Matcha (literally translates as “powdered tea”) or maccha comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China. It is a natural, organic green tea which has been the heart of the famous Japanese tea ceremony for over 900 years.
It is grown differently than regular green tea. A few weeks before harvesting, tea bushes are covered for about 20–30 days to further prevent direct sunlight. The lack of sunlight slows down growth and turns the leaves into an even darker shade of green (thus more chlorophyll, which is highly alkaline and known to help balance pH levels in your blood).
Uses and health benefits of matcha green tea
High in antioxidants
This tea stores a wealth of natural polyphenols and antioxidants. Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds in food that help your body to heal faster, fight diseases, prevent aging, and ensure your body is operating at its peak potential. A study assessing the antioxidant power of tea has revealed that compared to other green teas, matcha has the highest amount of EGCG – epigallocatechin gallate, an extremely powerful component with numerous health benefits.
Increases endurance and energy levels
Another beneficial aspect of the tea is that clinical tests suggest it can help speed recovery in athletes whose focus is high-intensity workouts like burst training, and endurance athletes (like marathonists and cyclists). Historians report that samurai warriors often drank this tea before entering battle. They enjoyed the energy boost and increased physical endurance it provided.
Additionally, it has also been shown to reverse cellular damage caused by oxidative-nitrosative stress. The concept of oxidative stress (OS) was originally used by Professor Helmut Sies, who described it as “an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants in favor of the oxidants, potentially leading to damage.” This imbalance ultimately destroys cells, prevents their repair and causes numerous diseases.
Good for weight loss
This tea (nearly calorie free) is a great addition to a weight loss program by tackling the problem from both sides. It boosts metabolism and burns fat. One study even suggests that regular consumption of this tea may help burn calories by 4 times. At the same time, it doesn’t raise heart rate or blood pressure, making it a safe alternative to questionable quick fixes or pharmaceuticals ridden with side effects.
Lowers the risk of developing cancer
According to the NCI – National Cancer Institute, the catechins (EGCG) in this tea are so powerful that it is considered that they may actually help prevent cancer. Although all green teas contain catechins in varying amounts, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Chromatography A, conducted by the University of Colorado, USA established that this amazing tea contains around 137 times more catechins than the average green tea.
While it might seem outrageous that regularly drinking something as common as green tea can put you at a lesser risk, it’s not that far-fetched.
Calms the mind
During long hours of deep meditation, Buddhist monks would drink matcha to remain focussed and alert, yet relaxed and calm. This tea is rich in L-Theanine, a rare amino acid that affects the brain’s functioning to promote a state of alertness, well-being, and complete relaxation. L-Theanine has been observed in recent studies to stimulate alpha brain wave production. Neuroscientists have made a correlation between an increase of alpha brain waves and the ability to reduce depressive symptoms and increase creative thinking.
Lowers bad cholesterol (LDL)
Daily consumption of this tea has been shown to reduce levels of triglyceride and LDL levels, helping to prevent future instances of cardiovascular disease. A 2009 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food conducted by the Institute of Natural Medicine, Japan, concluded that the tea protects the kidneys and liver against damage by reducing triglyceride levels and total cholesterol, among other things.
Side effects of matcha green tea
Possible lead contamination
Even organically grown green teas have been shown to contain lead, which is absorbed by the plant from the environment, especially tea grown in China. When the traditional green tea is steeped, about 90% of the lead stays in the leaf, which is discarded. Furthermore, with matcha, since the whole leaf is consumed, you will ingest more lead.
Contains high levels of caffeine
One cup of tea, made from half a teaspoon of powder, usually contains about 35 mg of caffeine. This is slightly more than a cup of regular green tea.
Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that drinking 4 cups of coffee a day may increase the risk of early death, while another research suggests that consuming 300 mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy may increase the risk of low birth weight babies. In addition, many drugs will interact with caffeine. Talk to your doctor about possible interactions with the medicines you take.
How to prepare
This tea is commonly made in two forms: usucha and koicha. Usucha translates to “thin tea,” and is the most common preparation. Koicha is sometimes part of Japanese tea ceremonies. If you are new to matcha, it may take you 2 or 3 attempts to find the concentration that is right for you.