabolism and support weight loss. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1999) green tea can increase termogenesis by 35-43% which means an increase in daily energy expenditure. However, Matcha is much more effective than other green teas in doing this as it is much more concentrated and is better absorbed by the body it has a greater influence on metabolism, digestion, cleansing and minimising appetite. It has also been found that green tea can increase fat oxidation during moderate exercise, so is good before exercising.
The recommendation is 1-3 tsp daily mixed with water or blended into smoothie (see instructions on the package). I take mine in my morning green drink and in the afternoon add it to a juice or just drink it as a tea.
I started with 1/2 – 1 tsp daily as recommended and then gradually increased the amounts to the desired energy and focus needs.
Take a bowl (some recommendations say it’s best to warm the bowl). Add 1/2 tsp of Matcha, add hot water (best cooled down a little from boiling). Whisk vigorously in zigzag pattern (you can use a small whisk or the traditional bamboo whisk for Matcha tea). Enjoy! As in the Tea Ceremony, when preparing Matcha the tea should have a good froth on top and it’s the whisking process that creates this.
It is advised that it is best to drink 1 tsp daily twice a day as opposed to 2 tsp all at once. It is absolutely a great replacement for coffee. Drink Up!
Ceremonial grade tea is hand ground and 40g takes around an hour to produce, therefore Matcha can be expensive to buy and ceremonial grade especially so. However, I’ve found the best quality and price by Clearspring , their tea is organic. You can also try Teapigs whose tea is gorgeous, very high grade, also organic and provide great instructions on how to make together with some fabulous recipe ideas for how to eat Matcha. DoMatcha is another company with a wonderful long history and culture steeped in this tea (worth taking a look at their website). They also have organic Matcha and an online buying service. Also take a look at the fabulous Postcard Teas which Jaye recommends and is where she buys Matcha. Their shop is based in London but they also sell online. It is ground to order for them and Postcard Tea’s Matcha can be traced back to the family that produce it. It is of a high grade.
I am truly honoured to have worked with the wonderful Jaye on this post. Jaye adores teas and her blog is amazing looking at an exploration of teas in her new home town of Cardiff. Take a look her lovely blog Cardiff in a Tea Cup. You can also catch-up with her on twitter @CardiffTeaCup.
Please note that neither Jaye or I have been requested to write on behalf of these producers, the recommendations are entirely our own based on our experiences.
(1) The Way of Match – DoMatcha (http://domatcha.com/matcha/)
(2) Match Tea Health Benefits – Teapigs (http://www.teapigs.co.uk/tea/shop_by_category/matcha_shop#matchatab-benefits)