We all know the smooth and soothingly bitter taste of matcha (from the Japanese Kanji 抹茶) in drinks, ice-creams, and even Kit Kat. It has come a long way from being in Japanese tea ceremonies to starring in celebrities’ Instagram selfies. Indeed, apart from a taste that goes well with just about anything, a long list of health benefits is responsible for its perennial appeal!
How is matcha different from regular green tea?
Matcha is powdered tencha (碾茶) leaves made from Camellia Sinensis, the plant used to make all green teas. Tencha leaves are significantly more high-grade because they are the result of a more refined cultivation process. Only the youngest and smallest leaves are hand-picked and grown under shade, which is a condition that makes them work even harder to produce chlorophyll and amino acids to make up for the lack of sunlight, developing huge amounts of antioxidants in the process.
As with all organisms that adapt and thrive in tough circumstances, these leaves grow to be rich in flavour, nutrients, and colour! To prevent oxidation and preserve flavour and nutrients the leaves are then steamed, whereas other green tea leaves completely skip the process.
The resulting tencha leaves are then ground into the ultra-fine dark green powder we fondly call matcha. So, whereas the nutrients in other green tea leaves are usually wasted by being disposed of after we’re done drinking the tea, the entire leaves are ingested, and with them all their goodness, as we drink matcha.
What exactly is matcha good for?
Fortifies your health: Its through-the-roof antioxidant content (more than any other food) inhibits oxidation of cells, thereby protecting the body from the damage of harmful UV rays and environmental pollution.
Especially abundant in matcha is an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that’s extremely efficacious in improving our immune system by fighting antigens and boosting heart (cardiovascular) health by substantially reducing cholesterol and maintaining them at optimum levels, as well as by keeping fat buildup in your arteries at bay.
The chlorophyll found in matcha helps in the detoxification process by cleansing colon walls of harmful toxins and keeping our blood healthily alkaline.
Helps you lose weight the healthy way: Matcha is also a great metabolism booster, which means it helps the body to burn fat at a faster rate. It revs up your metabolism rate during an intensive exercise, resulting in an increase in calories being burned! It prevents an accumulation of an unhealthy amount of fat and acts as a natural appetite suppressant. In a more straightforward way, matcha aids in weight loss by cleansing your bowels of poop, toxins, and harmful chemicals.
Protects you from illness: By improving the body’s metabolism, matcha effectively keeps blood sugar levels low, which prevents type-2 diabetes. The EGCG in matcha also prevents HIV by bonding with and hence protecting the important bodily cells from being attacked by the virus. This wonder antioxidant even aids in the prevention of cancer by reducing the risk of malignant cells multiplying.
Keeps you alert yet calm: Alpha waves, the brain wave that relaxes and calms us, is enhanced by L-Theanine, an amino acid present in matcha. This way, our mind would function in the zen state of being simultaneously calm and alert without drowsiness. No wonder Japanese Buddhist monks have been drinking matcha green tea to keep their minds still and keen through long hours of meditation.
L-Theanine also produces chemicals that boost memory, mood, and concentration. The next time you feel like your mind is too congested with worry and stress, drink a soothing cup of matcha green tea to “detox” your mind!
Click on to the next page for healthy matcha recipes!